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A Salute to Teachers 1885 Lundy Ave, Suite 220, San Jose, CA 95131 Phone: (408) 324-0488 (714) 523-8788 Fax: (408) 324-0477 Email: Publisher & Editor: Vandana Kumar (408) 324-0488 x 225 Advertising Manager: Derek Nunes Northern California: (408) 324-0488 x 222 Southern California: (714) 523-8788 x 222 PR and Marketing Manager: Malini Patel (408) 324-0488 x 221 Graphic Designer: Nghia Vuong EDITORIAL BOARD Managing Editor: Vidya Pradhan (408) 324-0488 x 226 Calendar Editor: Nadia Maiwandi (408) 324-0488 x 224 COLUMNISTS Forum: Rameysh Ramdas Films: Aniruddh Chawda Dear Doctor: Alzak Amlani The Last Word: Sarita Sarvate Uncubed: Krishna Sadasivam

Actor Matt Damon made waves recently at a Save Our Schools rally when he said, “A teacher wants to teach. Why else would you take a sh*tty salary and really long hours and do that job unless you really love to do it?” He was responding to a question about whether job security for teachers made them lazy. Teaching is a much maligned profession in the United States these days. There is a tendency to dismiss teachers as union lackeys who, once they get tenure, are just marking time before they retire with handsome benefits. Two myths about teachers contribute greatly to this opinion. The first is that teachers get paid for 12 months despite working for only 10. This myth finds currency especially in bad economic times but can be easily refuted by the simple explanation that the annual salary is just divided into monthly installments. The second myth, a more pernicious one, is that teaching is a cushy occupation with a shortened workday and terrific holidays. Anyone who has ever personally known a teacher will tell you that this is a ridiculous assertion. My mother taught for several years across different schools, and my lasting memory is of her hunched over her table late into the night, correcting notebooks, grading exam papers, and preparing report cards. Over the summer, teachers in the United States attend training sessions and symposia designed to keep them

Contributors: Jasbina Ahluwalia, Khorshed Alam, Nidhi Asthana, Priyanka Chaurasia, Deepak Chandani, Priya Das, Jeanne Fredriksen, Malar Gandhi, Indu Liladhar Hathi, Geetika Pathania Jain, Nipun Mehta, Tara Menon, Alakananda Mookerjee, Jaya Murthy, Jaya Padmanabhan, Praveena Raman, Ankita Rao, Teed Rockwell, Suchi Sargam, Mamta Singh, Mani Subramani, Uttara Sivaram


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Cover Design: Nghia Vuong. INDIA CURRENTS® (ISSN 0896-095X) is published monthly (except Dec/Jan, which is a combined issue) for $19.95 per year by India Currents, 1885 Lundy Ave., Ste 220, San Jose, CA 95131. Periodicals postage paid at San Jose, CA, and at additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to INDIA CURRENTS, 1885 LUNDY AVE, STE. 220, SAN JOSE, CA 95151-1285. Member, MEDIA INDIA GROUP India Currents: Northern & Southern California Khabar Magazine: Atlanta, Ga. Information provided is accurate as of the date of going to press; India Currents is not responsible for errors or omissions. Opinions expressed are those of individual authors. Advertising copy, logos, and artwork are the sole responsibility of individual advertisers, not of India Currents.

up to date with developments in education. The American teacher often spends her own money to decorate the classroom and fill it with supplies. The same unions we deride today for their inflexibility and defense of tenure made teaching a possible career for people who genuinely love kids. Yes, I have come across the rare teacher who is burnt out and still on the job because of pension or retirement calculations. But my children’s teachers have been, by and large, inspirational, lovable, hard-working, and flexible. They deal with allergies, behavioral problems, special needs, neglectful parents, intrusive parents, and budget cuts on a daily basis and do it with a smile on their face. Even in the India of two decades ago, I had teachers who inspired me, recognized my potential, and urged me to dream big. As I prepare to send my children back to school next week, I am confident that I am entrusting them to talented educators who only have their best interests at heart. The education system in the United States may not be perfect, and there may be some merit to the clamor to reform teacher hiring and firing practices but, to me, the individual teacher is an unsung hero.

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Northern California Edition


Four out of every 1,000 Californian homes face foreclosure. Jaya Padmanabhan looks at the impact of the housing crisis on Indian Americans.



EDITORIAL: A salute to teachers. By Vidya Pradhan




FORUM: Who is responsible for the debt ceiling drama? Two opinions. By Rameysh Ramdas and Mani Subramani


PERSPECTIVE: Qwerty, my muse. By Alaknanada Mookerjee


25th ANNIVERSARY SPECIAL: Passion on the pagesredux. By Jeanne Fredriksen


COMMUNITY: The seed planters of tomorrow. By Nipun Mehta


TAXATION: Cancellation of debt must be treated as taxable income. By Khorshed Alam

103 REFLECTIONS: The mysterious arrival of Nrsimhadeva on 9/11. By Deepak Chandani 138 YOUTH: What is a slum? By Ankita Rao 144

THE LAST WORD: Hazare, my hero. By Sarita Sarvate


Controversial director Prakash Jha discusses his latest movie Aarakshan with Suchi Sargam

RECIPES: The humble yet exotic naan. By Malar Gandhi

112 THE HEALTHY LIFE: Living with migraines. By Mamta Singh 121 DEAR DOCTOR: Drawing personal boundaries. By Alzak Amlani 135 RELATIONSHIP DIVA: The challenges of long-distance relationships. By Jasbina Ahluwalia



Nidhi Asthana travels down the amazing village on the Tonle Sap river in Cambodia



Q&A: Naveen Jain is the founder of Moon Express, a space exploration company. By Vidya Pradhan


FICTION: “Mustard Seeds,” the Katha 2011 third place winner. By Jaya Padmanabhan


BOOKS: Reviews of Microfinance and Its Discontents, Saraswati’s Way, and Six Meters of Pavement. By Priyanka Chaurasia, Tara Menon, and Geetika Pathania Jain.


MUSIC: Indian music on Pandora. By Teed Rockwell


FILMS: Reviews of Aarakshan and Singham. By Aniruddh Chawda.

130 IN FOCUS: 16-year-old Nishad Singh runs the 100-miler. By Uttara Sivaram

DEPARTMENTS 32 Ask a Lawyer 33 Visa Dates 140 Uncubed



88 Cultural Calendar 104 Spiritual Calendar 125 Classifieds

89 90 97

Asha Bhosle Live in Concert Music for Minors Needs Docents 30 Days in September—Play india currents • september 2011 • 3

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Persian Story is Pre-Islamic

In the article (Bharatnatyam in Persia, July 2011), the author, Priya Das in her comments on Malini Krishnamurthi’s stage production, “Tales and Legends,” that adapts a story from the Persian epic Haft Paykar, writes “.. the stage backdrops will display the Sphinx and pyramids, an ancient market scene will be brought to life with hawkers and tricksters; even as serious business folk call for prayers chanting ‘allah hu akbar.’ Since the setting is Islamic literature, Krishnamurthi has opted to incorporate a qawwali vignette,.....” I would like to point out that although Nizami Ganjavi, the author of Haft Paykar (“Seven Beauties”) was a Muslim, the stories in his epic are about a pre-Islamic Persian king, Shah Behram Gur (421-438 C.E.), who was a follower of Iranian prophet Zarathushtra (Zoroaster). The reference to chants of “allah hu akbar” is misleading, because prophet Mohammed was not yet born during the king’s reign. Laurel Victoria Gray, founder and artistic director of the Silk Road Dance company, in her article in Azerbaijan International (2005), confirms this with her comment “The marriages of Bahram Gur echo the ancient preIslamic ritual of the Sacred Marriage between the King and the land.” Maneck Bhujwala, Huntington Beach, CA

Domestic Worker Rights are Important

Domestic workers need to be assured of their basic rights, period (Should California Pass the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights, August, 2011). As a young girl, I was banned from a friend’s household for teaching the the maids English. They brought them from Texas to California, and kept them virtually in slavery. It was shocking to me then and is now. There is no reason domestics should be exempt from these protections. If some seniors require low-cost care, then we need to figure out a way they can have it, but not at the expense of the worker who is providing it. Lily L. Diamond, online

Alcohol Shouldn’t be Celebrated

I am disappointed to see writers in India Currents approving of the use of alcoholic beverages in a recent article (Soma Rising, July 2011) and in readers’ letters. Consumption of alcohol is a causative factor in many of the evils of society, including fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, drunken driving, dementia, and cancer. A report of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control estimates that medium and high consumption of alcohol led to 75,754 deaths in the United States in 2001. Fetal alcohol exposure is the leading

known cause of mental retardation in the Western world. Many reports state that about 73% of felonies are alcohol-related. One survey shows that in about 83% of homicides, 80% of wifebattering, 72% of stabbings, 67% of childbeating cases, and 41% of forcible rape cases, either the attacker or the victim or both had been drinking. Over-consumption of alcohol is one of the leading preventable causes of death worldwide. One study links alcohol to 1 in every 25 deaths worldwide and that 5% of years lived with disability are attributable to alcohol consumption. Mike Sage, Santa Clara, CA

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

Let’s Be Civil

I really enjoyed reading the editorial (Dishing it Out, August 2011). I thought it hit the nail on the head and the last line hammered it home. I have often wondered about the comments section on blogs being the repository of undue hatred in terms of gender and nationality. I read the article (Shaadi Dot Kya, July 2011) and found it humorous. Only after scrolling down to the comments section did I realize the writer had opened a veritable Pandora’s Box. Sometimes people miss the point. An article reflects the writer’s viewpoint and, while you have the reason and right to disagree, it is important to maintain civility and not name-call or resort to judgmental comments. On a different note, I found the piece on Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Initiative (Re-

port Foreign Investments Now, August 2011) very informative, since most of us are unaware of these amendments. Meera Ramanathan, Danbury, CT

More Adventures in Online Dating

I found this article extremely entertaining and very well written (Shaadi Dot Kya, July 2011). I have had my own share of funny experiences. There was “Hairy Dude,” “Desperado,” “Cute Yet Boring Google Guy,” “Gold-digger IIT Guy,” “Searching for Citizen,” and so on! One thing about this whole dating game is that it helps you learn exactly what you want and don’t want in a potential husband. All we girls are looking for is a normal guy who is ready to accept the girl for who she is. The super hot desi guys are stuck up and shallow, the hot ones are players and not ready to settle down, the not so hot ones are super sweet and extra nice( which can repel a girl and make her want to be just friends!) I am not trying to be shallow, but where the heck are the good-looking, funny, genuine guys out there? Are they all taken? Megha, online

