India Currents May 2017 Digital Edition

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Duck and Cover: Nukes By Sarita Sarvate

The Gift of a Grandmother By Sneha Abraham

Culturally Diverse Apps By Shumit DasGupta

INDIA CURRENTS Celebrating 30 Years of Excellence

An in-depth look at how to deal with hate incidents. By Jaya Padmanabhan

may 2017 • vol. 31 , no. 2 • • $3.95

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Wanted: More Than 3.7 Million


anted: More than 3.7 million Why? To speak up. To say what? To not revoke net neutrality. To whom? FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. A record 3.7 million comments reached the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) during the comment period on net neutrality that ended on September 15th 2014. With the largest outpouring of citizen comments and the Obama administration’s support, net neutrality seemed here to stay. The FCC in its final ruling said, “broadband providers may not favor some lawful Internet traffic over other lawful traffic in exchange for consideration of any kind—in other words, no “fast lanes.” This ruling went to court and it was upheld by the DC Court of Appeals in June of 2016. Then FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said in a statement. “After a decade of debate and legal battles, today’s ruling affirms the Commission’s ability to enforce the strongest possible Internet protections—now and in the future.” And yet, here we are, barely a year later, fighting to keep net neutrality. No surprise here for it is David fighting against Goliath, you see. The fight is 3.7 million versus 100 million. According to The New York Times, Verizon, Ajit Pai’s former employer, has spent over $100 million in lobbying dollars fighting this single rule. Net neutrality rules ensure that all packets of data regardless of whether it is a Netflix release, a startup company’s latest product or your favorite chef ’s cooking blog move through the network at similar speed, reaching all consumers. Telecom firms like Verizon Communications have been opposed to this, since they want to create “fast” and “slow” lanes, with the ability to charge for “faster” access. The desire to not have “fast” and “slow” lanes resonated most with consumers and that’s what they spoke about in the form of 3.7 million emails. And rightly so. As of the time of writing this editorial, the FCC has not opened up a comment period nor have they published any definite net neutrality rules. I urge you to stay aware of this rapidly evolving fluid situation so that you can respond immediately.

****** Among the emails that reached the FCC, was one from yours truly. Though I sent an email to the FCC, I have not sent a single letter of protest about an abomination which I have responded to with silence. That is the image of women being slapped in Indian movies. How many times have we seen a daughter, a sister, a mother or a wife getting slapped for an apparent “transgression” within the setting of a home on the silver screen? There is a name for it—domestic violence. The egregious cases of real-life domestic violence do not exist in a vacuum. There is a multilayered complexity that has to do with how women are treated within the home which then leads to extreme violence in a small percentage of cases. A courteous acknowledgement of another Indian-American has led strangers to confide aspects of their personal lives, without expecting more than a sympathetic ear. In the most commonplace of settings, right here in the Bay Area, women have told me about how their

in-laws treat them with indifference, how their husbands treat their daughters differently from their sons, and how they feel powerless in spite of their fat pay checks. I listened. Recently, when I heard the loud thwacks of Neha Rastogi being hit by her husband Silicon Valley CEO Abhishek Gattani on the widely-circulated audio recording, I thought of the image of women being slapped in Indian movies. When a woman gets slapped in a movie, is watching passively right? Just because I do not face these restrictions on my freedom, is it ok to just watch? In fact, should I not be the first in line to speak out? I am ashamed of having just watched and done nothing. n

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(408) 664-0000 | | May 2017 | West Coast Edition | | 3

INDIA CURRENTS May 2017 • vol 31 • no 2



Wanted: More Than 3.7 Million People By Nirupama Vaidhyanathan

West Coast Edition

Find us on


34 | FILMS Reviews of Begum Jaan and Naam Shabana By Aniruddh Chawda

8 | ANALYSIS The New Colonialism By Samantha Rajaram 10 |PERSPECTIVE The Outsiders By Chandra Ganguly

38 | BOOKS Review of The Last Kaurava By Girija Sankar

20 | YOUTH Winning Student Essays By Avighna Suresh and Manasa Ayyala

40 | RECIPE Sweet as Honey By Malar Gandhi 42 | MUSIC Hindustani High in San Francisco By Priya Das

22 | DESI LENS Not Just a Private Matter By Kalpana Mohan 58 | PROFILE Environmental Activist Wins Prestigious Prize By Nirupama Vaidhyanathan

27 |RELATIONSHIP DIVA Five Ways to Overcome Shyness By Jasbina Ahluwalia

12 | Dare to Speak? Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Today

86 | LAST WORD Duck and Cover: Nuclear War is Coming By Sarita Sarvate

By Jaya Padmanabhan

18 | Feature Culturally Diverse Apps For Kids

47 | TRAVEL Of Frescoes, Havelis and Adventure By Kavita Wadhwani 79 | HEALTHY LIFE Good Health as Reality By Acharya Shunya 82 |DEAR DOCTOR Sensory Experiences versus Spirituality By Alzak Amlani

By Shumit DasGupta DEPARTMENTS

28 | Mother's Day The Gift of a Grandmother By Sneha Abraham

4 | INDIA CURRENTS | West Coast Edition |May 2017

6 30 32 68

| Letters to the Editor | Ask a Lawyer | Tax Talk | Cultural Calendar


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letters to the editor Remember the early days of India Currents

Congratulations on the 30th year anniversary of India Currents. I remember Arvind Kumar himself delivering the first editions of the magazine so many years back to Badarikashrama. We were also starting out then and now are celebrating our 33rd anniversary this year. Swami Mangala, email

Hats Off to India Currents

Congratulations! Hats off and so many cheers to you, Vandana, and to the whole India Currents family for three decades of inspiration, provocation, and commitment. It’s wonderful to read your reflections here. (Our Anniversary Issue, India Currents, April 2017). I’m honored to be pictured, too. And the placement of an old editorial from Arvind Kumar on racism at the end of the editorials in the cover story is such a smart and incisive move—troubling too, of course, but then, these are the times we live in. Ragini Tharoor Srinivasan. email

Mystical Melting Pot

This is in response to Kalpana Mohan’s essay (Who Exactly Are We? India Currents, April 2017). I love your writing. I have observed that coming out of the comfort zone is very stressful for many. So they naturally tend to be within the confines of similar food, culture and language. I have seen this among other ethnic communities too. I tell my friends—there are two Americas—there is a weekday America, where people of all races work together and there is a weekend America, where people go back to their racial cocoons. That has to change. That mystical melting pot has a lot of solids. Venky Swaminathan, web

Coziness of the Bubble

This is in response to Kalpana Mohan’s essay (Who Exactly Are We? India Currents, April 2017). Great piece, Kalpana! That’s the trouble with bubbles, isn’t it? There’s so much comfort in the coziness of its confines. Same skin color. Same language. Shared ideologies and religious views etc. It rep-

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resents what we are most familiar with —a bit of ourselves. But when that bubble bursts and we are forced to encounter that which is not necessarily an image of “us,” therein comes the rub. Just like the bubble that burst last November. This piece is a call to action at a critical time! Sarmishta Ramesh, web

It Has to be a Tsunami

You have brought out some very valid points, Kalpana. (Who Exactly Are We? India Currents, April 2017). But after stepping out of my comfort zone and doing what you suggest, I realized it’s not an easy task unless every brown skin follows the same path and tries to bring change. If a lone person wants to join politics or work towards a greater good, we are stonewalled. It has to be a tsunami. It cannot be a lone Buddha walking the path. Secondly, we are Indian in outlook, whereas our kids are primarily American in outlook. My dilemma in this regard is this—our Indian culture is so different, fulfilling and humane that we want the same for our kids but we often forget that our kids are living an all-American life. We wish to give them the sanskar that we were raised with. I have still not been able to understand which decisions are right and which are wrong. Ritu Goel, web

Cannot Compare Trump to Hitler

This is in response to Sarita Sarvate’s essay (Don’t tell me to feel sorry for White men, November 2016). As I read the article, I felt sorry for the author not because of what she went through in America but for her attitude that the whole world was wrong and she was in the right. The final straw that did it for me, was the last paragraph of her article in which she compared Donald Trump to Hitler while dreaming that terrible things should happen to Trump. It does not matter whether you like Donald Trump the man, or not, or whether or not you agree with his rhetoric. To compare anyone to Hitler is something one should never do unless that person committed the same heinous crimes against humanity as Hitler. Our Jewish brethren would most certainly take umbrage at the comments made by the author in her article My parents came from Kerala, India —

my father in 1953 and my mother in 1958. They were unaccustomed to the freezing Midwest weather; my mother wore saris and was not used to speaking in English. They had little money, and they had no friends or relatives here. One can only imagine the culture shock they endured. My father studied to become a civil engineer, while my mother raised three kids before studying to become an electrical draftsperson. My mother always wore saris to work, and her wearing a sari actually became a way to break the ice with colleagues as they admired the intricate patterns. When our family moved away for a few years, her white male manager told her that if she ever returned, her job would be waiting for her. We moved back after three years, and true to his word, her manager hired her again, because he recognized her impeccable work ethic. In northwest Illinois, my mother would say that our town had, “one road, one stop light, and one police officer.” The neighbors were very welcoming to them. My father told me that he found a group of townspeople outside the front door one day. They asked if it was true that he was a civil engineer. When he replied in the affirmative, they wanted to know if he would be able to design new roads. This unusual request caught him off guard. They also told him that they did not have much money in the town’s coffers to pay him. My father took the job and the townspeople saw him as an asset in their town rather than “just some foreigner.” He even agreed to do it for free! George Mathew, email

Criticize Indian Democracy

This is in response to Sarita Sarvate’s essay (RIP American Democracy, April 2017). American democracy is vibrant and alive. The FBI and CIA are filled with political operatives and their reports are unreliable. That is why the Russian connection to the American election is a hoax put forward by Democrats and their pawns. One should give at least a decade after the President leaves office to judge and criticize his achievements and failures. If you do want to criticize democracy of any country, choose India’s democracy. Girish Modi, email

May 2017 | West Coast Edition | | 7


The New Colonialism By Samantha Rajaram


y mother completed her pediatric residency in Long Island, New York some 43 years ago, before the era of paid maternity leave. Every year on my birthday, she recounts the details of my birth, always including the fact that she worked until a few hours before having me, then submitted to a C-section that left a jagged vertical scar searing through her midsection. “I had to go back to work two weeks later,” she always tells me. The words uttered with a touch of pride, her own disbelief with this occurrence apparent to both of us. I am certainly not made of such strong stuff. Nor would I wish to be. When I became pregnant with twins, I became an entirely different creature altogether. I gained about 95 pounds. I would walk across the street—from my rental in Albany to the public library—and that short excursion so winded me that I would reach for a nearby tree, lamppost, or stop sign, to catch my breath. And I vomited. Every day, I vomited because I was too cold in the morning, or too hot in the shower, or for no apparent reason at all. Such was my pregnancy. I expected that I would have the pregnancies I witnessed around me—that I would be one of those glowing women wearing cute maternity jeans until the last week of pregnancy, attending pre-natal yoga classes, eating chocolate ice cream and pizza with impunity. But my pregnancy was nothing like that. Indeed, I look back on those days with admiration for my own willingness to endure it. I doubt any man could. So when I learned that Seema Verma, Donald Trump’s new pick for Medicare czar did not believe paid maternity leave should be mandatory, and that women should be able to “opt out” of such coverage in advance of their pregnancies, I was stunned. And angry. And ashamed. As an Indian-American woman, I have tried to rationalize to myself that the meager number of minorities the current

8 | INDIA CURRENTS | West Coast Edition |May 2017

This is an old trick lifted straight from colonial times— tantalize the colonial subjects with prestige and power so they will subjugate others in your name. President has elevated to his cabinet might attempt to influence the administration in positive and more inclusive ways. But so far, that is not the case. White conservatives have long depended on Indian-Americans to fulfill their vague commitments to diversity while reinforcing conservative policies that often undermine our rights as part of the larger minority community. This is an old trick lifted straight from colonial times—tantalize the colonial subjects with prestige and power so they will subjugate others in your name. This is how my great-grandfather came to be a judge in Vietnam, enforcing French colonial laws against the Vietnamese people. And this is how Bobby Jindal becomes Governor of Louisiana, Ajit Pai becomes FCC chairman (undoing our Internet privacy protections as we speak), and how Seema Verma becomes Medicare czar. And though Nikki Haley previously distanced herself from the candidate Trump, as UN ambassador for this administration, it’s unlikely she will have much influence to further any policies with which the President disagrees. And I’m sure she knows it. Such is the double-edged sword of being a “model minority.” We become complicit in our own undoing. I don’t minimize the talent or drive of any of these individuals. By all accounts, my great-grandfather was both brilliant and ambitious. But how much more could they do for our society if they saw themselves as part of a larger community rather than as part of the privileged few whose power they seek to solidify? In late February, we learned that an Indian man, Srinivas Kuchibhotla, was murdered by a white racist shouting for him to “get out of my country.” Note the

explicit use of the word “my,” immediately rendering America something inaccessible to a brown, hard-working, tax-paying immigrant. This incident proves what I’ve known all along—to many Americans, we are still regarded as the “other.” We are still perceived as somehow less American and less the owners of all it stands for than our white counterparts. Even when we are born here; even after we’ve played on the varsity tennis teams, attended the best American universities, triumphed in spelling bees, been honored with Rhode scholarships, literary prizes, Nobel prizes, genius awards, and enjoyed the gleaming fruits of capitalism. Such tragedies as Mr. Kuchibhotla’s murder should embolden us to speak out as part of a larger minority community, but so often, we don’t. The current President took his time condemning this recent hate crime. Another Indian man, Harnish Patel was murdered in South Carolina. And Seema Verma hasn’t said a thing about these crimes, at least not publicly. But the incident speaks volumes about where we are now—firmly consigned to the margins of Trump’s America. A recent article in The Atlantic describes how Ms. Verma’s consulting company has made medical care even more inaccessible to Indiana’s poor. While she will personally benefit from her position as Medicare czar, if history is any indication, her elevation to such an office will be at the expense of many others. This is the new colonialism, and we must remain mindful of how we are used in it. n Samantha Rajaram is a mother, community college professor of English, writer, and attorney. She lives in the Bay Area.

May 2017 | West Coast Edition | | 9


The Outsiders

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Most Read Articles in April 2017 1) Who Exactly Are We? Kalpana Mohan 2) Desi Gone Global Aniruddh Chawda 3) The Forgotten Tale of Shikhandi Jaya Padmanabhan 4) My Arranged Marriage with Engineering Mariappan Jawaharlal 5) Made in the Divided States of America Shumit DasGupta 6) Ali Akbar Khan College of Music Celebrates 50 Years! Madina Khan 7) April 2017 Digital Edition 8) A Tea Story Sandhya Acharya 9) Celebrating Thirty Years Curated by Nirupama Vaidhyanathan 10) Founder-Publisher’s Note Vandana Kumar

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By Chandra Ganguly

ast year, on a Turkish shore, a small Syrian boy in a red vest washed up by the beach. The picture of his dead body dominated news and social media for many days. Our morbid fascination of them, the “outsiders,” and their inhuman conditions and often untimely ends make for newspaper fodder and gives us, the rest of us, a view of a world we consider we are luckily not inhabiting. The world today though is smaller than ever before and no tragedy or infliction can be isolated or contained to one type of people, whether they are refugees fleeing their war torn countries or immigrants who have crossed borders and made their home in other lands. The outsider today can be anyone who is different from the bigger population he/she inhabits. My husband is a white/Caucasian American. A year and a half ago, we went to India and stayed in Pune for six months. And even though “white” is still the favored choice of color in India, and even though he was initially treated with deference and respect, eventually in those six months I witnessed how many of the microaggressions that he faced in India were similar to the ones I have faced here in America. Many a time, people would act as if they did not understand him as he spoke, or they would even turn their heads away from him as he was still speaking. The experience for him was the same as it was for me, one of feeling diminished. The outsider is not made to feel safe anywhere as we see in the recent incidents of the Nigerian students who were beaten by a mob in India or the death of Kuchibhotla in Kansas City. In the aftermath of recent shootings and hate crimes in America, I, like perhaps many parents of colored children, looked at my brown children and wondered and worried about their place here. For me today, the country is not divided into Republicans or Democrats, into Trump supporters or anti-Trump protestors. For me, the country and even the rest of the world

today is divided into those who stand for all of humanity and those who constantly stand against it and incite others to do the same. In 1963, in the aftermath of the Berlin wall, the American president John F. Kennedy said in a speech in Berlin “Two thousand years ago, the proudest boast was civis romanus sum [“I am a Roman citizen”]. Today, in the world of freedom, the proudest boast is “Ich bin ein Berliner!” All free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin, and therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words “Ich bin ein Berliner!” The American author James Baldwin, in his book Nobody Knows my Name written more than fifty years ago had said that accepting real change entails a giving up of safety as we know it, and that I feel is our challenge in these times. Whether it is Trump’s America or Modi’s India, can the majority give up the fixed ideas they have about themselves and their identities and who belongs and who doesn’t to make room for that which is different and for those who they do not know or whose cultures are foreign to them? I have friends who are Trump supporters; I have friends who chose not to vote because they were supporters of Bernie Sanders and are still angry with the Democratic party; I have friends still grieving for Hillary Clinton’s loss. To all of them, the question is the same—when shall the fight be one for humanity, for all of us united against the common enemy—hate? Till the day comes when we stand up for not one cause but for the sake of all, men like Kuchibhotla, who came to America to follow a dream, have unfortunately died in vain because he remained till his untimely end—an outsider.n Chandra Ganguly is a MFA student at Bennington College. She writes about the meaning and loss of identity and issues around gender and culture. She lives with her family in Palo Alto, California.

May 2017 | West Coast Edition | | 11



By Jaya


n March 19, 2017, Shivani Aggarwal decided to make a Costco run to pick up supplies for her son’s birthday party planned for later that day. She had just about finished and was headed to the checkout counter when a cart slammed into her from behind. “Oh, my goodness! That hurts!” Aggarwal recalled saying as she crouched over her bruised and bleeding foot. “Geez, it couldn’t have hurt that much!” the woman shopper responded. The woman shopper then peered at Aggarwal’s bruised foot and said dismissively, “You have a scrape! You need a band aid.” Aggarwal had been expecting the woman to apologize, so she reminded the lady that she had been hurt. At this lesson in civility, the woman became aggressive and told Aggarwal that she was making a big deal of the incident and to “go back to India.” She then wheeled her cart away calling Aggarwal a crazy person. Leela, Preeti, and Maya were talking animatedly as they hiked up a trail at Rancho San Antonio County Park on March 10. Walking three abreast, they spied a man and a woman coming down from the other side so they moved closer to each other. But Maya still occupied a portion of the wrong side of the trail. The woman brushed past Maya to which Maya turned around and apologized as she walked on. The woman called out, “Wait a minute!” The three friends stopped and turned around. The woman came up to the three women and said fiercely, “I’m American, show me some respect!” “What do you mean?” Maya asked, sounding stunned. At that point the man, who hadn’t participated in the conversation, called his partner and they walked away. On March 5, as he got out of his Mercedes at a farmer’s market parking lot, Jeet Bhatt (name changed) was questioned by two men in a van about the car he drives and why he doesn’t drive an American car. He was then told to “go back where you came from if you don’t like America.” When Bhatt called 911, one of the men taunted him saying, “Do you think I’m going to beat you up?”