Dating Does Involve Personal Criteria and Preferences

I am a non-Asian, married for 25 years to a foreign-born South Asian. I am sitting here open-mouthed at some of the silliness passing back and forth in this [online)]discussion (Shaadi Dot Kya, July 2011). Back in my dating days, I was called shallow for not wanting to seriously date anyone without a college education. The fact was that I had put myself through college and I wanted someone who shared my expectations and outlook since I was looking for a possible husband, and not just someone to spend time with (that’s called a “friend.”) If something happened where I had to go back to the dating pool at this stage in my life, my reactions would be different, since I would have different expectations about what I was looking for. Everyone has their own private list that is, hopefully, somewhat flexible as to what they want in a spouse. To deny that is to pretend to be someone you are not, no matter how much you wish to be more politically correct, open-minded, or liberated. It is hard to know, from the brevity of the article, how much the author shared of herself with her dates, and which men might have dumped her as well. We can argue back and forth about fairness and equality, but in the end, all that matters is the honesty of an individual connection—will it work or not. One lives in the real world, not the ideal. Mary Arulanantham, online india currents • september 2011 • 5



Who Was Responsible For The Debt Ceiling Drama? Rameysh Ramdas

Mani Subramani

The buck stops at the White House

The extremist Republican party of today is to blame



ur nation was subjected to an unnecessary circus—the acrimonious debt ceiling debate and a messy deal which resulted in a deep slide in the stock market that was also precipitated by the S&P credit downgrade of the United States, a first in our nation’s history. This circus and the resulting economic chaos were entirely preventable if only we had a capable President as the ringmaster. A circus troupe of members of Congress, including the Tea Party, took the debate in their hands, framed the national dialog and produced a deal that pleased no one, while the President was reduced to being a bewildered spectator who took to the airwaves occasionally to blame and name call. As President Truman said, the buck stops in the Oval Office. An astute President would have seized on the many opportunities available since 2009 to raise the debt ceiling and lead the way with a plan to grow the job market and tax revenues in the short term, while still offering a credible long term proposal to address the debt. A shrewd President would have negotiated the debt ceiling increase in December 2010 using the extension of the Bush tax cuts as the bargaining chip. When a reporter asked him on Dec 7, 2010, why he would put off the debt ceiling increase when he would have no leverage over the GOP and agree to the Bush tax cut extensions now, Obama did not even comprehend the question! Our nation’s woes are largely because investors, job creators and consumers are on a “confidence deficit” that a capable President is in charge. We are now reduced to receiving a scolding from China, our largest debtor. The White House has started a drum beat of demonizing the Tea Party for all our woes. While I vehemently disagree with the Tea Party’s short sighted demand to cut spending now, our democracy allows them the right to market their ideas and be heard of as a part of the debate. We had this circus play before in 1995 with Newt Gingrich and the then fiery freshman GOP members shutting the government down. However, the ringmaster of that day—President Clinton—commanded the national dialog with the strength of his ideas, specificity of plans and ability to sell them, and reined in the Republicans without compromising public priorities like Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, education, and the environment. We went on to have the largest economic expansion in a generation. The real deficit that is hurting us and our standing in the world is the leadership deficit in the White House. n

ritics of the President say the buck stops at the White House. But it is patently clear that the debt ceiling debacle is a direct result of wrong-headed Republican ideology, the fiscal ignorance of members of financial and budgetary committees, and GOP tactics that disregard the consequences to the country. First some facts: The debt ceiling is periodically and routinely raised by Congress to allow the treasury to sell more bonds to meet spending obligations that have already been voted and approved by current and past Congresses. In refusing to raise the debt ceiling the Republicans effectively wrote the checks but refused to pay them when they became due. It is not just unethical but unpatriotic to do so. Past budget battles are ot analogous to the current situation. In the spirit of compromise President Obama offered significant spending cuts in return for very modest tax increases on the wealthiest 1% of Americans and reductions in tax loopholes. But the GOP walked away from negotiations. The reason for such intransigence can be attributed to the fact that 235 members of the house of representatives and 41 senators—overwhelmingly Republican—have signed Grover Norquist’s No Tax pledge for fear of primary battles funded by Norquist’s think tank Americans for Prosperity. Shadowy interest groups and uninformed Tea Party freshmen drive the GOP today. In early 2009, Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell declared that his goal was to make Obama a one-term president. The GOP has bluntly implemented this goal by obstruction and delay. More than 60% of administration appointees have been put on legislative hold—one of the highest in history. Even when the financial system was falling apart there were less than three Republican senators prepared to approved TARP-2( the second tranche of the Troubled Asset Relief Program). The debt ceiling is just the latest hostage. The rise of the Tea Party which took 20% of the house seats in 2010 mid-terms has pushed the GOP fiscal agenda to an intolerable and illogical extreme. On July 19, 2011 Rep Joe Walsh (IL-8), just back from a debt ceiling vote, could not answer correctly when asked the size of the U.S. economy. When pressed, he blurted out $3 trillion, where the real number is ~$15 trillion. Such ignorance may be okay for an average voter but not for an elected representative who is voting on relevant legislation. This is the quality of candidates fielded by the Tea Party who decide whether the largest economy on the planet is going to pay its bills. Elections have consequences and the people who elected the extremist GOP need to take note. n

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

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

A shrewd President would have used the extension of the Bush tax cuts as the bargaining chip to pass the debt ceiling hike.

6 • india currents • september 2011

In refusing to raise the debt ceiling the Republicans effectively wrote the checks but refused to pay them when they became due.

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Vidya Pradhan

Reach For The Sky! Entrepreneur Naveen Jain’s is over the moon with his latest venture


aveen Jain, the founder of information services companies Infospace and Intelius, recently founded Moon Express, Inc, a privately funded lunar transportation and data services company. I met Jain at the official launch of the company on July 21, 2011, an event that included a tour of the facilities and a look at the prototype moon lander. In this new venture of moon exploration, how much is science, how much is commerce, and how much is fun? There comes a time in one’s life when one is not inclined to do anything that is not fun. But having said that, you only get involved in things that make good business sense, whether it is Intelius or Moon Express. Unless, of course, you are involved in philanthropic work, which I happen to think is great fun. For example I am on the board of the X Prize Foundation where we are funding the Digital Doctor Prize that aims to bring health care to billions of people around the world. That is an extremely exciting project, but that is not commerce. Similarly we are looking at how we can use neuroscience to completely reinvent education because the more I learn about how the brain works and how we teach our kids, I see that the two are completely different. But that venture is not commerce. I’m hoping many people will come up with good business ideas through the prize that I am funding. But when you look at things like Intelius and Moon Express they are fun and they are great businesses. I believe that the biggest industries that will be created in the next 10 years are going to be in the fields of space exploration and genetics. And I believe that the developments in the fields of genetics and synthetic biology will allow us to solve many problems in health care that have been unresolved so far. Once you sequence the human genome and proteome, many drugs can be tested for their efficacy through statistical regression and not just through clinical trials. My interest is in seeing what I can do to commercialize these ideas and at the same time, use these technologies for philanthropic work. Coming to the space industry, there are two parts to this. There are going to be the people who build the highways. To use an internet analogy, these would be the people laying down the fiber. In this case laying down 8 • india currents • september 2011

the fiber would mean building rockets. These are companies like Orbital Science, Elon Musk’s Space X and Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origins, and a whole bunch of other people like the Chinese government and the Indian government. There’s going to be lots of competition in this space. The second part of this is the last mile solution. Again to use the internet analogy, these would be the people who take that fiber and bring it into people’s homes and bring direct access to the consumer. History tells us that people who build the last mile solutions end up creating great businesses. Moon Express is building the moon lander but not the rocket itself. We plan on using existing rockets developed through other organizations. The biggest part of exploration of any space objects, whether the asteroids or the moon is the last 10 feet. How do you land safely? So far people have done it by essentially crashing into the moon. The spaceship bounces around and then lands. We are taking a very different approach. What we are determining is if we can have a safe landing with a micro-propulsion system; the lander would have its own autonomous radar to see under it and it would hover around to find the safest place to land. The second problem is that rovers in the past have tended to get stuck. Either their wheels have got stuck in the soil or they have encountered a rock and they don’t know how to move around that rock. Our lander, a hovercraft, would not have these problems. It would hop around. How is this different from the Apollo spacecraft technology? They were mostly rovers. They were mostly crash landed. They would parachute down and bounce around. Even the ones with the astronauts? That was a human flight. I am talking about non-human flights. In the future even if we decide to colonize the moon at some point we would have to send robots to make the environment suitable to humans. This would mean creating something like lava

tubes to create spaces of moderate temperatures. Additionally we could use solar energy to break down the water in the moon into hydrogen and oxygen; hydrogen can create an energy source to create a fuel depot and the oxygen can be pumped into the lava tubes to make it habitable for humans. I was reading a New York Times article about the Moon Express and one of the readers commented, “I want what Mr. Jain is smoking!” because what you were proposing sounded so much in the realm of science fiction. It is very interesting you say that because every advancement in technology goes through that phase. The first time people talk about it feels like science fiction and when it is done people say, “Why did it take so long?” Before the television was invented I am sure there were people going, “What are you smoking? You mean to tell me I can see people far away in a little box?” I am glad people think of it as science fiction, because that is the first step towards realization of the idea. You’ve said in previous interviews that you felt like an Internet pioneer when you created Infospace. Do you feel the same way about Moon Express? You could say that pioneers are people who go out and start executing things that other people think are science fiction. People who explored the West were called pioneers. I feel we are early enough in the stage of space exploration that all of us are pioneers, not just me but everyone who is thinking and working on it.

india currents • september 2011 • 9

What advantages does your company have over your competitors? The biggest advantage we have is our team; a team that is made up of either very experienced people or people that are passionate about the idea. Dr. Alan Stern, our chief scientist, was an associate administrator in NASA. Bob Richards has been in this space all his life. We are currently the only company that is contract with NASA to be able to use all of NASA’s technology, license it, and utilize it. That gives us a tremendous leverage to use what NASA has learned over the last 30 years about the moon, upgrading it, and essentially taking over from where they left off. In some sense, when people ask whether the United States has given up on the leadership of space, I think President Obama has the right idea—we have already been to the moon, so why not let private companies commercialize that technology and create good businesses out of it and let the government focus on the next challenge, which is to take people to Mars and the asteroids. Eventually that technology will also be available for commercialization. A lot of the resources on the moon come from the asteroids that crash on the moon. Unlike the Earth, the moon has no tectonic shifts and no atmosphere. So any asteroids on the moon are likely to be sitting right on the surface and can be mined. How did this tie-up with NASA come about? Why was the Moon Express favored over others? We were not favored. It is just that we have a great team and NASA felt that we would be able to leverage and enhance what NASA has developed into a successful commercial venture. Other companies are free to apply for a similar partnership but it is up to NASA to approve them or not. You’ve said in the past that in the early days of a business it is not so important to be profitable. Do you feel the same way about this venture? I have always said the reverse. I have always bootstrapped our businesses. We never took any venture money for Infospace or Intellius. I am a big believer in creating a business model that is self-sustainable so you don’t have to worry about other people’s money. I believe that in Moon Express we will build a profitable business. This is not a research project for us, it is a business. You are going to spend a 100 million dollars on this lander. Not true at all. Lander development will be around 20 million dollars or so. Then another 40-50 million is the current cost of the rockets. However, we think those costs are coming down significantly and we think they are likely to come down to the range of 15-20 million dollars soon. We we can also share the costs of the rocket with some other companies. There are still so many variables to the success of this project. 10 • india currents • september 2011

I wouldn’t say that this is not rocket science (laughs) but this is rocket science that is well understood. This is not as much of a technical challenge as it is a business execution challenge. If you had the right amount of money, you could launch today. The hold-back is essentially creating the business model to make it work. It will take some time to create a successful business model. Our revenues could come from mining the moon for platinum and helium 3, delivering scientific payloads, and delivering digits, atoms, and DNA to the moon. Additionally, we’ve created the “Moon is Me” tagline to capture the imagination of people and get them to share thier personal passion for the moon with us. When it comes to space exploration, people have never felt that they have been part of it. I think all of us have this romance with the moon. We believe that Moon Express can create a phenomenon where people want to be involved in romantic journey with us. Think about it, wouldn’t it be nice if you could send a picture of your family, your DNA or your pet’s DNA or even your grandfather’s ashes to the moon? Since there is no atmosphere, it will sit there for billions of years in a time capsule. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could control a high-powered telescope or a robot on the moon through a web interface? What if you could write a message on the surface of the moon and take a picture and send it to someone—perhaps a “moon proposal” or a “moon love note!” We don’t know what people will do once you create that excitement and platform to capture the imagination of people. If you think about it, when the IPhone platform was announced a few years ago, I don’t think anyone anticipated that the three of the top five applications on that platform would be about shooting birds at pigs. What you are saying that it is not a technological issue, and what is really preventing significant progress is commercial viability. What I am trying to say is that the technology is well understood but still needs to be developed. There are no technological challenges that require breakthroughs in basic sciences. It will still take us 12-18 months to complete all the work. The autonomous software and the micro-propulsion systems still have to be built. If it is going to cost us 50 or 70 million dollars, we want to be able to create a business model that is sustainable for the long term. I guess it could be easy to build a lander as a hobby for someone who could spare that kind of money. So who are the investors and what are they looking for?

Moon lander test vehicle

These are people who are passionate about space exploration and essentially believe that Moon Express is a good business. What is the initial level of funding? We have not announced that so far. All I can say is that we are well on our way to execute on our business plan. And competing for the Google Lunar X Prize is an important part of the plan? Or it is simply incidental to the commercial venture? Everything helps when you are trying to get a business venture going. So it is not just the Google Lunar X Prize, it is also the NASA prize, a matching 30 million dollars. We do intend to win these prizes, but it will be wonderful to be the first private enterprise to explore the moon from an entrepreneurial perspective. You left Infospace under a cloud of sorts. Was it tough to rebuild your credibility? It was a simple misunderstanding where I had created a trust for my children and somebody made up a story saying we were taking money from our own children, which is absolutely ridiculous. You know, being Indian, that we never take anything from our children, we only give to them. The local media in Seattle wrote a nasty story because they couldn’t stand an immigrant doing well. Thankfully no one took that crazy story seriously. I am having great fun at Intellius and Moon Express with board members like Admiral Bill Owens and Peter Diamandis. I am also on the board of the X Prize Foundation with people like Larry Page, Elon Musk and Ratan Tata. As you can see, it hasn’t affected me at all. What learning do you bring from your previous ventures to this project? I bring an understanding of consumer behavior and building successful businesses that consumers can get excited about. You are on the board of trustees of the X Prize Foundation and also competing for the Google Lunar X Prize. Isn’t there a conflict of interest? No, there is no conflict of interest. I always excuse myself from any board meeting that involves the Lunar X Prize. Everyone is pleased that members of the board also want to compete! n

india currents • september 2011 • 11

By Jaya Padmanabhan


arly this year, 46-year-old Rajesh Patel cashed in half of the retirement savings in his IRA and used the money to pay Wells Fargo what he owed in overdue mortgage payments on his Saratoga home. This was only a desperate stopgap solution, however, for Patel continued to have cash flow issues and no clear strategy on how he was going to avoid inevitable foreclosure. Patel does not sound like the typical foreclosure candidate. He has a Master’s degree, is a senior engineer at a large Silicon Valley company and owns three properties in the San Francisco Bay Area. “I came to this country to study and settle down and, just like everybody else, I believed in the U.S. economy,” explains Patel. A successful startup guy, Patel, like his neighbors and fellow entrepreneurs, invested in real estate during the housing boom. Then the economy began sliding down the fast ramp. In the past two years, Patel has seen his investments erode in value and his homes depreciate. The rental income from his two other properties barely covers the mortgages on them, and he is unable to sell the properties, because of the taxes he will have to pay. As the foreclosure crisis enters its fourth year, middle-class professionals like Patel are becoming its newest victims.

12 • india currents • september 2011

“This is a very typical scenario,” says Martin Eichner, Director of HUD (Housing and Urban Development) Counseling for Project Sentinel, a non-profit organization that educates and counsels homeowners and members of the housing industry. He advises homeowners to make sure that they have the financial wherewithal to continue their mortgage payments. “Some properties are just simply under water, i.e., more is owed on the property than what it is worth,” Eichner clarifies. Patel still lives in his Saratoga home, but he knows that he will have to move soon. His family is stressed about moving to a less desirable school district but he has few options.

Our Sacred Home

Home ownership confers prestige and status on an upwardly rising class. It’s a step up into the privilege of freedom within cedar and concrete boundaries. Getting a foot into that seemingly affordable first home is like a chest swell of success. It has its own celebratory event, the house warming, which, as the name suggests, creates bubbles of heat and envy in the have-nots. For the South Asian, a house deed is usually secured safely with the family heirloom jewelry. It is part of a dream that can only be transcended by the birth of a first child. Generally speaking, one leads to the other. I have attended combined house-warmingbaby-shower parties. I have attended baby showers where the talk was about moving into a home. I have attended house-warmings where there was fond discussion of imminent parenthood. The idea of a home leading to happier occurrences in life is perpetuated by Hindu scriptures where the grihapravesha (entry into the home) is performed by priests who repeat sacred slokas to keep away evil spirits from entering the doors of the new abode. Vaastu and feng shui have become accepted and well-researched practices in many Western countries. Homes built and laid out according to these practices are believed to create energy and engender peace. Too bad the economics of a failing economy pay no heed to any of that.

The Statistics

In June 2011 there were 20,223 loan default notices issued in California and 22,936 notices of sale registered. Most default notices were sent to owners of homes that were about 1,500 square feet in size. This indicates first time home owners, a few years into their careers, starting families, ambitious, optimistic, and believing in real estate as the path to prosperity. A much smaller percentage of larger homes registered on the foreclosure tracking system. There were 213 notices of default sent out to homes with more than five bedrooms, compared to 8,146 to homes with three to four bedrooms. Though the ratios are skewed, it is clear that this problem that has become

California Bills Fail to Pass

There are no well-defined state or federal policies that can redress the grievances of foreclosed homeowners. Three state bills that dealt with foreclosures did not make it beyond committees: Senate Bill 729, State Assembly Bills 935 and 1321. 729 would have required banks to inform homeowners before initiating foreclosures and Bill 1321 would have cut down the time it took the county to record foreclosures. State Assembly Bill 935 sponsored by Bob Blumenfield, D-San Fernando Valley, would have leveled a $20,000 fee on banks and other lenders on every foreclosure and that fee could have been waived in cases where an effort was made to modify loans and reduce payments and thereby provide an incentive to avoid foreclosure. But this was not to be. endemic and no economic class is immune.

The Long and Winding Road

42-year-old Southern California resident Arshad Ali lives in an apartment in Lake Elsinore, a charming city in Southern California. He is a musician, has three children and has learned to live simply, frugally and with economic restraints. Five years ago, his biography would have read, “Lake Elsinore homeowner, manufacturing engineer, and able provider for a growing family.” His story is one we’ve heard before. Ali was working for Netlist, a company that manufactured memory chips, when he was laid off during a restructuring operation. At the time he was living in a three bedroom starter house. His wife was not employed and with three young children, options were limited. Ali realized that manufacturing jobs were scarce, because “most companies were moving their manufacturing operations to China.” It was ironic, Ali explained, how he was responsible for training the Chinese to do his job, in effect making his own position obsolete. When he lost his job, he was confident that he would find another one soon enough. After all, he’d moved from India to find this sweet spot, a haven for the hard working. In the meantime he began to sing and perform at events, just to pay a few bills. He slipped behind on his mortgage payments and received his first warning notice. Thus began the long and winding road to foreclosure.

Loan Modification

Once that first delinquency notice is received it is a short path to the lending agency filing a “notice of foreclosure” with the county. Then the homeowner’s options are limited to loan modification, where the monthly payments are reduced; short sale, where the property is sold; and walking away where, as the name suggests, the home owner just walks away from the unaffordable property. Most people facing foreclosure would like to have their loans modified to more affordable payments and thereby retain their homes. Under President Obama’s Making Home Affordable (MHA) plan, $75 billion in loan modification incentives were earmarked for families in order to infuse some vitality into the housing market. But there is no watchdog

agency that can enforce the execution of this program. The latest MHA numbers are staggering. Out of 3.7 million eligible candidates for the program, there have only been about 633,459 active permanent modifications as of May 2011. Patel was hopeful when he filled out a financial worksheet as part of the process for loan modification, but his application was rejected. However, he did enter into a forbearance agreement with Wells Fargo for a period of four months. In essence, Patel was given a four-month respite on his delinquent account. According to Patel, that didn’t achieve anything. “Wells Fargo sent me a letter at the end of the forbearance period, indicating that if I didn’t become current with my payments, they would initiate foreclosure acceleration. That’s when I decided to cash in part of my retirement fund.”

The Race Card

In Ali’s case his application for loan modification was rejected twice. “The lending industry created this mess,” Ali says, “They help some people and not others.” Ali ascribes another reason to his problems. “Our faces, the color of our skin, tell a different story.” The terse way the bank dealt with him and the rapid deterioration of his situation was what he remembers. “In the same neighborhood that I lived in, a Caucasian family was in a similar situation and their loan was modified.” Ali explains how the neighbor’s bank reduced his mortgage payments to $900. “The family got an instant credit of 70,000 dollars and their interest rate was lowered to 3%. They still live in the same house.” A recent report by the California Reinvestment Coalition indicated that there might be some basis to Ali’s claims. About 42% of housing counselors interviewed for the report indicated, “borrowers of color are receiving worse outcomes than white borrowers seeking to avoid foreclosure.” Other details that emerge from the report paint a gloomy picture. 94% of housing counselors have clients who have lost their homes while in the midst of loan modification. Patterns of ethnic and racial disparities are emerging for borrowers. Incomplete applications, lost documents, and rejected modifications are more frequently applied to non india currents • september 2011 • 13

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white borrowers. Eichner explains that the loan modification process is not arbitrary. It is essentially the net-present-value formula; if overall debt as a ratio to income is below 55%, there is very little chance that the loan will be modified. But from all first hand accounts, it seems that while the formula is useful as a guideline, there are other impediments to acceptance.