Tip of the Iceberg

Since the election of Donald Trump in November, reports of such incidents have spiked nationwide, suggesting an emboldening of hate groups and ideologues following Trump’s win. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) reported a total of 867 hate incidents in the ten days following the election. The national advocacy organization South Asian Americans Leading

12 | INDIA CURRENTS | West Coast Edition |May 2017

Together (SAALT), meanwhile, recorded 207 hate or bias-related incidents aimed at South Asian, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, Middle Eastern, and Arab communities in 2016. The SAALT figures mark a 34% increase from 2014, with 95% of the reported cases motivated by anti-Muslim sentiment. What is more troubling, however, is that official figures may not in fact accurately reflect the true scope of the problem.

O SPEAK UP? AND HATE SPEECH NOW Padmanabhan Brian Levin is director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino. He recently published a study showing that police reports and FBI tracking regularly undercount hate crimes. Issues of language and culture barriers, as well as mistrust between communities and law enforcement, can often dissuade victims of hate crimes from reporting. Also, lack of training can mean police officers do not accurately report incidents of hate or bias as such. As a result, while the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ 2015 Crime Victimization Survey showed some 293,790 reported incidents of hate or bias, the FBI report for the same year contained only 6,573. Moreover, in June 2016, the Associated Press reported that 2,700 city police and county sheriff ’s departments had not reported a hate crime for 6 years in their jurisdictions. That amounts to 17% of all law enforcement agencies nationwide.

Who Are Hate Offenders?

Most hate offenders perceive a palpable threat to their livelihood, way of life, or life and hence commit acts of hate, whether verbal or physical. In all the cases cited above, the aggressors tended to be ordinary individuals unaffiliated with hard core hate groups. Aggarwal described the woman with the cart as white, dressed in sweats, black hair in a ponytail, about medium height and probably in her 40s. The woman who confronted the three hikers was also white and in her sixties, according to one of the hikers. In Bhatt’s case, the men in the van appeared to be thrill seekers. The profiles match what researchers say is typical for a majority of reported hate crimes. “Hate crime assailants include thrill offenders with more shallow prejudices,” say researchers at California State University, San Bernardino. Most commit hate crimes for excitement and social engagement. Some, in reaction to events, like terrorist attacks. Very few are “hardcore hatemongers.” But they also point to anecdotal reports that suggest a growing number of older white women—influenced by campaign rhetoric and the proliferation of fake media reports—are becoming part of the trend.

Hate Incidents Against Indians or Indian Americans reported in the last few months

l On February 6, a home in Peyton, CO was vandalized with dog feces, eggs, racial slurs and hate messages. The homeowner, Saravanan, told a local television station that 10% of the messages were: “You brown or Indian shouldn’t be here.” l Adam Purinton, a white US Navy veteran, stands accused

Srinivas Kuchibhotla murdered in Hate Crime

of killing thirty-two-year-old Srinivas Kuchibhotla, and wounding Alok Madasani, and Ian Grillot on February 22, 2017, in what is deemed a hate crime. Kuchibhotla and Madasani, both software engineers working at Rockwell Collins, were at Austin’s Bar and Grill in Olathe, Kansas watching a basketball game and enjoying their Jamesons when Purinton began heckling the Indian men asking them if their status was legal. Purinton was then asked to leave by the restaurant staff. But he reappeared a short while later armed with a gun and yelling “get out of my country!” before firing. Grillot, a 24-year-old white man, tried to intervene on behalf of the Indian men and was also shot. Purinton later admitted that he thought the Indian men were from Iran. l On February 26, single shots were fired at Star India restaurant and Asaab Eritrean restaurant on Geary Boulevard in San Francisco, shattering glass and terrifying diners and staff. l Late evening on March 2, Harnish Patel, the owner of a convenience store in Lancaster county, S. Carolina, was killed in front of his home. The investigating authorities have not admitted to the incident being a hate crime. l On March 3, a masked man accosted Deep Rai, a Sikh citizen, in his driveway in Kent, Seattle. He scuffled with Rai and yelled, “Go back to your country,” before pulling out his gun and firing. Rai sustained injuries to his arm. As more and more brown bodies are made the target of hate, the response will inevitably move from one of surprise at being assailed to more proactive steps. But just how do communities and individuals respond? And what exactly is a hate crime?

Hate Speech vs. Hate Crime

Writing nasty comments on websites, using ethnic slurs, exhorting people to leave America, distributing racist flyers, saying something that disparages ethnicities, religions, and races is May 2017 | West Coast Edition | | 13

The First Amendment (Amendment I) to the United States Constitution prohibits the making of any law respecting an establishment of religion, ensuring that there is no prohibition on the free exercise of religion, abridging the freedom of speech, infringing on the freedom of the press, interfering with the right to peaceably assemble, or prohibiting the petitioning for a governmental redress of grievances. It was adopted on December 15, 1791, as one of the ten amendments that constitute the Bill of Rights.

categorized as hate speech. “They [offenders] can’t be punished, even though it can be very harmful to the victim and other people exposed,” says Phyllis Gerstenfeld, criminal justice professor at California State University, Stanislaus. Hate speech is typically protected by the First Amendment. “Hate crime is a criminal act committed because of a victim’s group,” Gerstenfeld explains, but hate speech is “exhibiting hate without an underlying criminal act.” A hate crime is an addendum on a criminal act. The offender would have been punished anyway, but the hate motivation adds to that punishment. In other words, there is no hate crime unless there is first a crime. Aggarwal’s and the hikers’ cases likely fall under the purview of hate speech, but Kuchibhotla’s was a hate crime. Purinton is standing trial for murder, and additionally for a hate crime, since he yelled “get out of my country” and identified just the two Indian men for his violent outburst. The line between hate speech and hate crime gets blurred in instances when there are threats made, Gerstenfeld says. “I don’t like you Indians” is hate speech. “I don’t like you Indians and I’m going to beat you up” could be a hate crime. So, in Bhatt’s case, if the men had specified that they were going to beat him up— instead of saying, “Do you think I’m going to beat you up?—that might have constituted a crime.

Taking Away American Jobs?

While a cloud of fear and anxiety has descended on a number of immigrant and ethnic minority communities alike in the months since the election, certain factors set Indian Americans (as well as other Asians) apart. Indian Americans are visibly different from white and black America. These visible differences act as signals to a less informed or selectively informed populace. Indians are targeted for being 14 | INDIA CURRENTS | West Coast Edition |May 2017

illegal immigrants, Middle Easterners, Muslims and Arabs. And Sikhs are too often mistakenly identified as terrorists because of their turbans. In a study by the Sikh Coalition released in 2014, it was estimated that two-thirds of Sikh kids get bullied in school because of their visible artifacts of faith: their turbans. But bias against Indian Americans is often contextualized by several factors beyond the lens of Islamophobia, including the general success of many in these communities; weaker assimilation patterns; race, color and religious differences; and H-1B abuse as related to appropriating “American” jobs. Recently 60 Minutes did a segment cementing that narrative. One of those interviewed for the segment was Craig D’Angelo, who recently lost his job to an H-1B visa holder. Despite the experience, D’Angelo expressed some understanding of the situation. “You don’t want to have any animosity towards them [Indian workers on H-1B visas] because they’re looking for a better way of life,” D’Angelo says at one point. What the segment failed to cover was the long history of manipulation by outsourcing companies who’ve exploited their workers as well as the H-1B system. D’Angelo’s message of empathy also became lost in the larger framing of the story around Americans losing jobs to foreign nationals from India. The result, as seen in numerous instances, is an uptick in resentment meted out at the Indian American community. One man reported on the experience of his friend’s wife, whom he described as “an east Indian in San Francisco [who] was dropping her daughter to school, [when] a white man came from behind and slapped her in the face and told her she is stealing American jobs and driving fancy cars and she needs to leave the country.” In another instance, several Indian men along with their families were harassed in a South Lake Tahoe casino in November 2016. “A man approached them and asked them whether they were Indians working on work visas,” an eyewitness to the scene said. “He asked intrusive and offensive questions.” Then there was the website, created and marketed by Steve Pusher, a 66-year-old computer programmer from Virginia. The site (which has since been taken down) displayed pictures and videos of South Asian individuals, their private residences and vehicles, so as to target those who were thought to be taking away American IT jobs. One video shows a public park in Columbus, Ohio filled with Indian American families. As the camera pans over kids riding bikes and grandparents sitting on benches, Pusher is heard providing commentary. “The number of people from foreign countries blows my mind out here. You see this whole area is all Indian, amazing. It’s an amazing number of jobs have been taken away from Americans. The Indian crowd has ravished the Midwest. It’s crazy.”

Anti-Muslim Rhetoric

In its report, “Power, Pain, Potential,” SAALT pointed out that the Presidential race was rife with sweeping stereotypes and xenophobic characterizations. And this xenophobia seems to be arming and informing our citizens. An Indian American woman dressed in Indian clothes was sitting at an outdoor patio of a local coffee shop. A group of welldressed older men were chatting nearby. “[T]he talk turned to the

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Muslim ban and they started talking about what a great thing that was and how airtight the Donald’s case against them was. ‘I won’t mourn if they don’t make it,’ one of them said. ‘The only good Muslim is a dead Muslim.’ Then all of them chuckled as if such a statement were hugely funny.” The Indian woman believed that the remark was made to “get a rise” out of her and she got up and moved indoors. But in some cases, non-Muslim South Asians have also been culpable in advancing anti-Muslim rhetoric. “We applaud the Trump administration for taking this decisive move to protect our citizens from Islamic terror,” said the Republican Hindu Coalition’s chairman, Shalabh Kumar, in a January press release following the announcement of the Muslim ban. Rights advocates say that such divisiveness threatens the pluralism of America. And, by splitting the community into smaller ethnic categorizations, Kumar dilutes its power, potential and collective agency.

Speak Up, Speak Out

In Aggarwal’s case, she contacted a Costco manager, Tiffany, to report the incident. When the woman shopper caught sight of Aggarwal talking to Costco management, she reappeared with her cart challenging Aggarwal to call the cops for her racial comment. “One member hit the other member with a cart and they were both saying ‘who’s going to apologize?’” was Tiffany’s reading of the situation, when I questioned her on the incident. “We did our best to de-escalate the situation,” Tiffany added. When I asked Tiffany whether Costco had processes in place to handle altercations, Tiffany told me that this was the first time in her experience that something like this had happened. A Costco associate, an African American woman, accompanied Aggarwal to her car after the incident. Aggarwal recalls the associate saying, “Hey, I’m really sorry this happened. But this happens to me every day. Just grow a thick skin. Feel sorry for her.” This advice didn’t feel right to Aggarwal. It’s about protecting her children, she said. “Recently, my 4-year-old boy came to me and asked me why we weren’t white.” Aggarwal doesn’t want her son to believe he’s less than others because he’s brown. When she went home, Aggarwal and her husband filed a police report at the Mountain View police department. Aggarwal’s husband received an email from the police on March 27 stating that the case was closed because: “… the original incident involving the woman pushing the shopping cart into your wife was deemed an accident, it does not meet the definition of a hate crime. Regarding the woman’s reaction after being confronted by your wife, although inappropriate, also does not meet the statute.” Bhatt, too, filed a police report, and believes that reporting such cases to the police is important, just so that they have a database of hate incidents. An officer from the Mountain View police department confirmed that they have the means of tracking hate crimes when they are reported. “Obviously, in society there are many kinds of people and not all of them are going to be appropriate,” he said, “First, though, when confronted by a racially motivated person, ignore the person and walk away. Do not confront and challenge,” he cautioned. If you report the incident, the police can figure out 16 | INDIA CURRENTS | West Coast Edition |May 2017

This story was reported using data from ProPublica’s Documenting Hate Project (hyperlink: project is collecting reports to create a national database of hate crimes and bias incidents for use by journalists and civil-rights organizations. If you’ve been a victim or a witness, tell us your story here (hyperlink: https:// if it meets the criteria of a hate crime, and take appropriate action, he added. Ro Khanna, Congressman from District 17, wrote in an email that “[t]here has to be a zero-tolerance policy from law enforcement.” He stated that he had sent letters to the Secretary of Homeland Security and Attorney General asking for resources to be devoted to address hate crimes. Instances of hate against Indian Americans and other ethnic communities can no longer be dismissed as the minor fee of successful immigration. The statistics have begun to substantially populate the wrong side of the equation. There is a mounting sense of inadequacy within the community as to a coherent response to such incidents. It is important to note that while hate incidents are aimed at an individual or a group of individuals, the real target is the community. If you’ve experienced a hate incident, come forward, tell your story, document it, report it to the police. At this crucial moment in our assimilative history, we must make sure that we participate in the national conversation on race and hatred and rally together as members of a larger immigrant community. One more death at the hands of a bigot is one too many.n Jaya Padmanabhan wrote this story with support from New America Media’s Tracking Hate Fellowship program. Jaya Padmanabhan was the editor of India Currents from 2012 to 2016. She is the author of a collection of short stories called Transactions of Belonging.

May 2017 | West Coast Edition | | 17


Culturally Diverse Apps For Kids By Shumit DasGupta


irst, full transparency. When the editor asked me to check out Literary Safari—a company that makes multicultural apps, she mentioned one possible angle to cover as, “the best results are felt when parents actively mediate digital content for kids instead of sticking a tablet in their hand, expecting them to learn.” I’m a twenty year-veteran in education. I feel like I’m qualified to say: “Yes!—when parents get involved, it helps. It seems, on the surface, to be so sensible that I like to call it a “Captain Obvious!” statement. And. I’ve totally done it. Given the kid the screen, saying “Go do this in your room!” mostly when she is driving me bonkers, when I need three minutes in a row without a barrage of “daddydaddydaddydaddy, doitlikethisnotthatDaaaaddyy!! You’re doing it wrong, again, Daddy!” I think it’s a reasonable rationalization. Hell, I think every parent does it. But there is another reason I avoid doing these learning apps with my kid. They are boring! There, I said it. Even the ones that have some value drive me a little nuts. One we use, a Japanese drawing app for the kid, does the job getting her to draw the characters. It helps with the phonics, but I’m not sure the entire message—the word with the meaning—is getting through. It’s a “onetrick-pony” app. And this is one of the apps that try. The problem with a lot of apps is that they don’t try, frankly. This kind of “economy of scale” has led to a digital version of “cheap plastic toys from overseas.” It doesn’t have to be good—or even work—it just has to be shiny enough that you can’t resist, and hey, it’s only 99 cents, right? Enter Sandhya Nankani—the founder of Literary Safari, a collective that makes multicultural apps and digital content. She began thinking about the shift from printbased educational media to digital con18 | INDIA CURRENTS | West Coast Edition | May 2017

tent in the early aughts. “What I started noticing was that, yes, there was a lot of educational content out there, but how much of it has been vetted and co-created in concert with educators?” She was speaking my language already. But I was a skeptic. From what she tells me, she began to shift. Play around. See what you could do. In the beginning it wasn’t easy—no one had a script, and the technology was limited. “I remember, when I was still in print publishing, we did a “pdf ” issue, and that was such a big deal back then.” For herand the rest of us—the landscape evolved, quickly. Smartphones, tablets and apps led to, well, a lot of substandard products, unleashed, in volume. Despite serious planning, some of the more thoughtful projects that Sandhya curated didn’t go so well. “Though what we made involved many other contributors, it sort of fell flat.” But she persisted with the idea that lots of small failures add up to quality products eventually, and she now has a suite of digital content, described on the Literary Safari website as, “small batch.” The idea here is that it is, in fact, artisanal. Each project sequesters the input of multiple creators, possibly to the detriment of the economy of scale—it certainly isn’t cost effective to involve educators, artists, authors along with the tech-savvy creators of digital content from the get-go of the production process—but the hope is that it is worth it. It’s a worthy gamble. Literary Safari adds a third dimension

Sandhya Nankani, Literary Safari

here. The word “safari” in their title isn’t just for the adventure connotation of the word—multiculturalism is right at the forefront. And they run the gamut. They go from full immersion to subtle suggestion. One app—Grandma’s Great Gourd—is an adaptation of Chitra Divakaruni’s children’s book, and it takes place entirely in India—it is, in fact a story told to her by her grandfather, and has both a specific sense of place, and universal themes—be careful in the forest, talk to your family, grow a garden, and be creative. On the other end, they employ more subtle techniques—people of multicultural descent strategically sprinkled throughout other games and apps. I’ve certainly read my share of “culturally diverse” children’s books. We read folktales from all over the globe, and we certainly have books from my daughter’s own cultural background (India, Michigan and California), and she gets it. She asks questions about the characters, has a notion that they live in other places, and

Each project at Literary Safari involves multiple creators—it certainly isn’t cost effective to involve educators, artists, authors along with the tech-savvy creators of digital content in the production process—but the hope is that it is worth it. It’s a worthy gamble.