Left in Limbo

Banks and other lenders tend to drag out the whole process of loan modification. Applications sit for six to eight months, “leaving people in limbo,” says Eichner. This, despite a clause in the MHA and HAMP (Home Affordable Modification Program) putting a timeline of three months on the approval process. Sheena Wadhawan, Vice President of the South Asian Bar Association and a public interest attorney in Oakland agrees with Eichner. “Banks are generally abusive of people seeking modifications,” she says, making no bones of her disapproval. They ask homeowners to submit and resubmit the same paperwork. Each time the homeowner has to deal with a different person at the bank. Several times, conflicting advice is given. There are even instances when banks “wrongfully foreclose,” according to Wadhawan. Foreclosure Radar, an independent firm in Discovery Bay, reported that it took an average of 317 days to foreclose a home in California in June 2011. This was an increase from 261 days a year ago. The number of foreclosures also dropped by 34% from the previous year. Sean O’Toole, CEO and Founder of Foreclosure Radar cautioned against assigning any significance to these numbers. “We do not see it as signaling an end to lenders looking to avoid losses that they can’t afford by continuing the extend and pretend policies of the past.” Lenders are just taking longer to process foreclosures and possibly artificially deflating the numbers. This is where scam artists show up. Predatory agents spin the hope tale in order to make a quick buck. Patel hired a lawyer to help him deal with the bank. Eichner, however, cautions strongly against a lawyer’s intervention. “It is against the law to charge a fee in ad-

The Scene in India There are fewer home loan defaults in India and the reason is more cultural than financial. According to an article in The Hindu, “The hard core default of home loans is around 3 per cent.” Perhaps it is because most homebuyers in India have the support of family and friends who are willing to help. Secondly, there is a flourishing private(non-bank) moneylending sector that can be applied to for recourse.

Renting vs. Buying To rent or to buy is a subject of many a real estate forum. The answer boils down to a few critical tests, age, long-term affordability, and job flexibility. A two-car garage home in the suburbs is not particularly tempting to the young and upwardly mobile. Childless families may find the single-family home a bit of an encumbrance. Job flexibility or the fluidity to pick up and go might deter any longer-term investments. People who travel a lot would rather stay in an apartment somewhere. Some cities are more amenable to renters than others. San Francisco is more renterfriendly than the bedroom community of Fremont, for example. If neighborhood is a factor, then it might be easier to rent for a particular school then buy. Moving into your “own home” makes sense when you have a steady job, have the possibility and wherewithal to sustain your lifestyle and have young kids who have put shackles on your wandering feet. As the mid-30s loom so does the desire for hearth and home. An interactive graphic by the New York Times allows you to plug in your life factors to do a comparison to determine whether renting or buying is the best option for you at any particular moment. Check out vance in foreclosure cases.” Unscrupulous lawyers and real estate agents continue to come up with creative schemes where they make money off these desperate, cashstrapped clients, while they stay just this side of the law. It might be okay to work out a contingency agreement with a lawyer, in case the loan modification goes through and the mortgage is significantly lowered.

Social Stigma

Possibly one of the most inhibitive aspects of South Asians going through foreclosure is their need for secrecy. Both Patel and Ali feel that foreclosure is a failure of sorts. Patel declares that the perception of normalcy counts for a lot within the Indian community. He says he’s under tremendous “social” pressure to maintain the family’s lifestyle. For Ali, since it is an event of the past, he is better able to discuss it openly. Wadhawan agrees that her South Asian clients suffer from this malaise. “Our people feel a lot of embarrassment and are rarely forthcoming about their situation. There is hesitation to even seek help. The worst thing for a family going through some stage of foreclosure is to do nothing and all too often people end up doing just that.” As for seeking help from counselors and advisors, Ali scoffs at it, saying counseling cannot bring back income, or pay his bills.

Why Me?

Federal Reserve Policy maker Fred Kroszner lays the blame on adjustable rate mortgages (ARMs) as the leading cause of foreclosures. Offering low initial interest rates and down payments, these mortgages balloon dramatically after the first year. ARMs were marketed to low income buyers, who were happy to get into a home with little or no initial capital but were also unlikely to afford the higher mortgage payments. When it sounds too good to be true,

it usually is. Predatory lending practices contributed significantly to the housing collapse. Telemarketers aggressively advertised lower monthly rates and refinance options. They offered the possibility of home equity to be used on remodeling, consolidating credit cards, buying a boat or RV, and in some cases even taking a vacation. Unsuspecting homeowners fell victim to this stratagem and ended up losing their homes. Under investigation for fraud, Angelo Mozilo, the CEO of one of the largest lending firms, Countrywide Mortgage, admitted in internal emails that some of the mortgages sold were “poison,” and “toxic.” It’s sad that companies interested in making a quick buck can so easily ignore the long-term fallouts of such deleterious business methods. For most homeowners under foreclosure, it is usually an unlucky combination of personal circumstances that plays the villian in this bad plot: a lost job, illness, death, college fees, bad advice, or too many investments coupled with inflating payments. In some cases, homeowners are told not to worry about the increase in payments because refinance is always and easily an option. But when the time comes to refinance, qualifying becomes an issue. According to Wadhawan, non-English speaking homebuyers are particularly at risk. They don’t have the financial literacy to comprehend documents in English and often end up being victimized. Homebuyers, too, are culpable. In their desperation to qualify for a loan, borrowers lie about their income in loan documents, usually with the collusion of loan agents. “These liar loans,” Eichner says, “are given to people who never should have borrowed money.”

The Seven Year Sting

The hidden long-term cost of a foreclosure is the impact on credit rating. Patel realizes that losing his home to foreclosure would india currents • september 2011 • 15

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affect his credit for seven years. “This would be bad for the future since I have one son in college and another going into middle school.” Whether it is a trustee sale, a short sale, or a walk away, the transaction becomes part of the homeowner’s credit history. Patel is eager to get out of the mess he’s in. He hopes the bank will approve a short sale of his property, though “there is no real advantage to a short sale,” Eichner emphasizes. Realtors tend to promote short sales, but the reality is that there’s little value in it for the homeowner. It still goes on record as a default. Realtors, however, make money on short sales. If there’s no way to avoid the credit hit, then maybe a prudent walk-away is the answer? “We advise our clients not to keep putting money into a bad investment. Better to walk away and start afresh,” agrees Eichner.

Lesson Learned

“I have really seen ups and downs,” Patel says sadly. “Unless unemployment and the housing market improve, we are all in trouble. At the end of the day, my kids and family get priority. I will do what it takes to give them security, whether it is living in an apartment or a smaller home.” The process from receiving that first warning letter to losing a home is disturbing, disruptive, and fraught with anxiety and “it was especially hard on the children. But it’s

A Partial List of Resources Northern California

• Project Sentinel: a non-profit agency providing services to help people resolve housing problems. Offices in Fremont, San Jose, Sunnyvale, Gilroy, Modesto and Redwood City. Website:; Email: • Homeowner’s Hope Hotline: Homeowner’s HOPE™, a counseling service provided by the Homeownership Preservation Foundation. Website:; Phone: 888-995-HOPE • Community Housing Works: Website: • SpringBoard, Fresno Housing Assistance: Website:; Email: • Neighborhood Housing Services, Silicon Valley: Website:; E-mail:

Southern California

• Anaheim Housing Counseling Agency: Website:; • Neighborhood Housing Services of Orange County: Website:; Email: • Spring Board, Long Beach: Website:; E-mail: • Operation Hope: Website:; Email: a lesson they’ll never forget,” Ali says, as the only positive to this ugly business. There are probably more than a few Patels and Alis among us, and calamity could just as near as the next monthly household spreadsheet. Their stories make us realize the impermanence of our worldly goods. Losing a home, with all the familiar nooks and cran-

nies of our existence, can be traumatic, but ultimately happiness doesn’t hinge on owning a home.n For stories of other ethnic communities affected by the foreclosure crisis visit Jaya Padmanabhan is a prize-winning fiction writer.

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india currents • september 2011 • 23



Alakananda Mookerjee

QWERTY, My Muse I type, therefore I am


n June 25, 2010, I’d tweeted: “Have the new technologies made us stupider or smarter? I feel I’ve become sharper in their advent. But that may have little to do with them.” But, today, I’m not certain I agree with the assertion that technology has no impact on our cognitive skills. I’m stating the obvious when I say that in the last fifteen years, or so, my mental terrain has changed drastically. We all evolve with age. And with age, I have grown intellectually brawnier, if I say so myself. Whether or not that belief has factual accuracy is beside the point. That I feel so viscerally is of significance. My impression of myself as a young girl is of someone who struggled endlessly with many-layered narratives, math sums, road directions. No one who meets me today, after a decade-long gap would tell me so on my face, but they would be remiss in their observation of me, if they didn’t notice that the passage of time has only made me far sharper, far quicker on the uptake. (The flip side of that is that I get distracted very easily. I can’t focus on any one activity for more than a maximum of 30 minutes.) Having recently read Nicholas Carr’s mind-expanding book, The Shallows: What The Internet Is Doing to Our Brains, I’m inclined to believe that the “passage of time” has nothing to with it. Technology has.

Carr cites the instance of how Frederick Nietzsche’s typewriter shaped his writing. In early 1882, when the German philosopher’s health was failing, and he could no longer trust his hands to write for him, he ordered the then recently invented Danish made Malling-Hansen “writing ball,” “an oddly beautiful instrument” that resembled an “ornate golden pincushion.” A few months later, a Berlin newspaper reported that he was faring much better. “But the device,” Carr writes, “had a subtler effect on his work. His prose had become tighter, and more telegraphic. There was a new forcefulness to it, too, as through the machine’s power—it’s ‘iron’—was, through some mysterious metaphysical mechanism, being transferred into the words it pressed into the page.” One doesn’t have to be Nietzsche to be affected by a tool. It is my intense relationship with the computer and the Internet, which has shaped me as I am today. I am quite convinced that my brain has rewired itself, due to my prolonged engagement with the QWERTY keyboard, hyperlinks, RSS feeds, “rich content.” I have essentially been transformed by the gadgets I own. Carr’s book has helped me make a monumental self-discovery, a fact that might help explain how, in fact, I am composing this piece. It wouldn’t be possible without the QWERTY keyboard. Yes, the (seemingly)

inanimate implement that I type on. My muse, it turns out, is a machine. What a pencil and a sheet of paper couldn’t accomplish for me, the QWERTY did. It made me write, produce semi-coherent prose. It made me a journalist. Unlike Carr and folks of his generation, who had an “analog youth,” I had an “analog childhood.” I went to elementary school carrying a coarse satchel that contained a triad of writing and recording instruments: a couple of ball-point pens, a few softcover, wide-ruled notebooks, a spiral jotter. I read linear text, printed on frowzy paper pages, broken now and then with a handful of smudgy illustrations. I wrote in longhand, on paper pages. I worked hard at making my handwriting neat, a perfect gradient of cursive. I played board games on boards made, in fact, of thick cardboard. That was in India, in an era, long before the arrival of the personal computer, the Hyper Text Markup Language-built Web pages, the RSA encrypted information. Maybe the educational system of the time, with its intolerable emphasis on rote memory, did all it could to mask my creative talent. Or maybe, it was just me—plainly obtuse. But I recall how I sweated over single paragraphs for essays. My originality went no further than blindly “copying” a section of a textbook, and “pasting” it with utmost care on a workbook. Then, around the mid-1980s, I got my very first computer, a distant precursor of the iPad, which brought to mind the image of a large, square box each time I tinkered with it. It instantly became my favorite toy. Back then, I used to spend a few hours daily, coding in BASIC, a computer language that’s extinct now, I played games, but I rarely used the word-processing function. Still, a change was underway.