Zoe (7 years) with the app

Screenshot of HangArt app with parent’s comment

absorbs what she can absorb. And. I do sometimes feel that, sometimes, the cultural references are written with unconscious blinders on, and only inward facing. They provide Indian or Jewish or Japanese children insights that might only be relevant if you are a part of that subgroup. And that might be ok, for what it is. But. What we need more of is a normalizing of all types of people doing all types of things, especially in today’s political climate. I’m not knocking the cultural heritage stuff—it’s great for what it does. But this niche marketing doesn’t get these perspectives in the hands of people that really might want to see other perspectives, and many companies don’t promote products that won’t turn a dollar in the adult world, and—whether or not we are conscious of it—this type of thinking matriculates down to our children. I do hope these Literary Safari products help move the needle on that dial. But they are also literacy apps—they have to work—and this is where I’m a little worried. You see, we have played with our share of literacy apps, particularly around the

pre-reading years, and, as an educator, I haven’t been so impressed. They might be more useful in learning how to handle a multiple choice test; all make that funny little ‘boink!’ sound when you move the wrong word to the wrong picture, but don’t really offer any sort of motivation to actually read, other than the sing-song approval of the app’s narrator—“You did great!” You don’t need to learn the word, you just need to move it around a lot. This really doesn’t take long, as long as you don’t mind a ‘boink!’ or two. Most kids don’t. They do great! We—my daughter and I—tried HangArt for comparison’s sake. It’s a version of Hangman, but it incorporates pictures, art, story-making vehicles, and manages to slip in multicultural images in a a way that doesn’t seem overt or ham-fisted. I read out the instructions pretty quickly—it certainly helped that I was there. I don’t think she could have figured it out on her own. We started knocking down the first few words—“feet,” “far,” and “sheep,” before we came to “work.” I was pretty absorbed in the game at this point—we both were—and struggling to figure out what a few kids hovering over what looked like an elevated sandbox could mean—all we had was “_or_.” When

Screenshots and art from app “HangArt”

we did figure it out—which is tremendously satisfying, let me tell you—I was quite surprised to watch the rest of the picture fill out. It wasn’t kids, it was adults. And it wasn’t a sandbox, it was a table. It was more akin to a brainstorming session at a tech firm, or what I imagine one to be like, anyway. And the kid in the back? Guy with a turban. It didn’t interrupt the flow of the game, it was just a very subtle insertion of “different” people doing normal things. And to the literacy aspect—the one we started with? It’s got neat features, like writing the words, a platform to make stories, all types of good stuff that frankly, I haven’t even begun to explore yet. But the most impressive thing I learned was—I’m not proud to admit— what I first thought of as a flaw. You see, you can rate each word by difficulty after you earn it. But you can only rate it if you can read the rating system, and kids using the app ostensibly can’t read yet. That, coupled with my umbrge about the picture for the word “far”—it was a view of Earth, with a few other distant planets in the solar system—seemed like it expected a lot of background knowledge from beginning readers. I didn’t have much time to think about it though—we were playing the game, and I explained this rating system to my daughter, quickly. It was color-coded, so she got it after the first pass, but then I needed to explain why a view from space meant “far,” when—no pun intended- it dawned on me. I had to be there to explain it. This was engineered. You see, kids can navigate the app, with a little bit of adult supervision—or, another way to put it, “when parents actively mediate digital content for kids instead of sticking a tablet in their hand, expecting them to learn.” In other words, kids just need someone to play the game with them. If I am any indication—that might mean sneaking in a little subtle learning for the adults as well. n Shumit DasGupta is a science education professional, bicyclist and musician who writes oped pieces and children’s books. Some of them make it on radio stations and magazines that you have actually heard of.

May 2017 | West Coast Edition | | 19


“Beneath All Skin there is a Soul” By Avighna Suresh

The two essays are winning essays by students in the competition, Growing Up Asian in America organized by Asian Pacific Fund. They were asked to write a letter to Senator Kamala Harris.


ear Senator Harris: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”— Martin Luther King Jr. This dream has not yet been fulfilled. Over 250 African-American people were killed by police in 2016; 22 percent of Hispanic-Americans admitted to experiencng discrimination; Muslim-Americans are irrationally suspected for wrongdoings committed by a minority, while many suffering refugees are stopped from entering America. When will we let go of skin color or religion and open our eyes to see that every individual is defined by their ambitions and their actions? Many believe that segregation once present in America is a matter of the past. This notion is completely contradicted by

recent actions. Though Muslim-Americans have been victims of social inequity, political actions have been taken to prevent them from entering the country. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” states the Constitution—yet an act blatantly created to prevent people belonging to a certain religion from entering the country is currently in action. As a senator, you represent the voice of the people. You also have the power to write new bills. I hope you will use your influence on the future of our country to prevent such actions from being repeated in the future, and work towards creating bills to improve and better the state of racial and religious discrimination. As America’s diversity increases, so does America’s fear of diversity in proportion. We need to accept rather than segregate,

to see that beneath our skin color and religious beliefs, we are human. We are a country of immigrants. Seeing how my immigrant parents enhance the lives of many around them has greatly widened my awareness on the role such individuals play here. Allowing such intolerance seems to be not only a breach of the Constitution. Beneath all skin, whether it is of natives or of immigrants, there is a soul; this soul determines who we are. “Our true nationality is mankind.”— H.G Wells. Maybe one day, when we learn to embrace with open arms, Martin Luther King, Jr.’s dream will come true. Sincerely, Avighna Suresh. n This essay is an Honorable Mention Winner in the essay contest, Growing Up Asian in America, conducted by Asia Pacific Fund. Avighna Suresh is an eighth grader from Challenger school in Fremont.

A Letter of Hopes


ear Mrs. Harris, We live in a country of creativity. We live in a country where everyone can speak. We live in a country where ideas spark into actions. This country continues to improve each day, but people still face discrimination. As an eight year old girl living in Los Angeles , I was always embarrassed to embrace my culture. I continually asked my parents why I was different, why my eyes were brown instead of blue, why my skin was darker than others. In my school, there were only two other Indians. All my friends had blue-green eyes, golden hair, and light skin. I longed to be exactly like them. I could not take away my heritage and culture, yet I always wanted to. In Los Angeles, I only saw people who looked the same. I was different and for so long I wanted to be identical. I was embarrassed to eat rice and curry for lunch, so instead I

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By Manasa Ayyala

ate grilled cheese to fit in. My family used to go to temples and wear Indian clothes. I was always ashamed to wear them out in public for everyone to see and judge. I always packed extra clothes to change into. If I could say something to my younger self, I would say that it’s acceptable to be different and embrace it. Currently, I am a thirteen year old living in the Bay Area. I look like everyone else, I am the same. I met people who are brown-eyed, brown-skinned, and have black hair. I fit in and am happy to share my culture and my heritage with everyone. I am no longer abashed to go out in public wearing traditional Indian clothes. I enjoy embracing my heritage. However, I see people who are like my old friends, who want to be the same. So, I have a hope for the country. I hope for people not to be judged based on religion, gender, skin color, or past, but on their

merits , their contributions to society, community service, their positive roles in associations. I hope people will be appreciated based on their actions, for actions speak louder than words. As a senator, I hope you will stand for everyone. I hope you will tell everyone that it is alright that you are different, that each and every one of us is unique in our own way. I hope you will stand for the voices that cannot be heard. If you accomplish this, we grow. We develop. We cultivate. If you do, then we become a country of prosperity. Sincerely, Manasa Ayyala. n

This essay is an Honorable Mention Winner in the essay contest, Growing Up Asian in America, conducted by Asia Pacific Fund. Manasa Ayyala is an eighth grader from Fallon Middle school in Dublin.

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Desi Lens


By Kalpana Mohan

was chatting with a cousin who had lived on the East coast for over twenty years before moving to the Bay Area. She said that people there rarely talked about enrolling their children into private schools. Such discussions were hardly ever the norm. “If people did that, how the heck were we going to improve the infrastructure of the communities we lived in?” she asked. We talked about how in the Silicon Valley, many first-generation Indian-Americans—who had been raised by parents who placed a high value on education in India’s private schools—had imported those sensibilities into America. In the new environment, they began altering the balance somewhat. In the new environment, however, we had altered the balance somewhat. Many of us supported private education especially when we could not afford to move into zones with the best public schooling. Some of us, even with access to that coveted local public school in the best neighborhood, often justified our decision thus: The best private high school offered a greater chance towards that Holy Grail—a dream college. A local real estate agent has noticed a distinct attitudinal shift among young Indian-Americans in the Silicon Valley who have deep pockets. “These people seem to care a lot about the inside of the house,” she said. “But most of them hardly worry about the exterior.” It was a radical departure from how my generation and those before mine always viewed the purchase of a home in the United States. The realtor said that this attitude typically prevailed among families with very young children in which both parents juggled high-flying careers. They were willing to pay top dollar for their home but did not fret about the neighborhood, the schools or the community in which they were buying their home. It wasn’t relevant enough. They had the resources to send their children to private schools, after all. This new mindset is not that different from what led to the gentrification of San Francisco’s Mission district. An artsy neighborhood for low and middle-income Mexican and Central American immigrants was now an enclave for young tech millionaires driving the fastest-growing income inequality of any city in the United States. Here then was an erosion of the values that made American society more equitable than those in other parts of the world where the best education was often available only to those who could afford to pay. What these young Indian-American families do not realize is that while their individual decisions were perfect for them, collectively they were transforming the community to which they belonged. Even as the pricey homes were vanishing from someone else’s radar, the school districts did not benefit from the influx of a diverse mix of people. I, too, have been party to this overhaul of mindset and landscape. In 1989 when we bought our second home, in which we would live for sixteen years, the school district and the community factored into our purchase. I was expecting our first child and while we had not made up our minds, we wanted to ensure that we moved into a good school district. In 1995, however, when our daughter was ready for kindergarten, I dithered, despite the advice of more experienced friends who raised children in the

22 | INDIA CURRENTS | West Coast Edition | May 2017

community. I worried that the public school system was inadequate and that my children would not realize their true potential in a school system that was paced differently. We opted for the military drill of the Challenger school a few miles away. One year in France away from the glitter of the Bay Area altered my perspective with respect to my childrens’ education and my own career. In 1999, in Paris, I discovered that most of the locals patronized only the public schools. I understood that their decision helped bolster the public education system, and that unless parents sought religious education for their children, the default choice was always the local schools. My husband insisted that we consider the public system upon our return home. After all, he said, we were paying the taxes. Once again, he unleashed the line I’d heard ever so often. “After all, I went to Krishnaswamy Mudaliar High School in the boondocks of Vellore in Tamil Nadu. I didn’t do too badly, did I?” he asked. Two years later, we made the shift to the public system. Our daughter entered middle school in San Jose’s Almaden Valley. In the public system, the teachers had degrees pertinent to their subjects and many years of teaching experience. A teacher at Bret Harte Middle School with thirty years of teaching experience inspired my daughter with her creativity and passion. When we moved into our third home a few minutes away from the high school in Saratoga, our vexation with some of the tenured teachers—some of whom should never have been admitted into the system—would hound the children. Still, I saw the advantages of belonging to a school community where the parents became our friends and where they were fixtures in school rooms and the PTA, and where they committed many hours to a gamut of extra-curricular activities such as speech and debate, music, sports, dances, and annual festivities. For me, the value of the community was most obvious when I flew to be with my mother a few weeks before she died. The parents in the community helped my family with the children and their activities while I was far away by my mother’s bedside. The relevance of the community surfaced yet again in my son’s senior year of high school. Our family attended the memorial service for a man who had been a carpool parent when our son was in middle school. The gentleman had been central to the Konkani Association of California. At the service, we listened, moved beyond words, to speeches about the man’s vision and compassion. They made us realize that in our last days we would be feted not so much for our own accomplishments at work or for the millions we had made but for how we had touched other’s lives over the span of our own. We realized we had a choice in how we lead our lives. The decisions we made—aligning our preferences to the needs of the community—were also our legacy for they would shape the lives of those who came after us.n Kalpana Mohan writes from California’s Silicon Valley.

May 2017 | West Coast Edition | | 23

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relationship diva

Five Ways to Overcome Shyness Around Women By Jasbina Ahluwalia


et’s just say it: being shy around women sucks! Shyness can freeze you in your tracks and be your biggest obstacle to connecting with women. However, lots of guys find ways to overcome their shyness. Here are five of the top ways: 1. Cultivate Your “Inner Extrovert” Start by trying to be less shy around everyone. Practice being more expressive in terms of communication, humor and rapport with people you already know. Doing so will naturally transfer over to your conversations with women. 2. Determine if it’s a confidence problem Being an introvert is one thing; having low onfidence is another. If it is a confidence issue, introspect as to whether there may be any underlying issues. A therapist or matchmaker can help you. Once un-

derlying issues are addressed, it’s time to take action. Sometimes people mistakenly wait until they feel confident to take action —it actually works the other way around. Once you take small steps, it will lead to feelings of success, which will lead to feeling confident. 3. Do you for a while When it comes to building confidence, there can be value in taking a break from dating and spending more time on yourself. Get to the gym, pursue hobbies you love, or put more focused time on your career. Improving yourself builds confidence. When you know you have something to offer a woman, shyness can naturally evaporate. 4. Practice not being shy If being shy and quiet around women is your “default setting,” try doing something totally out of character, such as flirting playfully with every woman you

encounter for a whole day. (You can limit this to low-risk encounters—at the store or the restaurant drive-thru.) You’ll make their day and get to feel what it’s like not to be shy for a day. 5. Make “friends” with rejection No that’s not a typo. Being cool with rejection is the key to overcoming the fear of it. Even the most gregarious guys get shot down. In fact, it probably happens to them the most, since they are talking to so many more women. Look at it this way: you actually want to get rejected by the women who are not a match. Put these five tips into practice, and you’ll be well on your way to overcoming your shyness around women.n Jasbina Ahluwalia is the Founder-President of Intersections Match by Jasbina, the only premier dating coaching firm for Indian singles in the US, Canada and the UK.

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The Gift of a Grandmother: Mary Anne Chacko


hen my grandmother Mary Abraham née Chacko passed away it was Thanksgiving weekend. It was a weekend full of gratitude—we had just celebrated my brother’s birthday the day before—and then, it was punctuated with loss. Now that Mother’s Day is here, I am reminded how my Ammachi (as I called her) was a gift: to thousands of seekers in Hyderabad and Secunderabad, in Kerala, and to me. The eldest child of pioneering Christian ministers P.T. and Annamma Chacko, the family of eight lived trusting God for everything. Never asking others for help, theirs were “faith homes,” on Regimental Bazaar, Mettuguda and Walker Town. As a girl in the 1920s and 30s in pre-Independence India, Mary—if not on purpose then in practice—defied patriarchy and cultural dictates for gender and age. Young Mary was a preacher herself beginning at 11 years of age, translating her father’s sermons on bustling city street corners and in remote rural villages throughout Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. Fearless, she was beaten because of her commitment to the message of Jesus in which she believed. Today, the lineage of hundreds of churches can be traced to the work done by her and her family Her early precociousness and diligence were glimpses of what she became in the years to come. She was an outstanding student; a breadwinner for her missionary home as a teacher and principal, worked at St. John’s and Ameerpet schools; a recipient of the Indian President’s Award for teachers. She was also a Bible teacher and a prominent church leader alongside her husband Pastor T.S. Abraham. Known simply to her students as “Mummy,” she mentored and instructed throusands of students. Thousands honored her and came to her funeral or watched the services which were aired globally. As a granddaughter looking back at Ammachi’s history, I see a woman of resolve. She was determined in her work, sur28 | INDIA CURRENTS | West Coast Edition | May 2017

By Sneha Abraham

Mary Anne Chacko

passing prescribed expectations for what a woman of her time could accomplish. She was empowered in the highest sense of the word, thanks to not only her inner drive but also her broad-minded parents who accepted no limitations for their daughters. I don’t know if the word “feminist” was a word she would have ever embraced. But to me she embodied it. She established a stable family home to raise four children who to this day seek spiritual blessings over material gifts. She was unwavering in prayer and prayed for everyone she knew, asking for God to surround them with His love. She was a friend to Christians, Muslims, Hindus and nonbelievers alike. Ammachi was a whirl and bustle of ac-

Ammachi greeted the dawn with loud hymn singing that family members have rightfully, but affectionately called “worse than an alarm clock.” She couldn’t carry a tune but nevertheless she would sing with her entire off-key being: because all of life was meant to be worship, from the first act of the day until the last.

tivity until old age impeded ease of movement. She greeted the dawn with loud hymn singing that family members have rightfully, but affectionately called “worse than an alarm clock.” She couldn’t carry a tune but nevertheless she would sing with her entire off-key being: because all of life was meant to be worship, from the first act of the day until the last. But it was worship interwoven with work. She would ready her lessons. Ready her children. Ready the meals. Get ready for prayer meetings. Always ready. Ammachi couldn’t tolerate even a moment of idleness, so even on our vacations grandchildren were instructed to memorize Scripture verses, write Christian articles and learn Malayalam. She was a strict disciplinarian but I somehow managed to slip away whenever language lessons were on the table. Others did not escape her seemingly all-seeing eye. However, I didn’t entirely elude her careful watch. Ammachi lived with us in America for a few months after my sister Ann was born, to assist with caring for us. I was five years old at the time. And I was a notoriously slow eater. My parents didn’t allow me to leave the table until my plate was cleared, which meant that often I would furtively throw food away in the trash can, layering the scraps carefully under other waste or I would ball it up in napkins and flush it down the toilet when my mother wasn’t looking. One evening Ammachi gave me a wrapped slice of American cheese. I found it disgusting, so, true to stealthy form, I tossed it in the trash. Ammachi caught me in the act. Calmly she told me to take the cheese out of the bin and eat it, saying there were millions of starving children in India who would be grateful for that piece of cheese. She didn’t take well to my suggestion that we should send the cheese to them. One look from her cut through my bravado. In the battle of wills, she won. I soon learned that not only was Ammachi strong-minded, she was also quick.

I had a life-like rubber snake, which for a mischievous kindergartner was a prank begging to be played. While she was cooking with her back turned to me, I carefully laid the toy reptile out on the white tiled kitchen countertop. I backed into the corner, waiting and watching. When Ammachi turned—without a flicker of fear or a moment’s hesitation—in one smooth motion she grabbed the butcher knife and chopped off the snake’s head. I watched dumbstruck. It was the day I fully realized Ammachi was not to be messed with. One of the sorrows of being the children of immigrants is the loss of growing up without the constant company of your grandparents. As an immigrant child, you learn to cherish the briefest moments spent together. It was August 1996. My youngest aunt had just gotten married a few days earlier and we were all gathered enjoying one another’s company. I was washing Ammachi’s feet in a small plastic basin as she sat in the center of the room. Transformed by the bend and blur of the warm water, her wrinkled 71-year-old feet and my smooth 17-year-old hands looked like they could

belong to the same person. This woman is a part of me and I am a part of her, I remember thinking as I stroked her weathered skin. From the sheen in her eyes I knew we were connected, not only by blood but also in spirit. “Thank you,” she said smiling almost shyly. This woman I knew as so strong, was for a moment soft. As her hearing faded, on the phone, the totality of the exchange was reduced to a few questions, assurances and a benediction: “How are you?” “When are you coming?” “We love you.” “We are praying for you.” “God bless you.” Her voice grew increasingly creaky with age. We got the news that she had died early Saturday morning here. As I processed what I’d heard and as I watched my father cry, my first emotion was gratitude, my first instinct to pray. Thank you, God, for allowing us to come from her, I prayed, crying. After returning from India, I’ve slept with her Bible next to me in bed. I finger the pages. I come across markings in the margins or bookmarks with Scripture reference numbers written on them. There is

a yellowed black and white picture of both of my great-grandfathers, her father and my grandfather’s father, standing together smiling, tucked between the books of Titus and Philemon. There is a 25-year-old lesson outline, written in English and Malayalam. I note underlined verses. As I leaf through the Bible I came across one passage, underlined in bright pink pen: “It is God that girdeth me with strength and maketh my way perfect.” Psalm 18:32 That is my Ammachi: girded with strength and a way—a legacy—made perfect. Mary Chacko Abraham September 2, 1925—November 26, 2016. n This article appears as a tribute to mothers and grandmothers everywhere. A version first appeared in The Huffington Post. Sneha Abraham is a writer and Assistant director of news and strategic content at Pomona College in Claremont, California. Her work has appeared on NPR, Sojourners, India Currents and Good Letters. She was formerly a journalist with The PressEnterprise based in Riverside.

May 2017 | West Coast Edition | | 29

ask a lawyer

Age Discrimination in the Workplace


n California, employers may not use an employee’s or a job applicant’s age as a basis for employment decisions, such as hiring or firing. An individual must be 40 years old or older to be protected by age discrimination laws. California’s age discrimination laws do not protect independent contractors. An older employee may raise a reasonable inference of age discrimination if he/ she is treated less favoraby than a significantly younger employee while the older employee is performing the job satisfactorily. For example, an older employee may show age bias if he/she is passed up for promotion by a significantly younger employee who has lower qualifications. Employers are also prohibited from targeting older employees for layoffs. An older employee may demonstrate age discrimination if he/she is laid off while significantly younger employees are retained

30 | INDIA CURRENTS | West Coast Edition | May 2017

By Bobby Shukla

in similar jobs or reassigned to positions for which the older employee is also qualified. Generally, “a significantly younger employee” is someone who is at least 10 years younger. An employer also may not limit its job search to younger applicants because it believes they will demand less pay. Under California law, evidence that an older employee was selected for termination becase

the employee had a higher rate of compensation compared to younger employees may serve as evidence of age bias. Due to age discrimination protections, pension or retirement plans requiring participants to retire at a specified age are also generally unenforceable. Employees indicating the desire and ability to work must be allowed to do so beyond any retirement date contained in a private pension or retirement plan. If you believe you have been subject to age discriminaiton or age-based harassment, you should consult with an attorney immediately to determine potential remedies and applicable statutes of limitations. n Bobby Shukla represents individuals in employent law matters at Shukla Law. She can be reached at (415) 986-1338.

visa dates Important Note: U.S. travelers seeking visas to India will now need to obtain them through Cox & Kings Global Services Pvt. Ltd. Call 1-866-978-0055, email or visit for more information.


May 2017

his column carries final action dates and other transitional information as taken from the U.S. State Depart­ment’s Visa Bulletin. The information below is from the Visa Bulletin for May 2017.

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EMPLOYMENT-BASED PREFERENCE DATES Preference Dates for India 1st Current 2nd June 22, 2008 3rd Mar 25, 2005 Other Mar 25, 2005 Workers 4th Current Certain Religious Current Workers 5th Current Regional Center The Department of State has a recorded message with visa availability information at (202)485-7699, which is updated in the middle of each month. Source: en/law-and-policy/bulletin/2017/visa-bulletin-for-may-2017.html



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tax talk

Spend Less and Save More By Khorshed Alam


or most people, wealth accumulation is a long-term proposition. If you’re counting on the lottery to or hoping an unforeseen windfall will put your kids through college, it might be time to reconsider. Instead, take a hard look at your current saving and spending habits. Achieving your financial goals requires tangible and specific steps taken day in and day out.

Automate your savings

You’ve heard the expression: “Out of sight, out of mind.” Don’t deposit your entire paycheck into a regular checking account. Direct a portion to a savings account and another portion to a 401(k) or IRA account and then don’t touch them.

Pay off your credit cards every month

On average, Americans between the ages of 18 and 65 carry $4,717 of credit

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card debt. If the average interest rate is 15 percent, paying off that debt with the minimum payment will take more than ten years and cost more than $22,000. To build wealth, make a habit of paying off your bill each month.

Curb Impulse Purchases

Letting emotions rule is a sure way to max out your credit cards, and fill your home with unnecessary stuff. Make a list before you shop and stick to it. Eat a big meal before buying groceries and you’ll be less likely to let hunger influence your decisions. Learn to procrastinate on nonessential purchases. If you wait, you may find you don’t really need the items.

Use Cash

It may be old fashioned, but paying with currency can short-circuit the urge to buy stuff you don’t need. Studies have

shown that shoppers tend to spend more money when using plastic.

Pump up your emergency fund

Life happens. Routinely setting aside money in a rainy-day account can relieve stress today and lessen the tendency to use debt when times get tough. Many advisors suggest an emergency fund covering at least three months of living expenses. The concept of spending less and saving more seems simple enough, but it requires changing old habits. If you take on these steps, perhaps one at a time, slowly you will begin to save and be better prepared for unexpected future expenses.n Khorshed Alam is a practicing CPA and business valuation analyst. He is the President and CEO of Alam Accountancy Corporation. Check out or call (408) 445-1120.


May 2017 | West Coast Edition | | 33


Eminent Dominatrix By Aniruddh Chawda

BEGUM JAAN. Director: Srijit Mukherji. Players: Vidya Balan, Ila Arun, Naseerudin Shah, Rajit Kapoor, Ashish Vidyarthi, Chunky Pandey, Vivek Mushran. Music: Annu Malik. Hindi with Eng. sub-titles. Theatrical release (Vishesh Films)


he ill-advised, ill-defined and ill-executed dividing of what was British India into India and Pakistan and smaller neighbors was a monumental event in the history of the Indian subcontinent, perhaps even more damaging than any war, including the two World Wars. Partition, as it became known, uprooted, shattered or downright destroyed the lives of upwards of 15 million people. By any measure, truly a giant human flood. The impact of that seismic event is a daunting task to juxtapose over the plight of a whorehouse that finds itself straddling the invisible line that will soon become a boundary. And yet, Mukherji’s ambitious entry aims for exactly those coordinates on the geo-political map and comes darn close to succeeding. Remaking his own Bengali original Rajkahini (2015) and moving the late 1940s Partition-era stage from what was then India-East Pakistan border over to India-West Pakistan border, the evocative script lands with a gut-punch. A group of surveyors from India and Pakistan, jointly tasked with tracing the imaginary line that far-removed mid-level British bureaucrats contrived, stumble upon a rather large whorehouse smack on their survey line with the occupants, led by the iron-willed Begum Jaan (Balan), refusing to budge. It is, after all, their home. Eminent domain be damned. In mismatches, the burden of proof perennially falls on those with a shorter reach. By day time, the Begum and her adopted brood put up with jabs, insults —or worse—hurled by upstanding village torch-bearers feigning moral outrage. By night time, in reprising millennia 34 | INDIA CURRENTS | West Coast Edition | May 2017

old hypocrisy, more than a few of those same flame-throwers come knocking on the brothel’s doors flashing money. In this locale, the social strata occupied by both large niches are taken at face value and passed down as “tradition.” Malik’s score is perhaps his finest ever. Malik, somewhat of a border-themed specialist (Refugee, Border, LOC: Kargil), working with Kausar Munir’s excellent lyrics, orchestrates keepsake music. As a showstopper, the great—and increasingly reclusive—Asha Bhonsle lends a lilting, aged romance to “Prem Mein Tohre.” Even old man Time makes an exception by pausing when this dame sings. Kavita Seth’s reprise of this same tune is also no slacker. Rahat Fateh Ali Khan and Sonu Nigam comprise incongruent vocal ranges and their tandem “Aazadiyan,” while a good tune, feels limited on both ends. The emotional tug of Kalpana Potawari and Altamash Faridi’s “O Re Kaharo,” however, gives powerful voice to a socially encumbered woman’s call to a passing wedding party asking them to stop at her doorstep knowing full well that will never happen while Arijit Singh elevates “Murshida” with a pathos of thwarted love. Then there is Singh and Shreya Ghosal retouching “Woh Subah,” which re-ignites an uplifting, subdued hymn to charting one’s destiny much the same as the Khayyam-Sahir Ludhianvi 1958 original “Woh Subah Kabhie to Ayegi,” by Mukesh and Asha Bhonsle which extolled socialist vir-

tue. “O Re Kaharo” and “Woh Subah” are twin peaks on Malik’s sumptuous score. The roles are mostly carved up fairly nicely. Kapoor and Vidyarthi are opposing mapdrawers wielding the shots–one Hindu and one Muslim–who are also scheming, jingoistic prototypes of entrenched prejudices. Mushran is a mousy well-wisher making frequent stops at the Begum’s abode while Pandey is a thug whose violent tactics may force Begum Jaan and her fold to take up arms. As housemother to the women in the brothel, Ila Arun’s Amma is also Begum Jaan’s closest confidant and does so well. Balan can emote, beguile, charm and seduce with ease. The boon of earthiness in her mere presence, something few A-listers can match; she can disarm just about any patron refusing to pay or any strong-arming two-bit uniformed sap that lands on her doorstep. Balan’s presence, however, comes on too strong. There is more of I-am-Vidya-Balan-hear-me-roar than there is of I-am-Begum-Jaan-hearme-roar. Balan’s takeover is unabated by the absence of a single strong male lead as counter-weight. There is Shah. In a limited role, however, he is the suave, over-thehill lecherous local prince personifying old guard nobility suddenly put on notice by shifting political headwinds. Hardly a match for Balan’s hookah-puffing virtual dominatrix. n EQ: B+ Aniruddh Chawda

LATA’S FLICK PICKS a  Mirzay B. 2. LL lly Jo  . on  Rango  Phillauri iya nath ki dulhan   Badr

The Spy Who Loved By Aniruddh Chawda

NAAM SHABANA. Director: Shivam Nair. Players: Taapsee Pannu, Akshay Kumar, Prithviraj Sukumaran, Manoj Bajpayee, Anupam Kher, Denny Donzongpa, Natasha Rastogi, Taher Shabbir Mithaiwala. Music: Rochak Kohli, Meet Bros. Hindi with Eng. sub-titles. Theatrical release (T-Series)


fter the success of Pink (2016), where Pannu rocked the screen as a woman seeking to clear her name in the wake of a waylaid sexual assault, Pannu’s arc was sure to rise. And Naam Shabana, the prequel to Neeraj Pandey’s hit Baby (2015) would be a logical next stop. A team-approach story rather than a solo player entry, Naam Shabana has pretty much the same cast as the first installment and plays pretty much the same field. A little rough at the edges and yet smooth in delivery, Naam Shabana is a worthy follow-up that continues the uptick for Pannu. For Shabana Khan (Pannu), a young woman on the verge of landing new beau Jai (Mithaiwala), a bright future takes a dark turn when Shabana and Jai are attacked one night. While still recovering, Shabana gets a cryptic call from someone claiming to know minute details of the attack–something unknowable unless the couple was being trailed to begin with. The mystery caller offers Shabana help with avenging the attack at a price. Thus, begins her odyssey into the world of clandestine international espionage. Neeraj Pandey, who directed the first entry Baby (2015) in the sequence, here handles only the script. Pandey’s deft hand, however, spins the spy motif from the get-go. While there is plenty of action, the story never veers too far from a determined Shabana’s struggle to forge her own identity, make a professional mark and also avenge her personal loss. Shabana eventually lands on the trail of a ruthless international terrorist responsible for killing two Indian spies in Europe. Much as Baby did, the backdrop to this movie gets validated by larger contempo-

rary themes. Recent highly publicized attacks on some women on public transport in India received international attention and also brought into focus the role that self-defense primers can play in women’s safety. The faceless scourge of terrorism and the illicit drug trade has resulted in shape-shifting villains resorting to reconstructive facials and jumping borders at will while being pitted against an oftenoverwhelmed official spy network operating where no one can be relied upon and even few can be truly trusted. For a thriller plotline that underlines guardianship of national security secrets, since the secrets themselves won’t be revealed the plotline must then rely on the credibility of the protagonist for the premise to hold water. And Pannu’s Shabana may be just the ace the script needs. In Baby (2015), Pannu already solidly carried her weight with a short, intensely meaty role as a highly-trained spy who confronts her terrorist courier in a posh Kathmandu hotel room. The resulting bare knuckles martial arts girl-vs.-boy brawl–all flying kicks and flying furniture—was essentially the moment Pannu’s star was born. As an invisible guardian that swoops in unexpectedly, Kumar spends very little time on the screen. And yet his presence cannot be discounted since he was the engine that powered Baby and this is still

his franchise. Bajpayee as the home-front handler for the field spies, Denzongpa as the spy network overlord and Kher as the bumbling middle-aged techie nerd who knows the craft round out a wonderful cast of veterans while Sukumaran, a solid presence in movies from South India, does a terrific turn as villain. Moving the locales from the Middle East, as with Baby, to Eastern Europe and Malaysia, Naam Shabana is a nice change of pace. There is also superb continuity in again tapping French action choreographer Cyril Raffaelli to elevate martial arts, and not guns, as the weapon of choice. Raffaelli injects realism without either glorifying violence or exhibiting protracted gore. While Naam Shabana has had only limited box-office success, given the sizable combined response to the two entries so far, an underwhelming financial draw with this round will likely not deter the franchise from adding more chapters down the road. n EQ: A Globe trekker, aesthete, photographer, ski bum, film buff, and commentator, Aniruddh Chawda writes from Milwaukee.

May 2017 | West Coast Edition | | 35

36 | INDIA CURRENTS | West Coast Edition | May 2017

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A Tale Within A Tale By Girija Sankar

The Last Kaurava, Kamesh Ramakrishna. Frog Books, 2015, 536 pages.


he Mahabharata is an epic tale of tales stacked one onto another like Russian babushka dolls, woven against the dramatic meta-tale of feuding families in ancient northern India. There are no definitive authors of this magnum opus, and the stories have been passed down by a combination of Sruti (knowledge that is heard) and Smriti (knowledge that is remembered). The stories in the Mahabharata deal with themes that continue to resonate with readers even today. Kamesh Ramakrishna, in the introduction to his novel, The Last Kaurava, fondly recalls listening to his grandmother’s narration of the stories from the Mahabharata—the author and his siblings would sit around her on the floor at dinner-routine as she would hand out balls of rice laced with sambar and narrate a scene from the epic. A memory of a dinnertime routine that many readers of India Currents will no doubt share with the author. The Last Kaurava is the result of Ramakrishna’s life-long fascination with the epic tale. A student of Mahabharata and history cannot but wonder about the overlap between lore and reality. What must have the societies of ancient India experienced to produce a multi-generational saga such as the Mahabharata? War, justice, love and heroism are all common leitmotifs across much of history’s great novels and poems, yes, but what are the social, political and environmental contexts that undergird the creation and transmission of the epic tales? The Last Kaurava is Ramakrishna’s attempt to answer some of those questions. Ramakrishna’s rendering of the Bharata is, quite like the original, a tale set within a tale of a bard and his scribe—Vaishampaayana and Bhargava. The meta-narrative of bard and scribe is set in 800 BCE and the story of the Hastinapura and Ramakrishna’s rendering of the Mahabharata—the tale within the tale—around 2000 BCE. Devavrat, the regent, is wounded in war and captured by Yudishthira, the king 38 | INDIA CURRENTS | West Coast Edition | May 2017

of the opposing faction. At the behest of the king, who is also related to Devavrat, Devavrat shares the story of Yudishthira’s ancestors, starting from Kuru, the founder of the eponymous dynasty. What follows is a story of a war that is fueled in part by social policy and climate change and by societal dilemma over how to embrace change brought on by immigrants and refugees. In narrating the story to Bhargava, Vaishampaayana the bard or poet, reflects on the parallels between the crises overcoming his current host city of Kashi-—over-run with immigrants and refugees fleeing natural disasters in their homelands—and the story of Hastinapura, which, 1200 years before Vaishampaayana’s narration, was undergoing similar transformations from external and internal forces. History is known to repeat itself, argues the bard, so the recording of history is essential to prevent future generations from repeating the mistakes of those who came before. This in essence also provides the rationale for Bhargava to put to writing the story of Hastinapura. The denseness of the prose will require the reader to shuttle between pages to follow the Hastinapura narrative mak-

ing the reading laborious. Descriptions of the war camps in the tale-within-a-tale are rich in detail but rather dry-expository yet not evocative of the landscape, scenery and times. The prose could be described as more clinical than lyrical. However, Ramakrishna does something in this novel which is arguably an easily forgotten yet central point to history and historiography—the role of narration, recitation and re-telling historical events for the sake of posterity. The Kavi Sanghas or the poet guilds play a central role in The Last Kaurava. The author does a deep dive into the evolution of the sangha as critical to how history is remembered. The Egyptians, Vaishampaayana points out had their hieroglyphic inscriptions and cartouches on the walls of tombs and pyramids. Ancient India and the people living in the times when the Mahabharata tales would have likely been set relied on the oral rather than written tradition to pass down history. Students of history will appreciate the references to great civilizations of ancient Egyptian, Sumerian and Abyssinian societies. Vaishampaayana first learns of the Egyptian papyrus through Bhargava’s son, Chandrasekhar. Shouldn’t we be using it instead of palm-leaf, wonders Vaishampaayana—a conversation that may very well have taken place between a bard and his scribe in ancient India. The Last Kaurava is a book of historical fiction that transports readers on a journey of imagining what might have been, of how things might have happened and how history may have been created by the rich varied and sustained traditions of oral storytelling in ancient India. In doing so, the author reveals to the reader the thoroughness of his research, the historical analyses and the attention to period-specific details that make the reading of this novel not just an exercise in fantasy but also a master class in history and literature.n Girija Sankar lives in Atlanta and works in international development. Her writings can be found here:



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Sweet as Honey


oney was man’s first sweetener. Honey was also an important condiment in medieval times. We crave for sweets, as our stone-age forefathers have been deprived of it for centuries. Humans (Homo sapiens) evolved some 50,000 years ago, whereas bees were making honey 40 million years before that. Honeybees as a group probably originated in South East Asia. It seems they developed social behavior and structural identity similar to what we observe in modern honey bees, some 30 million years ago. Apis mellifera, known as the western honey bee, is a commonly domesticated species. It is believed to have originated in Africa and spread later to Europe and Asia. Honey was the staple sweetener in Europe till the 1500s. The name “honey” comes from the English word “huning.” In 1622, European colonists brought these sub-species to Americas. Cooking with honey was a mark of privilege and it was long used for preserving fruits whole or as a jam.