t wasn’t until a decade later, however, that I fully adopted the tool, and attempted to use all its bells and whistles, the most exciting of which to me was the Internet. By then, I’d moved on from the Mac to the PC. My first browser, the first-generation Netscape, though nowhere near as efficient as Google in its present avatar, still opened up myriad informational pathways. The desire to navigate its streets, lanes, alleyways, occasioned learn24 • india currents • september 2011

ing how to use the mouse and the keyboard. The change proceeded. At first, I went slowly. With one hand, I’d type no more than the URL addresses of the sites that interested me. As I became progressively more familiar with the layout of the keys, I was tempted to open a word document, if only just to see what it could do and what it couldn’t. I would type a phrase. Highlight it. Then, delete it. Type a short sentence. Highlight it. Then, delete it. Type a still longer thought. Highlight it. Then, delete it. It was like a game, almost. At the time, the process by which this dematerialization happened appeared less technological, more magical. I watched goggle-eyed, my mind quivering with wonder at the idea of how a strip of text could vanish without a trace at the mere tap of a button. How was erasure possible without leaving either a trail of faint gray smudge, or a strikethrough, or a curmudgeonly graffiti in ink, on a surface? One may argue that the pen and the paper preserved all record of my intellectual toil. But that is precisely what obfuscated my ability to think. The more I saw the signs of my mental labor, the harder it got for me to write, make any headway with my thoughts. Typing was different. “The world of the screen,” Carr writes, “is a very different place from the world of the page.” The very act of editing a word, a line, a paragraph, on an illuminated screen, allowed me to array my ideas, to sort through them, to arrange them, to reshuffle them—all without leaving an ungainly mess. What helped me move forward was the apparent absence of mental effort I put into creating textual content. So while I continued to be enthralled by the technological novelty, on another plane, at the neural level, certain synapses in the area of my brain associated with writing skills may have been getting fired. I did not know. But I could feel. Cobwebs were beginning to scatter, clear, wither away. Far lower in decibels than the sound of type bars striking against the ribbon spool of the old typewriter, the soft clicking of the keys hitting the board affected the mind, unconsciously. It made my thoughts crisper, sharper, cleaner. Only brief e-mails came in the beginning. As that transformative phase in my life intersected with my entry into the news business as a rookie reporter, I began to craft stories. By and by, the role of the keyboard and screen swelled. Now, I can’t even conceive of a life without the QWERTY keyboard. But I guess I have to readjust—again. The keyboard killer, the touch-screen device, has arrived. n

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india currents • september 2011 • 29

25 years

Passion on the Pages—Redux

The South Asian American literary scene has exploded in the last few decades


By Jeanne Fredriksen

ne sultry evening in June 2000, a chance meeting in an unpretentious movie house showing the Shahrukh KhanAishwarya Rai starrer Josh provided an interesting twist to my professional life. A man named Aniruddh Chawda (A Lotus from the Nile, June 2011) engaged me in conversation during the intermission, and his first question was a more than fair one: “Why are you watching a Hindi film and one without subtitles?” (After all, I’m an American woman from the upper Midwest whose hair has been white-blonde since graduate school in the 1970s. Not your typical Hindi film-goer at all.) I explained to him that I’d long been interested in Hong Kong films—also without subtitles—and, in 1998, an online HK film friend had suggested I might like Hindi films. My undergraduate and graduate studies had been in Theatre Arts, so she thought I’d love the spectacle and the music of the films. She was right. I was hooked from the first film I rented (Pardes), and I still am. Being an avid reader and a writer, the next logical step was to dive into Indian fiction. Again, hooked! Post-film coffee and dessert with Aniruddh ushered in a new and continuing friendship. At the small, throwback-to-the-1950s café, Aniruddh spoke of writing film reviews for a magazine called India Currents, and I casually mentioned that I, too, was a writer. Many movies, meals, and visits to Chicago’s Devon Avenue later, Aniruddh alerted me to an opportunity to write a film review of Monsoon Wedding. He was writing the cover story about Mira Nair, and then-editor-now-publisher Vandana Kumar wanted someone else to write the review. Without wasting time, I sent a piece. Vandana put her stamp of approval on it, asking what else I might want to write for the magazine.

The answer was simple: book reviews! I also pitched article ideas to her, which resulted in a feature that looked at the perception of NRIs in Hindi films (NRI Number One, August 2002) and another that was an annotated bibliography/review of Hindi film books (Passion in the Pages, November 2003). As for the magazine, I learned quickly that it is a platform for change and challenge, a guardian of culture and ideas, and a monitor of the present and future for its diverse readership. It is a thoughtful, contemporary publication that is open to differing points of view and embraces a high standard not often found in most mainstream periodicals. Every issue reinforces the fact that the staff not only knows what their readers want but, more importantly, the quality their readers expect. Longevity is the result of its attentiveness and diligence. Longevity means much, particularly in these days of rapid and startling changes in all facets of the publishing world. India Currents (IC) continues to improve and thrive in the world of magazines when many are folding, compacting, or relegating themselves to a strictly online or downloaded presence. IC invests a great deal of ink and space on the arts—music, dance, cinema, books—and that alone makes it special. In a time when many believe the sole focus of education should be on science, technology, engineering, and math, India Currents recognizes that art is an important part of our lives. By freely giving space to books of all genres, IC promotes that idea and, as a bonus, literacy.


etween January 2001 and September 2011, nearly 300 books have been reviewed and myriad authors have been interviewed by virtually 60 contributors. Approximately 200 authors have been recognized by India Currents. Numbers aside, it is clear that literature is an important part of the magazine’s body. Among the books reviewed, there have been and will continue to be dozens of debuts by new and exciting voices that make my job so delightful and fresh with each assignment. It is that attention to new authors that makes India Currents a valuable resource and a champion for those who write about the South Asian experience. The Books section has grown from straightforward reviews to reviews incorporating the authors’ own words about their work to full author interviews and now even audio files of those reviews.


ut what is the attraction to South Asian literature that makes it such a vital part of every issue of India Currents? Beyond the obvious, I believe that if you want to learn about a people, you must read what they are writing. Whether fiction or non-fiction, the writing is about what collectively matters to them, what’s happening to them, what’s affecting them. It’s their body of stories, their reflections of their world. Without bias or censor, IC has looked at books about everything from films and music to cuisine and history. Books covering socioglobal politics, religion, and spirituality have shared pages with biographies, memoirs, and accounts of immigrants’ issues. South Asian fiction comes in all sizes and shapes from mystery, historical, and political to family drama, family comedy, and 30 • india currents • september 2011

insurgency. The “chick lit” genre emerged and included South Asian authors, while coming-of-age fiction is a literary mainstay. Poetry, collections of essays or short stories, and anthologies are as easily represented. Travel narratives and self-help books amuse, enlighten, and guide. And no one is left out because the books that are reviewed cover everyone from pre-readers and emerging readers to independent and middle grade readers to young adults and adults. From Salman Rushdie to V.S. Naipaul to Shashi Tharoor, from Jhumpa Lahiri to Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni to Fareed Zakaria, the pages of IC have sparkled with names that are attached to best sellers and known the world over. Equally important, however, are the many new and promising authors such as Kiran Desai, Khaled Hosseini, Monica Ali, Roopa Farooki, and Indu Sundaresan (who now has been reviewed 5 times) to name only a few. Their introduction to IC’s readers has been important because they belong to the new crop of writers who will continue to interpret their world with keen, critical eyes and a global perspective.


ertainly many featured authors write from India but, it can be said, as many have begun their lives in or near the subcontinent and now write from an assortment of points around the globe. For example, Amulya Malladi, who has been reviewed four times, lives and writes in Denmark. Roopa Farooki was born in Pakistan but splits her writing time between England and France. Tahmina Anam, a native of Bangladesh, was raised in Paris, New York City, and Bangkok. She now resides in London. Chicago-based Mary Ann Mohanraj began life in Sri Lanka. Khaled Hosseini lives in the United States, but both of his highly-acclaimed books reflect life in his homeland, Afghanistan. Azhar Abidi was born in Pakistan but now makes Australia his home. Their location and where they’ve been influence their writing, their themes, and their perspectives. This gives us readers many opportunities to realize that when film director Subhash Ghai coined the phrase “global Indian,” it extended to the community of contemporary South Asian writers and literature. There is one other group of South Asian authors making an impact: children of immigrants. Authors such as Ronica Dhar write about their own unique experiences, including the reverse immigrant question. Their own issues, conflicts, and beliefs, often rise in stark contrast to those of their parents and the generations before. Now it is less about the arranged marriage and more about the love or interracial marriage. A divorce or remarriage might be mentioned in a story. Now it is less a culture clash as an expected by-product of leaving India as it is straddling two cultures, finding one’s place, and understanding who one is in the world. It is less the traditional

Delhi or India and more the “new” Delhi and the “new” India, signaling the recent changes in India’s economic growth, modern attitudes, and alternative lifestyles. I believe it is fair to say that these new voices take the concept of universal themes a step further and integrate the day-today issues and conflicts experienced by their generation with basic themes that resonate with readers around the world.


he topics and themes that concern today’s South Asian writer are as varied as the sheer numbers of books. When I read Alzak Amlani’s 25th Anniversary article (Being Indian In America, July 2011), I was struck by the parallels between the progression of issues that brought clients to his office and the progression of topics and themes surfacing in the writing by and about South Asians. My immediate impression was that art was not merely imitating but clearly reflecting life. Culture shock. Culture block. Women’s rights, politics, socio-economic issues, immigration, emigration, sexuality, and other social concerns have been moving from the shadows to front and center in both contemporary non-fiction and fiction. South Asian literature is shifting and expanding to absorb and include more controversial subjects. Taboos are examined, traditions are questioned, and the immigrant’s experiences aren’t necessarily the solo story in the spotlight. This is not to say that India’s history, traditions, and customs are being shoved in a box in a dark and dusty attic. Those vital components of being Indian remain in South Asian writing. Without them, the stories, the accounts, and the perspectives would become generic—perhaps “globally generic,” but that is not the same as “universal.” The difference is that these factors must learn to share space with the changes in focus, taste, and current events. With a pool of strong and gifted observer-authors, the traditional and contemporary coexist in harmony and offer an extraordinary body of work.