By Malar Gandhi Cave paintings in Spain from 7000 B.C show the earliest records of bee keeping. Honey is also mentioned in Sumerian and Babylonian cuneiform writings from 2100 B.C. From available evidence, we know that humans have been collecting honey for 10,000 years. But the interplay between bees and flowers is understood much later in 1000 A.D. The pre-historic cave paintings at Bhimbetka in India show men despoiling beehives built on rocks, perhaps around 6000 B.C. Even as early as the Rigvedic period (2nd and 1st century) the Rbhu brothers were credited with building artificial hives of reeds and straws. The Mahabharata (4th century B.C.) has references to apiary keepers, flower gardens and pollen yielding plants, indicating some degree of commercialization by then. Bees were domesticated in artificial hives both in India and Egypt about 4500 years ago. The earliest record of bee keeping in Egypt is found in the Sun temple (near Cairo) believed to be erected in

Honey Dipped Balushahi

2400 B.C. In 1800s, when archaeologists were working in Egypt, they found a large jar of honey, and found that it tasted perfect, even though it was thousands of years old. Honey is truly an insect product of high nutritive value. The food value of honey may be estimated by the presence of about 80% sugar in it. One should not mistakenly assume that honey is only a plant product because the nectar, pollen and cane-sugar are all secretions from flowers. As they are digested by bees, it gets mixed with their saliva and it soon undergoes certain chemical changes due to the action of enzymes. At this stage sugar (sucrose) is converted into dextrose and levulose. At the same time some ingredients of bees are also added to the mixture and the water content reduces. The whole mixture is then collected in the crop until the honey bee reaches the hive. As the bee reaches the hive this compound is regurgitated in the hive cell and is known as “Honey.”

Dry Fruits Milk Shake


* 3 fresh figs

* 1 cup all-purpose flour

* 5 dates

* 2 tsp. yogurt

* 5 almonds

* 1 tsp. sugar

* 3-4 cashew nuts

* 1/2 tsp. baking soda

* 4-7 pistachios

* 2 tsp. clarified butter

* 1 large banana

* ghee for deep frying

* 2 tsp. honey

* Honey for dipping

* 4 cups of organic milk



Mix all the ingredients together, except ghee and honey. Prepare smooth fluffy dough. Divide them into equal parts and shape them as you please. Now, heat the ghee to medium hot (not too smoky) and fry these balushahis to golden brown. Then, dip them in honey until it coats all over it. Serve chilled as a dessert.

40 | INDIA CURRENTS | West Coast Edition | May 2017

Blend all the above mentioned ingredients together till smooth. Serve chilled in tall glasses. n Malar Gandhi is a freelance writer who specializes in Culinary Anthropology and Gourmet Indian Cooking. She blogs about Indian Food at

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Hindustani High in San Francisco By Priya Das


an Francisco International Arts Festival (SFIAF) this year has a lineup coming up soon that pays homage to the collaborative performing spirit, with artists from India, China, and nonIndians playing Hindustani music sharing the stage. (Browse through this issue to read more about the dance events at the festival.) Festival director Andrew Wood underscored why international collaboration was a conscious choice, saying, “Some people in other parts of the country may want to cloak themselves in a veil of intolerance, but we are different. San Francisco will lead by example and continue to embrace the people of the world. We invite all those who want to share in these sentiments and who still believe in America’s multicultural promise to join us for an occasion that is powerful, provocative, and beautiful.” Melody of China, comprising musicians of Chinese-origin, views a collaboration with Indian-origin Swapan Chaudhuri as an opportunity to strengthen its contemporary arts focus while branching out to include other forms of traditional music. “Indian music has increasable rhythm, beautiful melody, and is very spiritual,” said Artistic Director Yangqin Zhao, who plays the hammered dulcimer. Chaudhuri has always been struck by the similarities between other Asian melodies to Indian ones. “I first noticed it in 2000, when I was accompanying Pandit Ravi Shankar, and then again last year, when I was playing in Japan. During rehearsals, they kept coming back to a scale that I realized was very similar to the Indian raag Bhupali.” He played it for them and there were astonished conversations after that. He experimented with the newly crafted Indo-Japanese sound with the ensemble at the School of Music where he teaches at the California Institute of Arts in Valencia. The collaboration with Melody of China at SFIAF seemed like a perfect opportunity to extend musically into China and shape new tonal harmonies. While Chaudhuri

42 | INDIA CURRENTS | West Coast Edition | May 2017

Habib Khan and Matthew Montfort

will be playing an original composition, he cannot quite describe it, since it will come together as an improvised piece onstage. “The music will take care of you once you surrender to it,” he describes, “much like riyaaz (practice). I always tell my students, don’t “use” it, give it love, and you will get a lot back. There is no start and end. It’s never-ending. Once you surrender, you sense a special power.” The multicultural, harmonizing vibe of the festival this year is not new to Chaudhuri; he remembers fondly the time he worked with Stevie Wonder on the album A Time to Love. The album has some brilliant percussion from all over the world, with the table rhythms being clearly discernible. The presentation aims at bridging the gap between contemporary arts and traditional music as well. Artists also include Melody of China’s own Gangqin Zhao on Guzheng (zither, vocal), Wanpeng Guo on Sheng (mouth organ), Shenshen Zhang on Pipa (lute) and Xian Lu on Dizi (bamboo flutes). The concert will also feature the world premiere of a new piece, “Opera 4 x 4” in the style of Beijing Opera by Gang Situ with Melody of China and guest cellist Kevin Yu. SFIAF has another event featuring Indian music with Matthew Montfort (known for his scalloped fretboard guitar) and Habib Khan (on the sitar). They too, are planning to surrender to music onstage. Montfort explains, “I really don’t know exactly what we will be playing yet

as that will be determined by the muse. Pandit Habib Khan and I have quite a bit of repertoire that we have performed over the years, but we tend to make up new material onstage. I love working that way because it keeps things fresh!” The scalloped fretboard guitar was constructed by Montfort and is influenced by both the veena and the sitar. He uses string bending techniques that are similar to those used on the sitar. But the guitar has the ability to play up chords of up to six notes. A guitar-sitar jugalbandi is exciting because it expands the territory of each instrument. For example, the sitarist has the opportunity to explore playing chords if so inspired, and for the guitarist, the challenge will be in matching them. The two artists have recorded five albums together. Ferhan Qureshi will accompany them on the tabla at the festival. Montfort sees this performance as poignant in the context of Hindustani music tradition and the political climate today. He believes that some of the greatest successes in world fusion music right now are outgrowths of Hindustani music. He thinks the tradition is future-proofed internationally; but also in part by the fact that it accepts performers who were not born into it, such as himself. However, he says, “Society’s commitment to support the arts has continued to erode, and so the future of virtuoso level music is in jeopardy. This is exacerbated by the current political environment, which is more toxic than anything I’ve seen in my lifetime. World fusion music can be part of the solution to humanity’s problems. There is a lot of work to do to get things on a better path.” n 8 p.m. Thursday, June 1 Ancient Future Guitar-Sitar jugalbandi 7 p.m. Sunday, June 4 Melody of China www. Priya Das is an enthusiastic follower of world music and avidly tracks intersecting points between folk, classical, jazz and other genres.

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Date: Sunday, May 21, 2017 Time: 4pm


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44 | INDIA CURRENTS | West Coast Edition | May 2017

information : pi Pendurkar--(408) 348-8276 Kotwal -- (408) 431-6588 n Kachwala- (650) 450-1993 Verma --(510) 396-2919 Akerkar--(510) 449-2087

Varnacitrita, "painted with colors," is the first half of the production choreographed to highlight different colors. The second half of the show presents Chahat, incorporating Ghazals, thumri, Khayal, and Italian opera. It features the dancers of our production unit accompanied by a soprano singer from Germany. Choreography of more than 200 students by Smt. Anuradha Nag.

Taposhi Roy

Opera Singer, Germany

Debasish Ghosh

Music Composer, India

Dinesh Poddar

Light Design, India

dha Nag at 408-374-8017 or email at | Website: May 2017 | West Coast Edition | | 45














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Of Frescoes, Havelis and Adventure

By Kavita Wadhwani

Outside of a haveli, Mandawa

Shekhaji of the Kachhwaha dynasty set out to establish his principality in the 15th century. Later his descendants set up small fiefdoms, which now comprise the Shekhawati region. Wall and ceiling frescoes in Vivanna, Churi Ajitgarh


here was a faint whisper of a song coming from afar. Draped within the folds of a warm blanket, I strain my ears to try and catch the tune. I was ensconced n the warmth of an artistically decorated room adorned with frescoes within a refurbished century-old haveli (mansion). The chorus of voices that seemed to cascade towards me made me leave the comfort of my seat and I threw open the intricately carved jharokha (window). A chilly mid-December breeze touched the warmth of my cheeks. In the fresh dewy dawn, a group of women walked past the building singing spiritedly as they made their way to see the village deity. This serene start to the day in a room amidst artistic decor perked me up. I was staying at Vivaana, a haveli now transformed into a heritage hotel situated at Churi Ajitgarh in the Shekhawati region of Rajasthan. This and other surrounding villages in the region are known for their havelis with fresco-filled interiors built by Marwari traders during the late 19th century. In this semi-arid land with sparse vegetation, people have compensated for the drab landscapes around them by filling their homes and lives with colorful attire and art.

Rich merchants had the entire interiors of havelis resplendently arrayed with vibrant paintings featuring subjects ranging from mythology to modes of modern transportation. We set out to explore the region. As we visit Nawalgarh and Mandawa, nondescript dusty towns hiding ancient history in their midst, I felt a little sad when I observed the nonchalance in the attitudes of the locals towards their inherited art. My chance encounter with a local milk woman on a morning walk led me to her home. The spaciousness of the haveli in which she lived surprised me. I didn’t know whether she was the owner or merely the caretaker but I felt that she would not have been able to maintain such

May 2017 | West Coast Edition | | 47

a big house. The fading frescoes that I witnessed in her haveli revealed a silent story of despair that is writ on almost every haveli in Shekhawati. Most grand havelis are in a state of ruin, locked in inheritance disputes and largely forgotten. The smaller havelis can be adapted for living in a modern-day setting but even here the high cost of trying to match the natural colours in the frescoes serves as a deterrent to owners to keep up their maintenance. In spite of these drawbacks, it is still fascinating to visit Shekhawati in Rajasthan to find some stunning frescoes which have stayed intact through the passage of time. A mere stroll down the street is enough to lead one on a path of joyous discovery. It is no wonder since this region has earned the moniker of being an “open art gallery.” Few havelis have been painstakingly restored to their former glory and are thrown open to the public as museums or heritage hotels. The muted brown landscape with peacocks preening around and sporting camels and horses for hire sets the stage for the rustic charm that one finds here I visited this region over a weekend and the occasion coincided with my sisterin-law’s silver wedding anniversary. It was the perfect excuse for family and friends to get together. They drove down from Delhi while we drove down from Jaipur. As we left the traffic of the Pink City behind and hit the smooth highway I rolled down the car windows and loved the feel of cold wind against my face. The sweeping greenery slowly gave way to sporadic shrubs and trees of Keekar and Babool. 48 | INDIA CURRENTS |West Coast Edition |May 2017

Room in Vivanna, Churi Ajitgarh

In about three hours we reached Nawalgarh and entered its main bazaar which remains reminiscent of bygone days. Roads narrowed down to single lanes and the cacophony of shouting hawkers, hagglers shopping for vegetables and honking auto rickshaws became louder. Bandhej sarees and lac bangles vied for attention with their deep bright colours while the shimmer and shine of copper utensils could not go unnoticed. Cattle ran astray, and dogs were yelping added to the noisy din. The bubbling oil in large kadhais from which hot jalebis were lifted and dunked in sugar syrup invaded my senses. I could not help wondering about all the Rajasthani delicacies that I would get to taste during my trip. Family bonding over daal baati churma, mangodi ki kadhi, mong daal ka pakoda and kulhad chai was just waiting

to happen. As I was wondering about the tasty meals that lay ahead, I was rudely jolted into the present because our car had gotten stuck in the narrow lanes of the bazaar. After a few minutes of difficult maneuvering, we reached a desolate stretch flanked on either side with grand havelis with frescoes on the outer walls. An auto rickshaw decorated in kitsch decorative frills and posters passed by. We decided to walk down admiring the frescoes, some which were intact while some fresco images were peeping through peeling plaster. Taking a flight of stairs we were greeted by two paintings of santris (watchmen) at the imposing door of the Dr. Ramnath Anandilal Poddar Haveli Museum, one of the well-maintained havelis in town. Rahul Singh Parihar, a cheerful guide, welcomed us. He guided us through the haveli built as a residence for the Poddar family. In 1935, they migrated to Bombay and Calcutta. Then, the haveli housed a school for forty years and now it is a museum of frescoes and Rajasthani cultural heritage. Rahul enlightened us about the etymology of the word haveli that means ‘the house of wind’ in Persian. Havelis typically have two to three courtyards opening one after another. The Poddar haveli had 750 frescoes ranging from mythology, royalty, Rajput legends, festivals and fairs (teej, gangaur, holi), floral motifs, pictures of animals, mundane scenes from everyday life to images of British colonizers.

Steam engine train fresco at Poddar haveli, Nawalgarh

When you visit Shekhawati in Rajasthan, you can find some stunning intact frescoes. A mere stroll down the street is enough to lead one on a path of joyous discovery. It is no wonder since this region has earned the moniker of being an ‘open art gallery.’

The Poddar haveli had 750 frescoes ranging from images drawn from mythology, Rajput legends, festivals and fairs (teej, gangaur, holi), floral motifs, pictures of animals, mundane everyday scenes to images of British colonizers. What caught my attention was a steam engine train with elegant coaches for British gentry. What caught my attention was a steam engine train with elegant coaches for British gentry. Could this region have boasted of a steam engine at that time? Explaining this discrepancy of a train being found amidst trradtional patterns and scenes, Rahul said that the artists who were from Nawalgarh were sent to Bombay so they could paint the latest visuals from a big city. The stories captured in frescoes could well be a social commentary of those times. Rahul then led us to the baithak khana (sitting area) where the Marwari seths (merchants) transacted business. It had been recreated replete with a plush gadda (mattress) to sit and masnad (elongated pillows) to recline on. The intricately designed antique hookah and the cloth fan hanging from the ceiling added to the ambience of that era. As Rahul tied red bandhani turbans on our heads to make us feel a part of the set up, he shared interesting trivia. In those days, the fan bearer used to always be a deaf man so that he could not hear anything about money or other matters. He showed us the secluded room where the merchants huddled to make secret negotiations. We were charmed by the beauty of the place but also felt sorry for the womenfolk who were confined to four walls in the zenana (women) wing of the haveli. The jharokhas were their mirror to the outside world. The realistically carved veiled bust of a woman in marble could well have been patterned after any of the ladies who lived there. Earthen utensils, woodwork, turbans, different schools of miniature paintings, bridal dolls of various castes and a room full of Gandhji’s memorabilia can be seen here. From Nawalgarh we proceeded on-

Fresco in Nawalgarh

wards towards Churi Ajitgarh where the family reunion was to be held. We looked forward to our stay in a haveli that exuded old world charm. Vivaana (which literally means “the first rays of the rising Sun” didn’t disappoint us. Earlier it was called the Nimani kothi but Atul Khanna, an arts heritage enthusiast and his wife Devna now own the haveli. They recounted the innumerable trips they undertook scouring the entire Shekhawati region for their dream haveli till they chanced upon Vivaana. Acquiring a haveli was a challenging task as each building in Shekhawati has been passed on from generation to generation. There are multiple owners and disputed titles. One of the reasons that havelis fall apart is that no one has the exclusive responsibility or liability towards their upkeep and maintenance. Looking back, it was Rao Shekhaji of Shekhawat sub clan belonging to the Kachhwaha dynasty who set out to establish his principality in the 15th century. Later his descendants set up small fiefdoms, which now comprise the Shekhawati region. When the old silk route of trading was in decline, the Marwaris from the desert migrated to Shekhawati in quest of burgeoning trade and soon prospered. In the early days of the 19th century they again migrated to emerging trade ports of

Calcutta and Bombay with the encouragement of the British. They poured their wealth to add beauty to the havelis but never came back to enjoy the life there. The Poddar, Birlas, Singhanias, Ruia, Khemka, Khaitan, Khandelwal, Maheshwari, Goenka and many other business families have roots here. The region is also famous for its chivalry, sacrifice, entrepreneurship, trading, farming, art and culture and music. Many war veterans and soldiers in the military who belong to Rajput clans hail from here. Traders had a special place for havelis just as Rajput chieftans felt towards their castles. These castles are also adorned with frescoes and many have been converted into hotels. We visited the Mandawa castle in Mandawa that was built by Thakur Nawal Singh in 1755. It has antique armour, portraits of family and frescoes to see. The town once stood as a trading post in the Delhi-Bikaner route and prospered greatly. The 175 havelis with frescoes are relics drawn from that era. It is not easy to restore havelis for it is a tedious and costly process. The point in case is Vivaana where many pillars were missing and wooden structures were broken. Pillars, windows and gates can be purchased from antique dealers. Atul said that there are also many old masons in the region who have inherited the art of making and reconstructing the haveli architecture. Under their guidance, the work force could restore these places retaining their authenticity. Relaxing on its “Fresco lounge” sipping a refreshing chamomile tea I was told that it was discovered almost intact. There are also two rooms in the haveli having age-old erotic frescoes. However I was more intrigued by the steep narrow staircases that lead me to the passage between the walls. A secret passage here and a jharokha there as antiques and curios lay scattered around. n Kavita Wadhwani is a dreamer with nine years of writing experience on subjects ranging from fashion, fitness, décor, to food and travelogues.

May 2017 | West Coast Edition | | 49

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dance . music

BharathaKala Kutiram

Music Performing Class Enrich it by listening to Dr. Madhuwanti Mirashi

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offers Bharathanatyam Classes in Berryessa, North San Jose

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INDIA CURRENTS Celebrating 30 Years of Excellence

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May 2017 | West Coast Edition | | 57


Environmental Activist Wins Prestigious Prize By Nirupama Vaidhyanathan



rafulla Samantara won the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize in a glittering ceremony held in San Francisco on the 24th of April. The Goldman Environmental Prize honors grassroots environmental heroes from Africa, Asia, Europe, North America, South and Central America and from island nations all over the world. The prize recognizes individuals for their sustained efforts to protect and enhance the natural environment, often doing so at great personal risk. Since 2004, Prafulla Samantara successfully fought plans by London-based Vedanta Resources to construct a $2 billion bauxite mine in the Niyamgiri hills in Odisha, a plan that was hatched without consulting the Dongria Kondh, the tribals who live there. The area is a wildlife sanctuary to many endangered animals and is one of the most pristine and biodiverse

58 | INDIA CURRENTS |West Coast Edition |May 2017

Prafulla Samantara wins Goldman Environmental Prize

parts of the state. The Dongria Kondh, an 8,000-person indigenous tribe live amidst these verdant hills that they consider sacred. The land is also rich in minerals, including bauxite, a key component of aluminum. In 2004, the Odisha State Mining Com-

pany (OMC) signed an agreement with London-based Vedanta Resources to construct a mine in the Niyamgiri hills. The agreement was announced in English-language national newspapers and published on the environmental ministry’s website, but the remotely located Dongria Kondh, who do not speak English or use the Internet, had neither been informed nor had they given consent for the project. Seasoned activist and human rights defender, Prafulla Samantara, 65, launched a grassroots campaign to inform the tribal people and to help them protect their rich culture and forests. A product of the youth movement under Jayprakash Narayan’s leadership Samantara had been imprisoned for a year during the Indian Emergency in 1975. Since then, he has worked tirelessly as a political and community activist. “I travelled extensively throughout the region first informing them of the major changes that had been proposed. Wherever I went, the locals had no knowledge of the seismic shifts that had been planned for their area in the name of development. That made me even more determined to fight on their behalf,” he says. He filed a petition before the Central Empowered Committee (CEC) of the Supreme Court in 2004 challenging multiple environmental, human and tribal rights violations that the mine represented. He was the first citizen to use

legal avenues to contest a state-led mining project, and this initiated a 12-year legal battle between India’s national courts, the Dongria Kondh, the Odisha state government and Vedanta. In a conversation, Samantara talks with great fondness of this section of the Western Ghats which gives rise to 36 perennial streams, with many rivers serving millions of people in the states of Odisha and Andhra Pradesh. “The presence of bauxite ore under the ground is one of the reasons for the abundant water supply in this area,” he says. With a missionary zeal to safeguard these hills, and with the legal battle underway, he faced intimidation by state police and Vedanta personnel. There were multiple cases that were foisted on him and he says ruefully, “Since the 90s, the corporate agenda has ruled the government’s legislative agenda and ordinary citizens face an uphill battle. When it comes to tribal villagers, they were uniquely disadvantaged to fight against such powerful interests.” Samantara along with the villagers used non-violent sit-ins in Bhubaneshwar. They created a 17-kilometer long human chain to protest the mine to prevent Vedanta from entering their land. The resulting publicity drew the attention of international organizations. In 2010, the Norwegian government and the Church of England—both investors in Vedanta —divested their stakes in the company amid concerns about environmental rights. violations. In April 2013, India’s Supreme Court empowered Dongria Kondh village councils, known as palli sabhas, to make the final decision on mining activities in the Niyamgiri Hills. All 12 village councils voted unanimously against the bauxite mine. The OMC tried to overturn it on bureaucratic grounds, but in May 2016 India’s Supreme Court denied OMC’s petition, definitively ending bauxite mining in the area. Significantly, Samantara’s case has established a precedent authorizing local village councils throughout the country to decide on mining activities in their regions, giving them control over their land, lives and destinies. n Nirupama Vaidhyanathan is the Managing Editor of India Currents.

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INDIA CURRENTS Celebrating 30 Years of Excellence

Kalapeetham Foundation Established in 1990

Director: Smt. Kalyani Shanmugarajah (Alumnus of Kalakshetra, 1974) Offering Classes In:

Kalakshetra style of Bharathanatyam, Traditional Folk Dances and Theory Class Locations: Granada Hills, Woodland Hills, Northridge, Simi Valley,


“Thanks in large part to your service, I have a large Indian clientele. Appreciate the service you have performed for my practice. - Bill Gray, MD “We would like to thank India Currents for the wonderful opportunity it has offered ‘Most Unique Parties & Ponies’ to meet and entertain the fun and friendly Indian families of the Bay Area.” - Mike & Sari Most Unique Parties & Ponies “ The ad looks superb. I also received a box of India Currents which flew faster than the hot samosas last weekend.” - N. Muralikrishnan Music Class on Demand

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Rangoli Dance Company

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NRITYODAYA KATHAK ACADEMY CALL: (408) 324-0488 | (714) 523-8788 Email: Write: 2670 S White Rd., Suite 165, San Jose, CA 95148 Deadline: 20th of every month 60 | INDIA CURRENTS | West Coast Edition | May 2017

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Founder/Director Since 1989 Contact: 909-630-8558

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ACADEMY OF KATHAK DANCE Classes offered at La Habra Heights, Whittier, Cerritos, Yorba Linda ( Classes can potentially be offered in your area - inquiries welcome)

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Bharata Natyam Folk Dances Classes: Duarte,Cerritos, Riverside,Chino Hills

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626-590-5547 May 2017 | West Coast Edition | | 61

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62 | INDIA CURRENTS | West Coast Edition | May 2017

Kalanjali Summer Festival – 2017

Celebrating 42 Years of bringing the best of indian culture to california audiences, creating new generations of artists & art lovers

STUDENT SHOWCASES – all levels perform traditional BHARATANATYAM pieces in the Kalakshetra style SATURDAY, MAY 6 at 2pm Rosemont High School Theater 9594 Kiefer Blvd. Sacramento, CA 95827 SUNDAY, MAY 7 at 2pm Del Valle Theater 1963 Tice Blvd., Walnut Creek, CA 94595



With musical team from India led by KP Ramesh Babu

SATURDAY, JUNE 24 at 4pm Sanskriti Chadha SATURDAY, JUNE 25 at 4pm Saranya Rajagopalan SATURDAY, JULY 1 at 4pm Devayani Varma

SUNDAY, MAY 28 at 3pm

Three more brilliant ARANGETRAMS coming soon With orchestra from India

Del Valle Theater 1963 Tice Blvd., Walnut Creek, CA 94595 r.s.v.p.

All Are Welcome

KALANJALI conducts classes in the Kalakshetra style, in Sacramento, Lafayette and Berkeley. New sessions begin end of August. Register now.,

May 2017 | West Coast Edition | | 63


Deiveega Vahanangal Arangetram by Nithika

Karthikeyan Disciple of Guru Smt. Selvi Pragasam Saturday June 10, 2017 at 3:00 pm Evergreen Valley College, Performing Arts Center, 3095 Yerba Buena Rd, San Jose, CA 95135

Choreography and Nattuvangam: Selvi Pragasam Orchestra from Bangalore For more information contact Swarna @ 510 449 6299

64 | INDIA CURRENTS | West Coast Edition | May 2017

May 2017 | West Coast Edition | | 65

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

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

What is sin?

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

What is the result of committing sin?

The result of committing sin is a broken heart & soul,having guilt which makes us weak before God, with sadness, no peace, sickness, curses and separation from God. The Bible says, when we were born, we were born with sin because our parents brought us into this world with a sinful nature. For all have sinned, and come short of the Glory of God. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. The wages of sin is death. No one in this world including our parents or spouse or kids or friends or relatives can love us more than God. The Bible says, God is Love and HE manifested HIS love by sending God's only Holy SON Jesus Christ into this world to save us from all our sins and redeem us from this sinful world. For God so loved the world, that HE gave HIS only begotten Son Jesus Christ, that whosoever believeth in Jesus should not perish, but have everlasting life, the life after death with God in Heaven. Jesus came to this earth only to die for us and shed HIS blood so that we can be saved by HIS grace and then receive HIS gift of Salvation. Without HIS shedding of blood there is no redemption from sins. So God sent Jesus Christ to this world to die for you and me. The blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sins. If we confess our sins to Jesus, HE is faithful and just to forgive us from our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Jesus said "Come unto ME, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” For every sin we commit, we need to pay the penalty individually. However, Jesus took all our sins upon himself, when HE died for us. By giving HIS every drop of blood, we are saved and free from the penalty of sin & death. Jesus 66 | INDIA CURRENTS | West Coast Edition | May 2017

died for our sins and on the third day, HE rose again from death and became victorious over death, hell and sins. Jesus is a living God. HE is the same yesterday, today & forever. In the Name of Jesus there is Victory, Deliverance from sins & curses and there is Healing from sickness & Miracles in our life. Jesus Christ is the ONLY WAY to God the Father, HE is the Truth and HE is the Life. No one can go to God the Father & Heaven, except through Jesus Christ. Our family or friends, our caste or creed, our education or position, our money or riches or status, or by doing charity or by doing yoga or by doing fasting will not take us to God or to Heaven. When we accept & ask Jesus Christ to come into our heart & cleanse our sins with HIS precious blood, Jesus comes into our heart and makes us a new creature, by giving us HIS Love, Joy, HIS Peace, Hope & eternal Life with HIM. This is the TRUTH and the truth shall set you free.

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

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

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

Om Sri Mathre Namaha

Monday, May 8th: Soma Pradosham At 6.00 PM Shiva Sri Rudra Abhisheka, aarati and manthra pushpa Tuesday, May 9 : At 6.30 PM Sri Narasimha Jayanthi special Pooja, aarati and manthra pushpa th

Wednesday, May 10th: At 5.00 PM Shiva Abhisheka aarati and Manthra Pushpa. At 6.00 PM Chithra Pournami Vratha, Sri Sathya Narayana Swamy pooja /vratha, Chithra Guptha pooja, aarathi and manthra pushpa Sunday, May 14th: Sri Sankata Hara Chathruthi,

At 4.00 PM Sri Lakshmi Ganapathi Homa / Sri Lakshmi Ganapathi Abhisheka, Sri Shiva Abhisheka, Sri Valli Deva Sena Sametha, Sri Subramanya Abhisheka, aarati and manthra pushpa Saturday, May 20th: At 4.00 PM Sri Hanuman Jayanthi, Vaisakha Masa Poorvabhadra Nakshatra Chandramana, Sri Hanuman Pooja, Sri Venkateswara Abhisheka continued with Sri Vishnu sahasra nama chanting, aarathi and manthra pushpa Tuesday, May 23rd: At 6.00 PM Pradosham, Shiva Sri Rudra Abhisheka, aarati and manthra pushpa

Monday, May 29th: Memorial Day weekend timings Wednesday, May 31st: At 8.30 PM Sukla Sashti, Sri Valli Deva Sena Sametha, Sri Subramanya sahasra nama archana Tuesday, June 6th: At 6.00 PM Pradosham, Shiva Sri Rudra Abhisheka, aarati and manthra purhspa Wednesday, June 7th: Vaikasi Visakham

Friday, June 9 : At 4.00 PM Sri Bhuwaneswari, Sri Lalitha Devi Abhisheka continued with Sri Laliha shasra nama th chanting, aarati and Manthra Thursday, May 25 : At 6.30 PM Kritika Vratha, Sri Valli Pushpa At 6.00 PM Pournami Vratha, Sri Deva Sena Sametha, Sri Subramanya Abhisheka, aarati and Sathay Narayana Swamy Pooja, vratha, aarati and manthra pushpa manthra pushpa th


For Pujas & Rituals Contact: PANDIT


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May 2017 | West Coast Edition | | 67


Monday, May 1st: At 7.00 PM Sri Ramnuja Jayanthi, 1000th Year Shodasopachara pooja, aarati and manthra pushpa

events MAY

California’s Best Guide to Indian Events Edited by: Mona Shah List your event for FREE!

JUNE issue deadline: Friday, May 19 To list your event in the Calendar, go to and click on Create Event

Check us out on

special dates Buddha Purnima

May 10

Mother’s Day

May 14

Ramadan Begins

May 26

Memorial Day

May 29

Father’s Day

June 18



1 Monday

Mohita Bhatia—Beyond the Kashmir Meta-Narrative: Caste, Identities, and the Politics of Conflict. In the academic representations of Jammu and Kashmir, territorial conflict emerges as the predominant theme. Such an exclusive conflict-centered approach precludes any nuanced analysis of the heterogeneous, everyday social practices that are not directly related to the conflict discourse; thereby offering only a partial representation of the region. This particularly holds for the marginal groups whose voices get submerged in the conflict meta-narrative. The aim is to

68 | INDIA CURRENTS | West Coast Edition | May 2017

Ramayana!, the Mount Madonna School (MMS) sword and sorcery epic now in its 39th year, features an original rock-n- roll infused-score and magical characters who encounter danger and love, good versus evil, duty, heroic action and sacrifice. Performances on June 9-11 at the Mexican Heritage Theater in San Jose. Photo by Maureen Pramanik

unpack the layered caste and class experiences of the Scheduled castes in Jammu that have emerged from both conflict and non-conflict conditions. Organized by South Asia Studies Stanford. 12:30 p.m. 2:00 p.m. Encina Hall West, 219 Stanford.

Battlefield—A Play Based on The Mahabharata. A newly-crowned king

surveys a battlefield: his army has won him the crown but at what cost? Inspired by his groundbreaking adaptation of the ancient Indian epic The Mahabharata,

legendary director Peter Brook has returned to his most celebrated work to create an intimate new interpretation and staging of this timeless tale. This magical story about the awesome responsibility that comes with winning a war and the grace and wisdom required to lead a nation after victory has striking connections to modern times, and features the master director at his finest. Organized by American Conservatory Theater. Geary Theater 415 Geary St., San Francisco. http:// battlefield.html.

events DANCE

Tarangini’s 25th Anniversary Production: A Celebration of Color


arnacitrita and Chahat, will celebrate this anniversary as Artistic Director Anuradha Nag, and more than 200 students take the stage. The first half of the show, Varnacitrita, means “painted with colors.” It consists of pieces inspired by the colors of the dancers’ costumes—beginning with hues corresponding to the Pancha Tattva, or five basic elements: earth, water, fire, air, and space. Chahat, or “longing,” is the second half of the show, featuring Nag and Tarangini’s production unit dancers. The music of Chahat is a tribute to Nag’s close friend vocalist Shaoni Mitra, who passed away in 2013. Through Mitra’s songs, the production tells the story of the eternal longing of the Nayika for her beloved. This collaborative work also features Germany-based soprano Taposhi Roy, who will be singing Italian opera lyrics that mirror the meanings of the ghazals, thumri, and khayal ang renditions. There are a couple special items on the program, including one piece that will feature many of Tarangini’s alum-

nae returning to celebrate this occasion. “When I came here, I had to start from scratch,” Nag said. “Dance is my passion and has carried me through the good and bad times. ” n

Sunday, May 21, 4:00 p.m. Smithwick Theater, Foothill College, 12345 El Monte Road, Los Altos Hills. Tickets: $60 (Donors), $30, $25, $18 (reserved seating only).

MUSIC Krishna Sabrang—Live Performance of Exciting Melodies in a Unique Multilingual Concert by Shankar Mahadevan


he show is a celebration of all forms of Krishna, a mix of different genres of music like Carnatic, Marathi, North Indian and Western. Performed in a traditional manner, this show also surprises the audience with Rock and Jazz music. Starting with Shankar Mahadevan, the show also features Siddarth Mahadevan performing the rock version and Shivram Mahadevan performing the bala Krishna songs.

All proceeds go to Aim For Seva, that helps children who are the future representatives of the country, and education is the only way to empower them. Join this event with family and support AIM for Seva in this great effort. n Saturday, May 20, 6:30 p.m. City National Civic, 135 West San Carlos Street, San Jose. $50-$250. krishna-sabarang-by-shankar-mahadevan/

May 2017 | West Coast Edition | | 69


California’s Best Guide to Indian Events

Monsoon Wedding—A Stage Musical. The is the perfect storm that

starts brewing when family members from around the world descend on Delhi for a nonstop four-day celebration of an arranged marriage between a modern upper middle-class Indian family’s only daughter and an American guy she’s never met. But the bride is having an affair, her father’s financial troubles deepen, and dark family secrets surface. The forecast calls for drama, love, hope, laughs and a whole lot of rain. 8:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m. Berkeley Repertory Theatre 2025 Addison St, Berkeley, CA 94704. 510.647.2949.

May Battlefield, Peter Brook’s Mahabharta remagined, now to May 21. Photo by Caroline Moreau

Persistence Resistance Film Series Session 3: Across Boundaries. Can

art surpass the barrier of language? Of religion? Of spaces and cultures? The two films in Across Boundaries confront these questions to open up conversations about what brings disparate people together. Organized by Mondavi Center. Vanderhoef Studio Theatre, Mondavi Center, UC Davis One Shields Avenue, Davis. https://www. (866) 754-2787.


3 Wednesday

A Magical Evening with Chef Sanjeev Kapoor. Ranjana and Siva

Sivaram invite you to a live cooking demo and dinner to benefit Akshaya Patra. Organized by Akshaya Patra. 5:30 p.m. 9:30 p.m. 18300 Twin Creeks Road, Monte Sereno. magical-evening-chef-sanjeev-kapoor.


4 Thursday

7 Mindsets for Success in Life and Beyond. With Swami Mukundananda, 70 | INDIA CURRENTS | West Coast Edition | May 2017

teacher of spirituality, yoga and meditation. Organized by JKYog. Veda Temple 475 Los Coches Street, Milpitas. https://www. (408) 594-8197.


5 Friday

TieCon 2017. This year’s focus is on

the hottest areas of innovation including machine learning, IoT, FinTech, security, autonomous vehicles, virtual reality, software defined infrastructure, drones, digital health, and many more. Organized by TiE Silicon Valley. 9:00 a.m. -7:00 p.m. Santa Clara Convention Center 5001 Great America Parkway, Santa Clara. 8478079582.

Dileep Superstar Show. Organized by UGM Entertainments. San Mateo Performing Arts Center 600 N Delaware St., San Mateo. (650) 826-4632.

Sikh Foundation’s 50th Anniversary. Golden Gala-Pride and Promise.

7:30 p.m. -5:00 p.m. Asian Art Museum San Francisco, 200 Larkin St, San Francisco, CA 94102. (650) 494-7454.

6 Saturday

Remembering Mukesh: Nitin Mukesh Live in Concert Mehfill Style. Organized by Bay Area Fuzion

Events. India Community Center 525 Los Coches St., Milpitas. https://www.facebook. com/events/115304315646006/ (408) 5799426.

Sari: The Magic of the Unstitched Garment. Presentation and Sari demonstration workshop by Rta Kapur Chishti. A viewing of textiles and conversation with the scholar follows at 2-4 p.m. in Los Altos at 13155 La Cresta Drive, Los Altos Hills. Organized by Sachi and Sohara. 10:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m. Palo Alto Art Center 1313 Newell Rd, Palo Alto, CA 94303.