decade after I began writing for India Currents, waiting for Ranjit Souri’s comedy troupe to begin at Chicago’s famed Improv Olympics, India Currents editor Vidya Pradhan and I chatted about how this is a great time to be a South Asian author. “Does it seem as if it is easier to be published as a South Asian author these days?” she mused. I agreed that there seemed to be many more published South Asian authors these

days and said, “You know, I was thinking of changing my name to something like ‘Jee Firangi.’ Maybe, when I start to peddle my own novel, that name might get me noticed quickly.” Jokes aside, this is without question an enormously exciting time for South Asian writers and their readers. I am not “of” that certain population of people, but I am proud to be a long-time member of the India Currents family. During this first decade of the new millennium, I have been privileged to work with four outstanding editors: Vandana Kumar, Ashok Jethanandani, Ragini Tharoor Srinivasan, and now Vidya Pradhan. Each brought their own sensibilities, experiences, and viewpoints, propelling the magazine to increased respect and readership. And each has been a writer’s dream: painless to work with and effortless to learn from. I can’t thank them enough for the opportunity not only to continue to explore a variety of authors and genres of South Asian literature but also to do two of the things I love the most: reading and writing. I was only kidding about adopting the pen-name Jee Firangi, but I am not kidding when I say that 50 book reviews after Monsoon Wedding, the IC experience continues to enrich my life through association with the staff and writers-contributors, through the words I read and contemplate, and through the conversations I’ve had with a variety of authors. It is my hope that you, the India Currents audience, have found and will continue to find pleasure in the books my and my colleagues’ reviews have suggested. n Jeanne E. Fredriksen now reads and writes from the Raleigh-Durham area, a location that loves the arts and their artists. Almost immediately, she happily found a theatre there that specializes in Hindi films. She would also like to thank her good friend Aniruddh Chawda for being at the Des Plaines Theater that one summer evening. india currents • september 2011 • 31

I C ask a lawyer

Indu Liladhar-Hathi

Petitioner Death and Immigration Status The death of the petitioner is no longer an obstacle for some immigration seekers


mmigrating to the United States to live here permanently is an important and complex decision. In general, to immigrate a foreign citizen must be petitioned or sponsored by a U.S. citizen relative(s), U.S. lawful permanent resident, or by a prospective employer, and be the beneficiary of an approved petition. Thereafter, the beneficiary must wait the required amount of time. If the sponsor is a U.S. citizen spouse or employer, the beneficiary will have to wait only for the paperwork to be completed. If the sponsor is another relative, then they will have to wait in line for their priority date to become current. Each year, the demand for immigrant visa numbers for family-based and employmentbased sponsorships far exceeds the supply. This has resulted in massive backlogs with immigrants waiting years for their priority date (their place in line) to become available. For many years, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) had taken the position that the law did not permit the

32 • india currents • september 2011

beneficiary of a visa petition to obtain approval of the petition if the petitioner died while the petition remained pending. In those cases, USCIS automatically revokes the immigrant visa petition, leaving surviving family members with no means to obtain immigrant status based on that petition. On October 28, 2009, President Obama passed into law a landmark immigration bill, ending the automatic revocation of a visa petition when the petitioner dies. This has provided significant relief to immigrants and their families who have waiting for their priority dates to become current only to have the petition revoked upon the death of the petitioner. The new law changes the governing regulations with respect to an alien who is seeking an immigration benefit through a deceased “qualifying relative.” Specifically, under this new law, surviving family members residing in the United States at the time the petitioner or principal beneficiary died, may

adjust status to permanent residence when their priority date is reached, as long as they continue to reside in the United States. This includes the continued processing of the immigrant visa application for the spouse of the U.S. citizen or the unmarried child under age of 21 of a U.S. citizen, even if the U.S. citizen petitioner dies while the immigrant visa petition is pending or has been approved. This option is also available for spouses and unmarried children of permanent residents, unmarried children over the age of 21 of U.S. citizens, married children of a U.S. citizen, brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens and the derivative children as well as derivative beneficiaries of pending or approved employment-based immigrant visa petitions. Note: This change does not benefit family members residing outside the United States.n Immigration and business attorney Indu Liladhar-Hathi has an office in San Jose. (408) 453-5335.



visa dates

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

September 2011


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


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EMPLOYMENT-BASED VISA DATES Preference Dates for India 1st Current 2nd April 15, 2007 3rd July 8, 2002 Other June 1, 2002 Workers 4th Current Certain Current Religious Workers 5th Current Targeted Current Employment Areas The Department of State has a recorded message with visa availability information at (202) 663-1541, which is updated in the middle of each month. Source: bulletin_5542.html


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Mustard Seeds F

ire is like a Fibonacci sequence. It spirals into infinity, if left unchecked. It’s a function of fate, a sequence of life. F(n) = F(n-1) + F(n-2)… It was in the eighth grade that Mrs. Saxena taught me all about Fibonacci sequences. My desk was on the far side of the window and my imagination on the stiletto of sunlight that shone on part of the sequence on the blackboard, illuminating it. 0,1,1,2,3,5,8,13,21,34,55,89,143,232… The number thirteen stood out limned by light and shadow. Oddly, it was the only one of the sequence written on the board that was made up of more than one digit and the digits didn’t repeat or contain successive numerals. I was 13 when I fell in love for the first time. I remember her clearly. Maya. Her large eyes fell on me in class and the words disappeared from my tongue. I would sit there with my hand raised and my eyes visualizing our joined sequence. The first time she talked to me, I felt a physical ache more powerful than what is about to happen to me. Will she remember me? Will she reconstruct our interactions? “Jaan, I knew this

Katha 2011 Results

sh award $300): FIRST PLACE (ca YAN RE SH Tapas and I by , RA IT M H MAYUK Santa Clara, Calif. (cash award $200): SECOND PLACE by ANIRVAN Lanka is Drowning CHATTERJEE, Berkeley, Calif. sh award $100): THIRD PLACE (ca YA JA by s Mustard Seed PADMANABHAN, lif. Los Altos Hills, Ca ENTION: HONORABLE M by KAUSHIK ct) tra Windhorse (ex ly. BARUA, Rome, Ita ENTION: HONORABLE M LA JAYWANT, Two Gurus by SHEE . dia Mumbai, In

34 • india currents • september 2011

man. He used to be crazy in love with me at one time. Hahaha. What a joke it was. You’ll never believe it. He asked me to marry him when we were fifteen. His was my first proposal. I hope they don’t come around looking for me because I knew him in high school. Will they? Oh my God. What do we do?” Or it might go, “Why are they doing this? This was a good man. He asked me to marry him when we were teenagers. He was a little insane. Crazy insane. I could have loved him though. Do you know how and why they caught him? I cannot bear to think about it. This weekend can we go to the beach?” The day I proposed to Maya was the day that Rio told me the story of the fire in a warehouse in Kashmir. The winter cold had formed icicles around the warehouse and an untended kangdi had resulted in a raging fire. Fire and Ice. The pictures were breathtaking, Rio had said. The cold icicles held its form despite the heat from the burning building. Maya was the fire that would melt my icicle, I thought. With a rare burst of resolve, I went looking for her. I found her just as she was about to enter the restroom in school. I called her name and she turned to look, her long earrings swinging like tribal dancers. There was impatience on her face. I dove to my knees in front of her and grabbed her hand. “Will you?” I asked. “What?” “Will you…marry me?” I whispered “Let me go.” “Not until you give me an answer.” “This is not even legal,” she said, indignantly. “Is this your idea of a joke? Are you making fun of me?” “No joke, Maya. We’ll marry when we’re eighteen.” “Let go of my hand. I need to go to the bathroom.” I remember clutching her hand tighter and her face wincing and then her great burst of rage, swinging her fist at the back of my head, my falling forward and her clutching her groin as she violently freed herself and ran into the bathroom, crying.


s the skin fries off my bones, will I be dead already? Asphyxiation is what kills; I know this because of Rio’s fascination with fire. I remember, when I was 11, observing Rio strike a match and watching as it crept slowly down to his thumb and

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forefinger. Then just as it reached his skin he threw it on the ground and lit the next one. The second time, I saw the fire touch his flesh and I yelped in distress. He smiled at me and threw the match down. “Nothing will happen,” he assured me. “Watch one last time. The fire will die down on its own.” He struck the third match and I paid close attention as it lit his thumb a full 10 seconds before he pinched it dead. Rio showed me his thumb and forefinger. There was proof that this was not the first time he’d done this. “The fire will first attack the nerves and kill it. After that you won’t feel anything. Try it!” he told me. “If you’re ever trapped in a burning building, more than likely it will be the smoke that will kill you. It’s like drowning,” he explained. Instead, I was burned by the encounter.


hen I inhale, I will smell burning flesh. It is a smell that comes to me when I think of train compartments full of people sealed and set afire and widows forced to enter the funeral pyre of their dead husbands and people trapped in burning buildings waiting for rescue and Tamil rebels in Sri Lanka tied to trees with tires hung around their necks and set aflame. I am a rebel. I am a man born to a Religion and a Country. My mother is my Country and my father my Religion. Both have let me down. I wait here today, my eyes covered by a strip of gunnysack, waiting for flames to devour me. My captor smells of something visceral. Of sweat, cigarette smoke, and polyester. Funny thing about polyester is that it is highly flammable. How ironical. I feel my condemned mouth stretching.


think the fire will be ignited around me. When the police came for me, it was halfpast one in the morning. The floor will be covered with straw and gasoline will be liberally poured around me. “Traitor,” they yelled at me, shoving me and pushing me. “People like you don’t deserve to live.” It will need just a single match. I watched my sister weep, begging for mercy. “Don’t hurt him, don’t hurt him.” The flames will rise slowly first warming my feet. I heard my fourteen-year-old brother, his stutter loading the mirth on the men’s faces. It will seem like a mere walk on hot coals. They mocked him and imitated him, while I lay supine at their feet and my sister’s voice reached madness. Then it will rise. “S-S-S-St-


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india currents • september 2011 • 35

Sto-Stop i-i-i-i-t,” they said before slapping her and grabbing her breasts. First attacking the nerves on my feet. I met my brother’s eyes and pointed with my chin. He walked across the room to assist my sister. There they stood, a silent, scared ragtag army of two. Quickly devouring my shins and broken kneecaps. I got to my feet, dragging their attention back to me. The flames will attack my anus, my digestive tract and the lining of my lungs. In a few violent seconds I was on the floor again. From the floor I looked at my siblings, commanding them to stay still and unresponsive, without the words ever being said. I will then lose consciousness. I was dragged out and pushed into a waiting car. At last I will be consumed by eternal peace.


arbon monoxide, they say, is odorless; it is so much easier to deal with an unsuspecting killer. I recall movies I’ve seen, where the killer creeps into the heroine’s room with a knife. She is usually sleeping oblivious to the deafening sonata of suspense. Then she wakes up, just as the hero appears clumsily, noisily, and captures the silent killer, while the heroine completes her wakeup routine, wiping the sleep off her mysteriously unsuspecting face, clad in a black or red or white negligee, and looking with exaggerated horror into the face of what might have been. My eyes are sealed shut to my might-have-been.


n these few moments awaiting my pyre, I have never been freer. We are invariably tied to a goal, an ideal, a motive, or desire that pulverizes the idea of freedom. Yet, there is a constant struggle to find that elusive sense of abandon. The fleeting moments rarely add up to a sustained perception of liberation. In my life, liberty was measured out like tonic. In small, spare doses. The past tense seems very apt here, for the future is just a thought away. When I was told about the death of my journalist father, who died in prison after a year of incarceration, the sense of relief that overwhelmed me was my moment of freedom. Freedom was when my fragile, beautiful mother killed herself. She had tumbled into the pewter pits of melancholy and depression and couldn’t see her way out. Or when my sister broke off her love affair and returned to us. Or when my brother got a scholarship for the coveted computer science program of a well-known university. Or when I joined the outlawed party of the people. Freedom was a word, an ideal that we met and talked about. But we were bound by the very act of desiring freedom.


s that the sound of music, I hear? As a youth, I’d heard of the rock star rebels who’d created music and sold it under the shallow guise of art, but it was more passion and politics that had pulled me into their record banner. The lyrics of nationalism and courage, I thought, in my supreme naïveté, would shield 36 • india currents • september 2011

me behind anagrams of combat and conflict. But the government spoke the same language with different words. Their words were obey, adhere, respond, and surrender. They solved our anagrams, parsed our rhetoric, and deciphered our allegorical references. Yet, I played my violin to the rebel drumbeat. I played in alleyways, in coffee shops, in college libraries, and in private homes. With the rage of past injustices thrumming inside me, I played to stray dogs and old ladies and babies in bassinets, and brothers and sisters and teachers and vegetable sellers. I forgot about the price I would have to pay. The music I hear today is nothing like the angry rhythm I am used to. It is soft and melodic and heralds the coming of my angels.


ach flame will rise up a little higher, curling at the very tip, like a batik pattern across space. The baby was in discomfort, her breathing painfully labored, as I laid her beside Gaia on the narrow bed. The afternoon sun reflected the brown batik pattern of Gaia’s sheet onto her translucent skin, and it seemed as though the child’s entire body glowed from within. The fire was inside her body. I looked down at the mother and child on the bed and exhaled loudly, willing my breath to cut across their thresholds. My wife and my child. That night the fragile child recovered but the mother died, giving up her battle easily, peacefully. Wrenched by the prospect of a life without Gaia, I left my child behind. It had been at my cousin Sachi’s wedding that I finally muscled up the courage to approach Gaia. I had seen her around town. She worked at a restaurant, waiting on tables. I made it a point to visit the restaurant once a week. She never once acknowledged me, never indicated that she recognized me or even that she knew what my order was going to be. “What would you like to eat?” she’d ask each time, with the same inflection of assumed obliviousness. “Breadbutterjamandtea,” I’d say, all in one breath. Each time, she laboriously wrote it all

out in her little pad. At the wedding, I watched her stride towards the buffet table, marveling at the fact that she was the tallest woman there, almost three inches taller than me. She loaded her plate with food and then she stood in a corner by the trash, and proceeded to remove all traces of mustard seeds from her plate with a fork. Dip, pick, trash. “Why do mustard seeds bother you?” I asked as I threw my cigarette butt into the trash. She cast a quick glance at me, laughed loudly, and continued on with her routine. Dip, pick, trash. “Do you know mustard gas blisters the skin? Small little mustard seeds form.” “It’s not as though you can taste them.” “Then what value do they serve?” she asked meeting my eyes. In one smooth swoop, she dumped her whole plate in the trash. “Let’s go get something to eat,” she said, pulling me by the hand. “I want to sing,” she said, later that evening, her voice lilting and tilting each word into a tune, and I didn’t know whether she wanted me to know that because she’d heard of my music. She finally sang at our wedding. She put words to my violin. Six months later, she was pregnant and in prison. She survived prison but died in childbirth. I played my violin at her funeral.


nd then the flames will engulf, crackling and dancing in the inferno. Just as I danced as a young boy, when my father received an award for fearless journalism. Those were the days when writing an expose meant ceaseless effort and endless praise. My mother had not stopped smiling. I’d worn a black suit and red tie to the event and watched my father rise up higher than anyone else. My last memory of my father was of a man whose body had rotted away in the damp of prison walls. Even after he died

legal of pneumonia, pamphlets of his writing still found their way to street corners. I collected them assiduously and created a folder titling it, “My Prison, My Future.” My sister is on the path to losing her future. I’ve seen her striated arms. When confronted, she denies it, and then remonstrates, “How could you think that of me?” I suspect that it is the hand of the government, feeding her narcotics to control her. My brother’s stammer is worse, these days. I patiently waited for him to finish when he told me last week, “Fuck You-youyou-you…you are the won, won, one that is the cau-cau-cau-cau-cau-cau-use of all our trou-trou-trou-trou-trou-troubles. I wish you would go away.” I asked him if our sister was on drugs and he told me to let her be. Later he apologized. I lost my day job as a welder in an auto parts factory, a few days ago. My boss told me that I was on the government watch list and the company would lose its license if they continued to employ me. I withdrew all my savings and left it in the “My Prison, My Future” folder. I play a word association game. Sachi, safe; Rio, radiation; Gaia, gone; Maya, memory; Father, fallen; mother, miserable; sister, sad; brother, bright; baby, blue; government, gleeful; future, fuck; rebel, rampage; childhood, cheerful; violent, victory; youth, yearning; music, martyr; now, nothing; violin, vindication; me, maudlin. Dip, Pick, Trash. I attend to the sound of a footfall. “We have good news for you,” a voice announces. I shift from one foot to the other. “We’ve decided to let you go.” I stay quiet, wrapped within my solipsistic preoccupation. “Did you hear me?” a strident demand. “We’ve decided to let you go!” A hand clutches my polyester shirt. “Yes, you’re going to be free!” Another ebullient voice. I hear the sound of a striking match.n

Jaya Padmanabhan is a prize-winning fiction writer.


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Judges’ comments: Shilpa Agarwal: This is a story about the utter destruction of a family because of their political beliefs. I appreciated its temporal balancing act—suspending the story in a single present moment while simultaneously revealing the protagonist’s past and gesturing toward his certain, irreversible future. The theme of fire is a smoldering presence throughout. Ronica Dhar: We had a remarkable number of submissions written in 1st person, and I found that this story showcased the best that perspective offers: it sustains a compelling and original voice.


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india currents • september 2011 • 37



Priyanka Chaurasia

Challenging the Concept of Microfinance MICROFINANCE AND ITS DISCONTENTS by Lamia Karim. University of Minnesota Press. Paperback. 296 pages. $25.


n March 2, 2011, the New York Times reported that Nobel Peace Prize Winner Muhammad Yunus was forced out of the Grameen Bank, which he had founded. Yunus’s bank pioneered microcredit, the provision of small loans to female village entrepreneurs in Bangladesh to fight poverty. Yunus’s dismissal, which was enacted by the central national bank and upheld by the Bangladesh High Court, was ostensibly because he had passed the retirement age. However, his termination also came in the wake of controversies surrounding microfinance in Bangladesh. Sheikh Hasina, the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, alleged that microfinance institutions (MFIs) were “sucking the blood from the poor in the name of poverty alleviation.” Yunus’s dismissal marks a rupture in the rosy narrative of microfinance. Does microfinance improve the lives of rural women? Yunus and the Grameen Bank frequently cite their high repayment rates as an indicator of both the reliability of the poor as borrowers, and as evidence of entrepreneurial success of the borrowers. In her recently published book, Microfinance and its Discontents, Lamia Karim explores what she calls a contradiction between the rhetoric of MFIs and the lived realities of their female clients. What is the story behind repayment rates? Which social factors do these numbers conceal? Karim begins by addressing the claims of microfinance. Grameen claims that rural women are natural entrepreneurs when, in fact, female borrowers’ husbands are often the de facto users of the loans. If men are the ultimate users of the loans, does microfinance empower women? Further still, repayment rates do not necessarily indicate an increase in women’s income. Women may be investing in existing low-income activities or their husband’s activities. Finally, repayment rates do not measure intra-household power relations. Women may still have to take care of their children, and often take a daughter out of school to help with the housework. Thus, a high repayment rate does not necessarily indicate female empowerment. Microfinance might even disempower women because women face unequal burdens upon default. The Grameen Bank has celebrated its 98% repayment rates, but Karim argues that many loans are forcibly recovered. Karim is most forceful in condemning microfinance’s use of shame to enforce loan repayment. 38 • india currents • september 2011

NGOs (non-governmental organizations) essentially transfer the administrative costs of loan recovery to rural communities, as other women in the group publicly humiliate women who cannot repay their loans. NGOs are also known to “break homes” of defaulters, meaning stripping one’s home and selling it for parts. Karim also recounts cases of NGOs locking defaulters in the NGO office or calling the police to arrest defaulters. Then, when the women are taken to court, they are doubly humiliated in public. In rural Bangladeshi society, where women are repositories for family honor, husbands have often abandoned their “shamed” wive after such humiliation at the hands of NGOs. Karim also emphasizes that not all MFI employees support such tactics, but many feel trapped by institutional demands for loan repayment. Many authors have exposed the weaknesses of MFIs in empowering women. However, Karim goes one step further and describes how the microfinance sector has become a pseudo-government in Bangladesh. She starts the narrative by describing Ziaur Rehman’s support of women-in-development (WID) issues in the mid-1970s to gain Western support for his government, as well as Lieutenant General Ershad’s sponsoring of the NGO sector to garner Western support in the 1980s. However, this relationship became complicated when Western donors preferred to conduct development work through the NGOs, claiming NGOs were more efficient and well equipped to work with the communities. What is the true meaning of empowerment? What did these powerful NGOs do for the poor? Karim describes how these

influential NGOs shifted focus from addressing structural inequalities to financial services. The shift was gradual and political, and today, Karim argues, the NGO sector focuses almost exclusively on financial solvency. Karim questions whether the NGOs’ newfound emphasis on making profits empowers women at all. Karim provides one example in which BRAC (Bangladeshi Rehabilitation Assistance Committee) managers “often intimidated and coerced the women into accepting [a] ‘poultry farm concept.’” Since BRAC would make money off of women’s poultry farm enterprises, BRAC eagerly conscripted existing female borrowers into becoming poultry farmers. Women were generally ignorant of the risks and expensive inputs involved in poultry farming, and rarely earned the high income promised by BRAC officials. Karim’s research is thorough and her insights, fascinating. However, at times, she extrapolates too far. Where some examples discuss one particular MFI, usually Grameen, she makes claims about “NGOs” in Bangladesh. Her insights about the NGO in question are compelling enough; it is unnecessary to apply those insights to the NGO sector as a whole. Further, Karim has the peculiar habit of referring to herself as a native researcher. Throughout the book, Karim refers back to her native perspective, contrasting it to that of (white, male, Western) foreign researchers. For example, she does not have to rely on NGOs to access the local people. In fact, her ethnographic site, Pirpur Thana, is incredibly inconvenient to get to from Dhaka, and has largely been ignored by foreign researchers. She prides herself on these qualities. However, while Karim is from Bangladesh and knows the language, customs, and verbal and non-verbal ways of communication, she is not as “native” as she claims to be. She relies heavily on two native research assistants, and often admits she would be unable to do her job without them. In one humorous anecdote, Karim describes how her short hair raised so many questions among Bangladeshi women that her assistant told the women that Karim had been sick and had to shave her head. Should a researcher’s “native credentials” lend more credibility to his or her work? Karim seems to think so. But her consistent claims of “nativeness” were more of a distraction from her otherwise thoughtful and provocative research.n Priyanka Chaurasia recently graduated from Columbia University with an MA in Human Rights.