11th Late Shri Madhav Tare Sangeet Mahotsav. Tabla Solo by Swapan

Chaudhuri and performances by TablaNiketan students in various taals. Organized by TablaNiketan. 1:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m. Sunnyvale Hindu Temple 450 E Persian Dr., Sunnyvale. php.

Kalanjali Summer Festival 2017.

Student Showcases, all levels perform traditional bharatanatyam pieces in the Kalakshetra style. Organized by Kalanjali. Rosemont High School Theater 9594 Kiefer


California’s Best Guide to Indian Events

Blvd., Sacramento.

Vocal Concerts. 2:15 p.m.-3:45 p.m. Indu Danturti (vocal) accompanied by Shreyas Srinivasan (violin) and Achyut Srinivasan on the (mridangam). 4-6:30 p.m. Arthi Suresh (vocal) accompanied by Vignesh Thyagarajan (violin) and Amit Ranganathan (mridangam). Organized by SR Fine Arts. 2:15 p.m. - 6:30 p.m. Community Of Infinite Spirit 1540 Hicks Avenue, San Jose. (408) 569-0860. Shakti Unveiled. A bharatanatyam solo that seeks to reclaim the heritage of the all encompassing Goddess as a role model for the modern day woman. Organized by Abhinaya Dance Company of San Jose. Cubberly Theater 4000 Middlefield Rd, Palo Alto. Jugalbandhi. Shashank Subramanyam (flute), Purbayan Chatterjee (sitar), Parupalli Phalgun (mridangam), and Satyajit Talwalkar (tabla). Organized by SIFA. CET-Soto Theater 701 Vine St., San Jose. Rock De Boomm 17—Benefit Concert for Maitri. Organized by

Boomm. Mexican Heritage Plaza 1700 Alum Rock Ave., San Jose.

Monsoon Wedding Preview Fundraiser For Narika. The joyous,

sumptuous film Monsoon Wedding was a surprise hit in 2001, and now it’s coming to the stage as a world-premiere musical at Berkeley Repertory Theatre. Brought to life by Mira Nair, who also directed the award-winning movie, follows the four-day celebration of an arranged Indian marriage, and all the drama surrounding it. The bride is having an affair, her father is struggling financially, and dark family secrets are about to emerge. Organized by Narika. Berkeley Repertory Theater 2025 Addison St., Berkeley. news-events/event-calendar/narika-events/ monsoon-wedding-preview-fundraiser (510) 444-6068.

Mira Nair’s Monsoon Wedding, on stage as a musical, May 5-June 25.


7 Sunday

Rabindranath Tagore Jayanti Celebration. A musical tribute to Rabin-

dranath Tagore, voice of India’s spiritual heritage, by Bay Area Gitanjali artistes. Songs, shlokas and bhajans written by Tagore will be featured. Singers are Sonali Bhattacharya, Aditya Das, Oli Das, and Shyamoshree Gupta Diamond. Anoop Bhattacharjya accompanies on tabla. Organized by Cultural Integration FEllowship. 11:00 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. Cultural Integration Fellowship 2650 Fulton St., San Francisco. www.Culturalintegration (415) 669-1559.

Kalanjali Summer Showcase 2017.

Student Showcases, all levels perform traditional bharatanatyam pieces in the Kalakshetra style. Organized by Kalanjali. Del Valle Theater 1963 Tice Blvd., Walnut Creek.

Ek Radha Ek Meera. Artists:Hetal

Brahmbhatt, Aanal Anjaria. Musicians: Anis Chandani (synthesizer & flute) Nikhil Pandya (tabla) and Mukesh Kanakia (percussion). Emcee: Dipal Patel. Organized by Tahuko Foundation & ICC Milpitas. ICC 525 Los Coches St., Milpitas.

Yuvan Shankar Raja Live in Concert. Accompanied by Haricharan,

Chinmayi Sripaada, Andrea, Sathyan, Senthildass, Bhavatharani, NSK Ramya. Organized by Kalalaya. National Civic Center, 135 West San Carlos Street, San Jose. (510) 305-9285.

Traditional Kathak Solo Featuring Poonam Narkar. Organized by

Poonam Narkar. Rhythmix Cultural Works, 2513 Blanding Ave., Alameda. (510) 3347930.


8 Monday

Persistence Resistance Film Series Session 4: Between Popular and May 2017 | West Coast Edition | | 71


Jataka Tales and More at San Francisco Arts Festival


he San Francisco International Arts Festival (SFIAF) has consciously decided to attract families rather than just music and arts aficionados to the event this year. That is the goal that Vishwa Shanthi Performing Arts company has worked towards, its own showcase, Once Upon a Land. The other experience one can expect at the festival this year is that of see the new from the lens of what it was, which will be presented by the Abhinaya Dance Company, in its Sanchaari, meaning elaboration. Shreelata Suresh, artistic director of Vishwa Shanthi, wanted to bring alive a magical India and engage the audience by enacting epic stories from ancient India when demi-gods and demons competed for supremacy, princesses and heroes charmed the populace, and different folk cultures celebrated festivals with dances. She felt that unlike a purely classical Indian dance performance, this format would bring together more characters, stories, colors, and costumes bringing more appeal to all ages and cultures. It’s story time, but the making of some of them needed intense thought. Speaking at length about one such process for portraying a Jataka tale describing Buddha’s previous life as a baby quail, Suresh said, “This story is about the power of truth, purity and compassion. It is a very emotional story and I struggled with how to portray it so it could be understood by everyone. Should it be set to music, should it be a group choreography or solo, would the stylistic hand gestures depicting animals and birds be understood or subsumed by the drama of a blazing forest fire…. Eventually I choreographed it as a solo.” Suresh then set it to fusion music by the violin duo, Ganesh and Kumaresh, to a Nepali Buddhist song and English narration. She plans to improvise on the scale of the interpretation based on the vibe she senses from the audience as she is performing. Suresh will be joined on stage by senior teachers from Vishwa Shanthi and over 20 other senior dancers, performing to both traditional South Indian music 72 | INDIA CURRENTS | West Coast Edition | May 2017

By Priya Das

The Cinema Travellers directed by Shirley Abraham and Amit Madheshiya

and drums as well as some fusion music pieces. Mythili Kumar, artistic director of perhaps the oldest bharatanatyam school and company in the San Francisco Bay Area, has chosen to compare and contrast the old with the contemporary, in a journey of discovery in her Sanchaari. She explains, “Most Western and non-Indian practitioners view bharatanatyam dance as a traditional or ancient dance form and cannot comprehend the innovation or the contemporary treatment of these traditional pieces by dancers today. The classical dance tradition is a living tradition, constantly evolving and gaining different interpretations often influenced by the communities the dancers are based in.” For example, a traditional Kavuthuvam (hymn in praise of a God or idea) composed by the 19th centrury masters and performed as a solo, will be followed by Abhinaya’s Surya Kavuthuvam with eight dancers, group choreography, and rhythms composed by Kumar in 2003. Another, a traditional padam Ethanai Sonnalum, de-

picting a mother admonishing her daughter to be submissive to her husband, is in contrast with the advice that today’s parents might impart to their daughters. The goal is to show an evolution from how haratanatyam was presented by the temple-dancers prior to the 20th century. Abhinaya is also hoping to finish choreographing a very relevant piece: It depicts Nandanar the low caste farmhand—from decades ago, shunned by society but elevated to cherished devotee by God— evolving into a contemporary number showing the farmworkers striking under Cesar Chavez. Abhinaya’s senior dancers will be performing Sanchaari, some of them dancing with the company for the first time. n Sanchaari: Friday May 26, 8 p.m. Once Upon a Land: Saturday May 27, 3:15 p.m. More info and tickets at (Read the companion piece “Hindustani High…” which talks about the Indian music to be performed for this same festival in the May music column on Page 42).

events Mass Cultures. Are popular culture, mass culture, folk culture the same? Both the self-reflexive films, quasi-autobiographical in nature, confront us with difficult questions of authorship, creativity and ownership. You Don’t Belong searches for a popular song and meets a wide range of authorship and questions the relation between creation and ownership. Nusrat also asks a similar question of ownership, of a well-known musician who transitioned over the course of his career from a popular artist to a commercial one. Organized by Mondavi Center. Vanderhoef Studio Theatre, Mondavi Center, UC Davis One Shields Avenue, Davis. https://www. (866) 754-2787.


11 Thursday

Dipesh Chakrabarty: Provincializing Europe In A Warming World.

This lecture attempts to bring together— using examples from South Asia—the two distinct areas of critical thinking in the Humanities: global warming discourse and postcolonial criticism. The lecture will offer some reflections on questions of colonialism, modernity, and modernization as we reconfigure them in a warming world. Organized by South Asia Studies. Encina Hall West, Room 219 Stanford.


12 Friday

A Nice Indian Boy—A Play. Kes-

hav and Naveen share all things Indian. Language, food, and upbringing but one member of this romantic couple is blonde blue eyed and Caucasian, making for some awkward and hilarious family dynamics. Organized by Enacte Arts. Cubberley Community Center 4000 Middlefield Rd., Palo Alto.

Kumar Sanu and Alka Yagnik Live in Concert with Grand Symphony. Organized by Bay Area Fuzion Events. Sacramento Memorial Auditorium 1515 J Street, Sacramento. https://www.facebook.

California’s Best Guide to Indian Events Grant Ave., Palo Alto. https://www.facebook. com/events/1751091055202429/


Rahat Fateh Ali Khan Live In Concert. Organized by Bright Brain


Productions. Event Center Arena 290 S 7th St., San Jose. (510) 565-9518.


Shankar Mahadevan Live Concert.

13 Saturday

Swathi Utzav—A Tribute to Maharaja Swathi Thirunal. Organized by Bay Area Malayalee Community. Sanatan Dharma Kendra 3102 Landess Ave., San Jose.


14 Sunday

ILP Race for Literacy. 5K walk/run, 10K, or half marathon to help raise funds to achieve 100% literacy in India. Organized by India Literacy Project. Baylands Park 999 E Caribbean Dr., Sunnyvale.


15 Monday

Persistence Resistance Film Series Session 5: Copy Right or Copy Left? The right to copy granted to pub-

lishers to exploit commercially, original works of art on behalf of authors for a limited period appeared to stem creativity itself. Piracy was the retaliation. Partners in Crime takes a wide angled view to the puzzling questions of who is the author, who is the collector and archivist, who is the publisher and who is the pirate. Organized by Mondavi Center. Vanderhoef Studio Theatre, Mondavi Center, UC Davis One Shields Avenue, Davis. https://www. (866) 754-2787.


18 Thursday

Help Neha Rastogi. Join Narika in

20 Saturday

an upswell of community support for a peaceful protest organized by Papiha Nandy, a concerned member of the community. Santa Clara County Superior Court, 270

Krishna Sabrang, a divine musical celebration. Melodies in a unique multilingual concert, also featuring Siddarth Mahadevan and Shivam Mahadevan. Organized by Aim for Seva. City National Civic 135 West San Carlos Street, San Jose. http://www.

Himalayan Fair. Live performances featuring modern and traditional folk dance, singing and music from India, Tibet, Nepal and Bhutan. A Himalayan style bazaar with dozens of vendors selling artwork, handcrafted jewelry, clothing, carpets, and other treasures. Feast on a plate of momos, a traditional dumpling popular with fairgoers or try other delectable offerings. Visit the kids booth to play games and make Himalayan themed crafts. Organized by Himalayan Fair. Live Oak Park, Berkeley 1301 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley. 5103325551.

33rd Anniversary Celebration Cultural Program. Sima Chakraborty, dis-

cusses Growing up in America as Hindu, Sikh, Muslim, Jain, Jewish, young people discuss their experiences growing up in America. Embracing the Boundaries, discussion from those who started out in one tradition and then embraced another tradition or incorporated other traditions in their own tradition. Ganesha puja by Swami Vishnumayananda, prayers by Rev. Arlene K. Nehring, music by Sri Ma Durga Bhajan Mandali, Odissi dance by Nataraj School of Dance. 10:30 a.m.-6:00 p.m. Badarikashrama 15602 Maubert Ave., San Leandro. (510) 278-2444.

Shankar Mahadevan Live In Concert. Organized by AIM for Seva USA.

City National Civic 135 W San Carlos St, San Jose. (570) 4021244.

May 2017 | West Coast Edition | | 73


California’s Best Guide to Indian Events by Rajeev Taranath. Accompanied

Persistence Resistance Film Series Session 6: When Women Write.

by Udayraj Karpur on tabla. 8-9:30 p.m. Freight and Salvage, 2020 Addison Street, Berkeley. rajeev-taranath-udayraj-karpur (510) 6442020.

When Women Write traverses 900 years to explore what it means for women to write. It pairs a film about the radical 12th century South Indian poet and mystic Akka Mahadevi with one about contemporary female poets who have faced censure and censorship but continue to write. Organized by Mondavi Center. Vanderhoef Studio Theatre, Mondavi Center, UC Davis One Shields Avenue, Davis. persistence-resistance-session-6. (866) 7542787.



Sanchaari—Elaboration, A Dance Concert. Presented by Abhinaya Dance

Company as part of the 2017 San Francisco International Arts Festival. Organized by Abhinaya Dance Company. Cowell Theater, 2 Marina Blvd., San Francisco. https:// (408) 871-5959.

21 Sunday

Varnacitrita. Tarangini’s twenty-fifth

anniversary production, means painted with colors, showcases more than 200 of Tarangini’s students. The second half of the show is a collaborative work titled Chahat, the eternal longing of the Nayika for her beloved. It features the dancers of their production unit accompanied by a soprano singer from Germany. Chahat incorporates several ghazals, thumri, and a khayal ang rendition. The songs are intertwined with Italian opera lyrics that mirror the meaning of the Hindi songs. Organized by Tarangini School of Kathak Dance. Smithwick Theater, Foothill College 12345 El Monte Rd., Los Altos Hills. http://

Music Concert. Featuring Nityas-

ree Mahadevan (vocal), Parur M. A. Krishnaswamy (violin), Cherthala Ananthakrishnan (mridangam), Alathur Rajaganesh (kanjira). Organized by SIFA. CET Soto Theater, 701 Vine St., San Jose.

Shradhanjali—Honoring Pandit Chitresh Das. Inaugural performance

of the Chitresh Das Institute featuring over 100 students and a performance by the Chitresh Das Youth Company with choreography by Artistic Director, Charlotte Moraga. Organized by Chitresh Das Institute. 4 p.m.-6 p.m. Capuchino High School Samuel L. Johnson Performing Arts Center, 1501 Magnolia Avenue, San 74 | INDIA CURRENTS | West Coast Edition | May 2017

26 Friday

Nature inspired art show by Bhavna Misra, May 22

Bruno. (415) 342-5691.

Hindustani Classical Vocal Concert. Abhang concert by Manjusha Patil,

accompanied by Satish Tare (tabla) and Vivek Datar (harmonium). Organized by Swar Sudha. ICC, 525 Los Coches Street, Milpitas. (408) 4618390.


22 Monday

Elements: Nature Inspired Art Show by Bhavna Misra. A collection

of local landscapes, skyscapes and wildlife portraits created by artist Bhavna Misra over a period of a year. It has local scenes as well as national parks presented thriving in greenery, awashed in light, and experienced and expressed in pure colors, as observed by the artist. Wildlife portraiture are an attempt to spotlight the endangerment of animals at the hands of human and the loss of their natural habitat. Organized by Milpitas Arts Commission. Phantom Art Gallery 40 N Milpitas Blvd., Milpitas. (510) 862-4169.


23 Tuesday

Hindustani Classical Sarod Concert


27 Saturday

Music Concert. Featuring O. S. Thyagarajan (vocal), Mysore Srikanth (violin), Srimushnam Raja Rao (mridangam). Organized by SIFA. CET Soto Theater, 701 Vine St., San Jose. Sitar Concert by Anupama Bhagwat. Accompanied by Abhiman Kaush-

al on tabla. Organized by Basant Bahar. Shirdi Sai Parivar Auditorium, 1221 California Cir, Milpitas. www.basantbahar. org, (510) 651-6386.

Vaisakhi Celebration 2017. Jazzy B

performs live accompanied by B. Kaur, Prabh Gill and Mandy Takhar. Organized by Amit Gambhir. Santa Clara Fairgrounds, 344 Tully Rd., San Jose. (510) 299-9361.


28 Sunday

Bharatanatyam Arangetram of Bhargavi Ram. With musical team

from India led by KP Ramesh Babu. Organized by Kalanajli. Del Valle Theater, 1963 Tice Blvd., Walnut Creek.

Spectacularrz Star Dance 2017. An evening of Bollywood dances. Organized by Swati Savale. Cubberly Theater, 4000

Badarikashrama's 33rd Anniversary Celebration All are cordially invited to attend Saturday May 20th, 2017 10:30 am Ganesha Puja by Swami Vishnumayanandaji Maharaj Prayers by Rev. Dr. Arlene K. Nehring, Eden United Church of Christ, Hayward Prayers by Eden Area Interfaith Counsel 11:00 am Sri Ma Durga Bhajan Mandali 12:00 pm Odissi Dance: Nataraj School of Dance, Sima Chakraborty, Director 12:30 pm–1:30 pm Growing Up in America: Hindu, Sikh, Muslim, Jain, Jewish, young people discuss their experiences 1:30 pm–2:30 pm Aarati & Mahaprasad 2:30 pm–3:30 pm Embracing the Boundaries, discussion from those who embraced another tradition or who incorporate another tradition in their own tradition. 3:30 pm–4:00 pm Music: Small Town Society with Paul Keim, Small Town Missional Community Team Leader & Group, First Presbyterian Church, Hayward 4:00 pm–6:00 pm Unity Mandala: Workshop with, Salma Arastu, artist, writer, a collaborative art project. Call for details.

Sunday May 21st, 2017 10:30 am Kirtan: Rita Sahai & Students Samuhika 108 Sri Satyanarayana Swami Puja and Katha, traditional Vedic worship for health, peace, happiness, and spiritual and material welfare. Conducted by Swami Vishnumayanandaji Maharaj The 108 families and individuals sponsoring the puja will sit for worship with kalasha and puja samagree provided by the ashrama. Call Ashram staff to sponsor the puja. 1:30 pm Aarati & Mahaprasad

15602 Maubert Ave. San Leandro CA 94578 510-278-2444 |

May 2017 | West Coast Edition | | 75

events Middlefield Road, Palo Alto. (408) 5977992.


1 Thursday

Guitar—Sitar Jugalbandi. Featuring Pandit Habib Khan, Matthew Montfort, and Ferhan Qureshi. 8-10:00 p.m. San Francisco International Arts Festival, Fort Mason Chapel, San Francisco. http://www., (415) 345-7575.


9 Friday

Mount Madonna School’s Ramayana! Bollywood Meets Rock and Roll.

A musical theater, sword and sorcery epic Featuring an original, rock-n-roll infusedscore, magical characters who encounter danger and love, heroic action and sacrifice. Organized by Mount Madonna School. Mexican Heritage Theater, 1700 Alum Rock Avenue, San Jose., (408) 847-2717.


10 Saturday

Spring India Day 2017. Street Food and Shopping Festival. Heritage culture shopping and food, free gifts and makeovers by professional artists, photo booths, raffles, unique ethnic shopping freshly shipped from India and food booths. Organized by WomenNow TV. 11:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m. Union Square, 333 Post Street, San Francisco. Deiveega Vahanangal—Arangetram by Nithika Karthikeyan. Student of

Selvi Pragasam, Artistic Director of Kalanityam School of Bharathanatyam. Choreography and nattuvangam: Selvi Pragasam with orchestra from Bangalore. Organized by Kalanityam School of Bharathanatyam. Evergreen Valley College, Performing Arts Center, 3095 Yerba Buena Rd., San Jose. (510) 449-6299.

Mount Madonna School’s Rama76 | INDIA CURRENTS | West Coast Edition | May 2017

California’s Best Guide to Indian Events Southern California CULTURAL CALENDER

yana! Bollywood Meets Rock and Roll.

A musical theater, sword and sorcery epic Featuring an original, rock-n-roll infusedscore, magical characters who encounter danger and love, heroic action and sacrifice. Organized by Mount Madonna School. Mexican Heritage Theater, 1700 Alum Rock Avenue, San Jose., (408) 847-2717.


11 Sunday

Mount Madonna School’s Ramayana! Bollywood Meets Rock and Roll.

A musical theater, sword and sorcery epic Featuring an original, rock-n-roll infusedscore, magical characters who encounter danger and love, heroic action and sacrifice. Organized by Mount Madonna School. Mexican Heritage Theater, 1700 Alum Rock Avenue, San Jose., (408) 847-2717.

Suresh Wadkar Live in Concert with Bollywood Melodies. Accom-

panied by violinist composer Deepak Pandit, and musicians and co-singers from Mumbai. Organized by Swar Sudha & Javanika. ICC, 525 Los Coches Street, Milpitas., (408) 461-8390.


15 Thursday

Ojai at Berkeley 2017. Two recent

works by Music Director Vijay Iyer’s Bay Area premiere of Emergence, performed by ICE, Oberlin Contemporary Music Ensemble, and the Vijay Iyer Trio conducted by Steven Schick. Premiere of his violin concerto, trouble, composed for, and performed by, violinist Jennifer Koh and chamber orchestra. Organized by Cal Performances. Zellerbach Hall 101 Zellerbach Hall, #4800, Berkeley. https:// ojai/ojai-at-berkeley.php 510.643.6714. © Copyright 2017 India Currents. All rights reserved. Reproduction for commercial use strictly prohibited.


6 Saturday

ArtWallah—South Asian Arts Festival. The theme is Resistance, Resilience and Resonance, artists and activists will share their talents. Organized by South Asian Network (SAN). 10:00 a.m. 11:00 p.m. Cross Campus 929 Colorado Ave., Santa Monica.

Music Concert. Tiruvarur Vaidyanathan (mridangam) and N.Guruprasad (ghatam). Organized by Indian Fine Arts Academy. David and Dorothea Garfield Theatre 4126 Executive Drive, La Jolla. Archan: Sharing for Survival—A Drama, Folk Dances and Songs.

Cultural program featuring more than 200 local performers showcasing India’s cultural richness and diversity through folk dances, songs and drama. Organized by IFA. Fred Kavli Theate, Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza 2100 West Thousand Oaks Boulevard, Thousand Oaks. http://www. (805) 492-0941.


7 Sunday

Mother’s Day Celebration. Featuring South Asian designers for an exclusive trunk show, keynote and TedX speaker Courtney Macavinta. All proceeds go to benefit survivors of abuse. Organized by South Asian Helpline and Referral Agency. DoubleTree Suites by Hilton Anaheim Resort 2085 S Harbor Blvd., Anaheim. (562) 402-4132.


20 Saturday

Gunjan—Dance Recital. Kathak and

Bollywood dances by students of Ruchi Lamba, Artistic Director of Indian Dance Center. Organized by Indian Dance Center. Curtis Theater 1 Civic Center Cir, Brea. (949) 466-5220.

Celebrating 30 Years of ImPACT! Did you know that People Acting in Community Together is at the heart of some of Silicon Valley’s most important social innovations?

Thank you for supporting PACT to create powerful, ppositive changes for our community! Through PACT, hundreds of diverse, volunteer, grassroots community leaders work together to solve pressing social problems and create a future full of hope and opportunities for all, including:

PACT helps ordinary people win extraordinary victories for the community – not by speaking for them, but by teaching people how to speak, act and engage in the public arena for themselves. Through PACT, people from diverse backgrounds work together to create solutions to the most urgent social problems in our community and country.

Did you know that People Acting in Community Together is at the heart of some of Silicon Valley’s most important social innovations?

Here are just a few highlights of PACT’s accomplishments: ! Supported the opening of 25 excellent, new public schools serving over 12,000 students with the vision that ALL students should have the opportunity for success in college and life. ! Initiated the creation of the City of San Jose’s Housing Department and won affordable housing resources and protections for renters. ! Co-founded the Children’s Health Initiative to make Santa Clara County the first in the country to provide access to health insurance to ALL children – this model has been replicated across the state and country. ! Expanded transportation for seniors and low-income residents so they can get to work, school, health care, and other community resources. ! Initiated law enforcement policies that respect immigrants’ rights and contributions and public safety for all. ! Opened youth centers and after school programs and launched the nationally-recognized BEST Program of the Mayor’s Gang Prevention Task Force.

Please join us to celebrate People Acting in Community Together and help us sustain and grow our work!

• Be a sponsor for PACT’s Leadership Luncheon on October 13th. • Invite your friends and colleagues to join us.

May 2017 | West Coast Edition | | 77

78 | INDIA CURRENTS | West Coast Edition | May 2017

healthy life

Ayurveda: Good Health as Reality


he book, Ayurveda Lifestyle Wisdom, has the potential to change your state of health for the better—permanently. Health is not just a possibility that you might achieve. It is a reality, an underlying natural state of being. Health will manifest once you begin to live in alignment with Nature’s intelligence. This is the promise of Ayurveda, India’s five-thousand-yearold system of health and healing. When I was growing up in India, I witnessed a spiritual master, my grandfather, whom I addressed as Baba, remind the diseased and the suffering of their abidingly healthy nature. He taught them simple ways to align with Nature on a daily basis, and enigmatically, this ignited powerful healing of body, mind, and soul. While there wasn’t a focus on the symptoms of disease per se, I saw cancers disappear, ulcers heal, and chronic depression lift. I think I had rationalized that these “miracles” were possible because my teacher was a spiritually realized being. Clearly, my guru’s spiritual presence was undeniable. But as I grew up and observed more, I recognized that Baba’s skills in transmitting a highly rational science of Ayurveda lifestyle was also a key factor. Ayurveda proposes two methodologies toward approaching health. The first is preventive and promotive. It proposes protecting and enhancing health with a set of lifestyle practices. This is the “wisdom” approach of evoking inner health, known as swasthyaraksha in Sanskrit. It incorporates at every step lessons from the spiritual sister sciences of yoga and Vedanta. The second methodology is “restorative.” It includes disease management using herbal drugs, body treatments, and even surgery (though surgery is no longer an active modality in Ayurveda today). This methodology is known as vikara prashamana in Sanskrit. Both approaches are equally valid, at appro-

By Acharya Shunya

priate junctures. If disease management via drugs is taken up without a parallel investment in a healthy lifestyle, the body becomes a battle-ground all too quickly. There is a wellspring of power within us, a spiritual truth, that we must honor; and we never give away our power to any disease, just because we have a scary-sounding condition with a grim prognosis. In fact, it is now more than ever that we must activate our latent health response through a scientific life-style that is in sync with Nature’s laws. If you are consuming Eastern or Western drugs, a healthy Ayurvedainspired lifestyle in conjunction will expedite recovery and additionally facilitate well-being. When we examine Ayurveda’s source literature, spanning from the Vedas (4500 BCE) all the way to the sixteenth century,

it was lifestyle wisdom that occupied the central stage. Disease management gained increasing priority in the later texts. In fact, this is how the sages who gave us the ancient Vedas and original spiritual sciences of Ayurveda, yoga, Vedanta, meditation, sacred art, architecture, music, and dance lived! They boldly cultivated radiant health day by day as an expression of their god consciousness. I am one of the fortunate teachers born into a family of teachers with an uninterrupted educational lineage, a family that has lived as well as transmitted this ancient wisdom for untold years in the plains of northern India. I have not only mastered the knowledge academically, I have also lived it. Vedic education was imparted to the student for a minimum of twelve years. I studied for fourteen, along with regular schooling, and graduated as an acharya, which means “a master spiritual teacher of lived Vedic knowledge who teaches not only by word, but through role modeling by behavior.” When I was growing up in India, living and learning this knowledge in the family of my teacher, I had no idea that one day I would be writing this book for a world audience. And yet, this is what has happened. This is less a testimony of my life journey and more of a shout-out for Ayurveda. What is the truth cannot be kept under wraps for long. More and more people are seeking Ayurveda’s lifestyle and benefiting from its transformative wisdom. I hope this wisdom will change your life for the better too, as it did mine. But first, you have to believe that anything is possible. n

Excerpted from Ayurveda Lifestyle Wisdom, by Acharya Shunya. Sounds True, February 2017. Reprinted with permission. For more information, visit May 2017 | West Coast Edition | | 79

AYURVEDIC FACE PACKS INDIA CURRENTS Celebrating 30 Years of Excellence

in the complete Indian American magazine

“We would like to thank India Currents for the wonderful opportunity it has offered ‘Most Unique Parties & Ponies’ to meet and entertain the fun and friendly Indian families of the Bay Area.” - Mike & Sari Most Unique Parties & Ponies “ ...The best advertising in the valley is done thru India Currents......” - Pia Ganguly, @ Pia Ka Ghar

Chickpea face pack for dull skin


his is one of the most effective and efficient face packs for dull skin. Its exfoliating action takes away the dead cells, and it is a famous Ayurvedic remedy for blemishes too. Regular usage will result in soft, smooth, and glowing skin, and slowly, blemishes will start fading too. There is no other face pack that takes sun tan away like this one does. It clears the skin and gives it an added glow. Ingredients 1 tablespoon chickpea flour (besan) Few drops fresh-squeezed lemon juice Pinch of turmeric powder 1–2 tablespoons rose water (for aged skin) or milk (for dry skin) or yogurt (for acne or oily skin), or enough to make a paste Method 1. Mix all ingredients to make a paste. 2. Apply the mask to cleansed face and leave on for 10 minutes. Rinse with warm water.

Saffron skin glowenhancing ubtan

Saffron is the best antiblemish and complexion-enhancing agent. Oats are highly absorptive and soften the skin. Red lentil has excellent skin-cleansing properties. It can be used on the face as well as all over the body. Milk has a nourishing quality. All of these wonderful ingredients, when mixed and applied on the face, clean it as well as soften it and add a glowing quality. Ingredients ½ cup red lentil flour (masoor) ¼ cup ground oats ¼ teaspoon saffron strands 1 tablespoon cool milk, or enough to make a paste Method 1. Mix all ingredients into a paste. 2. Apply a thin layer on face and body. Wash off with cool water after ten minutes.

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This recipe is for good for all skin types including extremely sensitive skin. Ingredients 1 teaspoon rock candy, ground into a fine powder 1 teaspoon whole milk 1 teaspoon rose water ½ teaspoon honey (for oily/hot skin) or ghee (for dry skin) Method 1. Mix all ingredients to make a paste. 2. Use both hands to exfoliate the face by rubbing the mixture gently on the skin. 3. Rinse with warm water after a few minutes. Moisturize if desired with a light moisturizer.

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Sensory Experiences Vs. Spirituality


I have become curious about desire and eros in my life. I am a person who feels strong energies in my body such as heat, pleasure and a kind of buzzing vitality. I especially feel these sensations when I am excited about something new, when I am listening to great music or when I am playing a sport I like. I feel a fair amount of sexual desire towards my partner and enjoy all kinds of touching and sex very much. I am also someone who aspires to grow spiritually and I study scriptures and meditate regularly. Do these feelings and my acting on them take me away from my spirituality? Is it all a distraction that leads to disappointment or can I somehow do both? These are great questions to ask as I hear both sides of you—the desirous person and the spiritual aspirant. I think it’s great to be in touch with this pulsing and vibrant energy. We could say it emerges out of universal energy, prana or


82 | INDIA CURRENTS | West Coast Edition | May 2017

By Alzak Amlani shakti. This energy can take many forms: impulse to survive, to feel pleasure, to be intimate, to merge with another person or nature and the drive to become conscious and enlightened. In both Greek and Indian mythology there are deities who represent pleasure, love and celebration. Eros originally was the god of love and valued the celebration of life. Shiva and Dionysus were the gods of ecstasy. There are spiritual paths that are more “ascetic,” where renouncing the world— possessions, relationships, family, career pursuits are part of purely focusing on spiritual awakening. People become nuns and monks or lead a very simple life to pursue enlightenment. There are also paths that are more “ecstatic,” which emphasize engaging with sensory experience. The approach is to experience the divine essence within forms of the phenomenal world. Indian spirituality refers to this

practice as tantra. Before we come to a point where we can appreciate the oneness behind all these forms, we need to have done practices or have insights that help us know ourselves as consciousness beyond our physicality. Usually this requires targeted practices that help us pierce through our constantly changing self to know ourselves as presence, energy or spirit. After this awareness is achieved, interacting with the world with this awareness means you are not leaving your “true nature” because you recognize that same consciousness in all of life. We can then live in a larger plane that doesn’t separate out all of these differences, but rather recognizes them as part of a divine drama—the lila.n Alzak Amlani, Ph.D., is a counseling psychologist of Indian descent in the Bay Area. 650-325-8393. Visit

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May 2017 | West Coast Edition | | 85

the last word

Duck and Cover Nuclear War is Coming


By Sarita Sarvate

itting in his silo in the ‘70s, a military man in charge of launching the nuclear missiles asked a simple question. Were there checks and balances at the highest level of the United States government for starting an atomic war? He asked the question, because, on the ground, at the very end of the chain of command, there were indeed checks and balances. One officer alone could not launch a missile; two armed personnel were needed to turn their individual keys. Why? So that a lone officer would not go rogue. Oddly, Harold Hering, the military man, never received an answer to his question. Instead, he was asked to write up his query, and after he did so in a most eloquent manner, he was stripped of his honors, his security clearances, credentials, and forced to retire. Some forty years later, Harold is still waiting for the American government’s reply. Recently, many thoughtful people have joined Harold’s quest. Now that we have a president who is too self-serving and impulsive to act judiciously in a crisis, they are seeking an answer to Harold’s question with a new urgency. So what is the answer? Brace yourself. The answer is that at the very highest level of the United States government, there are no checks and balances when it comes to making a nuclear strike. All the President has to do is ask the aide carrying the “football” with the communications codes to contact the military command. The President can make that decision alone, without consulting anyone. And he is empowered to do so within ten minutes, or less. The system was designed during the Cold War, when speed was of the essence; if the Soviet Union launched a pre-emptive strike, the theory went, the United States needed to respond before its missiles and silos were destroyed. If you are not freaking out right now, you should be. The trouble is, the media, the Congress, and the bureaucracy hasn’t fully grasped Trump’s ability to act reflesively. Take his recent Syria strike, for example. Allegedly, he watched television images of young victims of chemical weapons attacks, and without Congressional approval, proceeded to launch missiles. His hidden agenda in making a 180-degree turnaround from his campaign rhetoric was obvious. Nevertheless, the media fell for Trump’s clever ploy; it changed the conversation from the Congressional investigation of his illicit Russian ties to Assad’s atrocities, even extolled him for acting “presidential.” Will the press never learn anything from the past? Imagine a scenario in which the FBI and the CIA have completed their investigations of Trump. Imagine that they have found something. This is not hard to envision. At the very least, Trump was planning to launder money for Putin and his cronies through some complicated real estate deals. If you think this is far-fetched, you only have to read Adam Davidson’s article in a recent issue of the New Yorker. In it, he postulates that through the construction

86 | INDIA CURRENTS | West Coast Edition | May 2017

of a luxury hotel in a seedy part of Baku, the Trump organization was abetting Azerbaijani oligarchs in a money-laundering scheme. At worst, Trump was involved in a quid-pro-quo whereby Putin sabotaged the election in exchange for business profits for both. What if, in a year or two, the intelligence agencies offer their testimonies on Capitol Hill? What if, to save their own skins, the morally defunct Republicans are forced to admit that their President is not only a crook but also a traitor? What if, under intense public pressure, Congress asks Trump to go? Do you think that our head of state will simply fade away? Or will he fight back with the military arsenal at his disposal? Will he start a nuclear war just to change the conversation? I think it is a strong possibility. Don’t forget that Trump has publicly questioned why the United States doesn’t put its nuclear weapons to use. Don’t forget that Robert Mercer, a billionaire who was instrumental in getting Trump elected, believes that nuclear radiation actually improved the health of Japanese victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Don’t forget that Steve Bannon, Trump’s chief strategist and former head of the alt-right publication Breitbart News, got to the White House mainly through Mercer’s funding, which shamelessly published pro-Trump propaganda veiled as news. Don’t forget that Breitbart not only spread fake news about Clinton and the Democrats, but continues to deny science and climate change. It is clear that Trump and his co-conspirators think it is no big deal to make a nuclear strike against some unsuspecting “Third World” nation like Syria or Iraq. I suspect Republicans are well aware of this possibility, which is why they keep walking on eggshells around their leader; they know that when provoked, he will prove to be a very dangerous man. No wonder Silicon Valley billionaires are building underground bunkers and stocking up on supplies for the coming apocalypse. They, as usual, know more than what the rest of us are privy to. Does this mean that we too should chicken out? Be afraid of Trump? I don’t think so. We need to spread the word. Pressure Congress to alter the protocol. We need to pass legislation so that anyone running for President in the future is not only required to reveal information about health and finances—including taxes— but also scrutinized for corrupt practices. We also need to ensure that there are checks and balances on the President when it comes to the deployment of nuclear arsenal. And pray that the planet survives a Trump presidency. 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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