india currents • september 2011 • 39

Geetika Pathania Jain

Tara Menon

A Hard Life

SARASWATI’S WAY by Monica Schroder. Frances Foster Books. 240 pages. Hardcover. $16.99.


onika Schroder, a librarian at the American Embassy in New Delhi and former teacher at international schools in Chile, Egypt, and Oman, has made a second career for herself as an author of middle-grade children’s novels. Knowing the hopes and aspirations of children and being acquainted with different cultures give her an advantage as a writer of literary fiction for kids. Her debut novel, The Dog in the Wood, is set in World War II Germany and features a family of refuges. Her forthcoming and third book, My Brother’s Shadow, takes place in post-World War I Berlin. Saraswati’s Way, her current and sole nonhistorical fiction novel, features an orphan in India facing harsh realities reminiscent of Oliver Twist. It has already garnered a few honors, including the Notable Social Studies Tradebook for Young People. Schroder’s matterof-fact narrative style blunts the impact of the sad events in 12-year-old Akash’s life for the young reader. One of the most tragic events has already occurred at the start of the novel; his mother has died, giving birth to a baby that lived only for three days. Akash has no recollection of his mother despite his attempts to remember what she looked like. He lives with his extended family in a two-room hut, but they live in dire poverty. Akash, however, has been blessed with a gift for numbers and his greatest desire is to win a scholarship to a better school. Shortly after his father dies, Akash’s grandmother sends him away with their landlord so Akash can ease their debt by working on the man’s quarry. Eventually, the boy runs away to Delhi, where he falls into the company of a gang of railway children who pick pockets and inhale glue to stave off their hunger. (Each of the kids has their own heartbreaking story, invoking the compassion of the reader for the parentless boys and girls who frequent train stations.) Sometimes, Akash has to face moral dilmmas, but no matter what he does, the boy comes off as a believable and likeable protago40 • india currents • september 2011

Second Chances nist. His undiluted love for mathematics, his courage to survive his ordeals, and his determination, in the face of countless obstacles, to get into a school are all endearing traits. Schroder’s language is poetic and vivid. “Their bare branches ended in thick knobs held upward like the fists of angry men. The drought had left the soil cracked, and the spice plants looked starved. Sometimes a trickle of rain speckled the ground enough to give off the promising smell of wet mud. But after this cruel teaser the sky … gave no relief from the sticky heat … like a punishment with no end in sight.” The writer also conveys a good sense of culture with her descriptions of festivals and Akash’s father’s funeral rites, without indulging in them for the sake of inclusion. (Her one inconsistency, though perhaps intentionally done for clarity, is referring to the village boy’s uncle and aunt as Uncle Jagdesh and Aunt Kamla while using Indian terms for his father and grandmother—Bapu and Dadima.) Her author’s note would have been more helpful if she had explained that the majority of Hindus worship God in many forms and call Him by different names, but they believe the many forms to be aspects of the same God. Schreoder does not underestimate the child reader’s ability to grapple with serious issues, including a vignette of a molester trying to lure Akash. She shines the spotlight on underprivileged lives in Saraswati’s Way and acknowledges in her author’s note that in real life there would only be a “slim chance” for a boy like Akash to fulfill his dream. Readers will find the novel enlightening about the preferential treatment of boys, child labor, Vedic shortcuts for math, and Indian culture. Young readers may feel grateful for the education they receive as well as an understanding that others less privileged than them also possess dignity, courage, and aspirations and that all children deserve to have the chance for a good life. n Tara Menon is a freelance writer based in Lexington, Massachusetts.

SIX METERS OF PAVEMENT by Farzana Doctor. Dundurn Press. 340 pages. Paperback. $22.99.


ix Metres of Pavement tells a moving story of the coming together of a “prefab family” of a man, woman, and child. The reader is left with a firm idea that a family can take many forms, traditional and otherwise, a cause promoted by gay families continuing their struggle for political legitimacy. The six metres become emblematic of the small divides that can frequently prevent us from finding each other, gay or straight, brown or white. The “child,” 20-year-old Fatima, is by far the most interesting character, a feisty bisexual University student whose parents have had an extremely adverse reaction to the revelations of her sexuality. Homeless and running out of funds, Fatima turns to the main protagonist, Ismail, for help. Ismail, the “man,” is a rather melancholy middle-aged character full of regrets and selfrecrimination, unable to give up reminders of “an old love and an enduring mistake.” An accident that happened almost twenty years ago has left an emotional scar that has healed insufficiently. Luckily for us, the “woman” Celia draws Ismail into a sweet late-life romance even as the palette of her monochromatic widow’s wardrobe becomes more colorful. Through Celia’s character, Doctor interrogates the psyche of a widow who has served her family all her life and is now quite literally looking for a room of her own. Defying societal expectations that grandmothers simply fade away as they age, Celia is experiencing a new vitality and sense of independence. The narrative is set in the northerly climes of Toronto, this chilly adopted homeland providing the site for a writing class attended by Ismail and Fatima. The self-referential allusion to the art of writing itself is an interesting literary device. The reader is allowed an insight into how these characters see each other, and the stories they create of their own lives, much like a Russian doll of story within story. The book is populated with a cast of desi stereotypes. Our characters have found themselves transgressing the strict moral codes of the desi immigrant. Fatima can find only censure and paranoia from her parents Hassan and Shelina, who entreat her to reform and become a “good girl.” Nabil, a pillar of the community, is emblematic of the model immigrant who has become successful and can now dispense advice to his brother Ismail, who, as a divorced loner who drinks too much, must listen. For Ismail has made the mistake


of giving up on his dreams: “A starter home is supposed to be temporary. Ismail was supposed to be the sort of husband who would ascend through the ranks of the public service, his income rising with each annual promotion… they’d move to a detached four-bedroom with a big backyard and a two-car garage in an [sic] postal code where the property taxes were higher and the schools better.” Ismail’s inability to stay away from the Merry Pint, a local watering hole, and his unsatisfactory hookups with the Merry Pinters, women who frequent the bar, have left him with self-loathing and self-pity that make Hunter Thompson seem well-adjusted. He cries frequently. It was while reading about another of Ismail’s lachrymose lapses that I found myself speculating about a cinematic adaptation of the book, and who would populate it. The book falls with ease within the rich tradition of the social problem novel. Six Metres of Pavement does an important job of making homosexuality acceptable, promoting multicultural understanding, and sympathizing with the aspirations of women. No wonder the Toronto Arts Council and the Ontario Arts Council have supported this work. Some readers might question whether Six Metres of Pavement has an “edutainment” agenda. Remember the first Indian soap opera Hum Log (1984) commissioned by the Indian government broadcast television channel, Doordarshan? Tucked away within the storyline were messages encouraging family planning and other pro-social values. I am happy to report that any such edification in this book has been well integrated within the human drama that the author describes with skill and flair. n Geetika Pathania Jain earned her doctorate in International Communications. She lives in Cupertino and teaches media courses for the University of Phoenix Online.


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Nipun Mehta

The Seed Planters of Tomorrow We need a new generation of value-based philanthropists


uring a tour of the East Coast a while ago, I spent a couple of days at a United Nations summit that, as a Forbes headline called it, “Inspires Next Generation of Billionaires to Give Back.” The young people assembled must have had enough aggregate wealth, power and influence, to have U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon address us. Overall, I noticed an interesting trend in the youthful group of influential change agents. They all wanted to change the world, and do it in the quickest way possible. In a mad race for impact, plain ol’ philanthropy was quickly falling out of favor. Instead it was all about venture philanthropy and impact investing. Rinse, lather, repeat. And scale. Do it at Twitter speed. Be hyper efficient. If it doesn’t scale, you’re not doing it right. It’s almost as if the culture of rush, ambition, and greed had crashed into the calm waters of selfless giving. When I heard a 21-year-old talk about creating an incubator for “billion dollar solutions” and laying out his vision for “privatizing diplomacy,” I had to smile. Personally speaking, I give because it transforms me. That transformation creates a stillness in my mind and allows me to see more clearly. That clarity is the foundation for the decisions I take in my life and the systems I create for the world. And it all starts with a small act of generosity. If we lose connection to that small and

44 • india currents • september 2011

subtle, the “impact” is purely external. Surely that plays an important role in the world, but we can’t lose our sensitivity to the value of our inner experience. In New York, a few volunteers from nonprofit CharityFocus had organized a Wednesday gathering with about 30 folks. At the event, one person was in tears; another later said, “That was the most lovefilled room I’ve seen in New York!” In just the elevator ride down 13 flights, people spontaneously started tagging each other with small gifts. That kind of value can’t be measured in numbers, but that doesn’t imply we don’t need systems to hold that value. In my talk, I framed the work of CharityFocus across three domains—personal, organizational, and systemic. First, we honor the inner transformation that is a result of selfless service. That state of personal well-being is extensively documented across repeated research. Second, we incubate projects whose value can’t easily be monetized or counted. Kindness shouldn’t just be relegated to “corporate social responsibility” for Starbucks; good news shouldn’t just appear in a small column on Page C12 of the New York Times. If we, as a culture, don’t have platforms to amplify this kind of value, it’s going to get lost. Third, we create micro gift-economies where participants reframe transactions as gifts. All of us donate blood on a gift basis, but can we run a restaurant like that in Chicago or an art magazine in Oakland or a rickshaw in India? It doesn’t grow the GDP at all but it surely enhances a community’s social cohesion and trust, and creates a new dimension of value creation. At its core, such kind of subtle activism requires a radical shift in one’s time-frame. The impact of such projects is multi-generational. Some progressive venture capitalists now speak about “patient capital,” but insiders will tell you that this “patience” is a far cry from the seventh generation guiding principle of Native Americans. These ideas most definitely have their place, but in a world where billion-dollar ideas like YouTube and FaceBook didn’t even exist a decade ago, how do we get centered in the long-term? When Japan faced the tsunami

earlier this year, it was the only country to not have any looting or crime. It was remarkable. Yet, it wasn’t the work of a corporation, or an NGO, or a government—it was the work of a culture, whose anonymous ancestors planted those seeds generations ago. Buildings will come and go, projects will come and go, people will come and go, movements will come and go but it is the underlying values that will make an impact for a long time to come. What the world needs most are the seed planters of that kind of culture. Those are the value-based philanthropists of our time. Not just those with money, but even folks like me, who would be classified by the IRS as “poor.” On my ride to the airport, my cab driver was a Pakistani man named Habib. Queens Tunnel was jammed so we took an alternate route, all of which made for a good excuse to connect. I learned all about the life of a cabbie. After 13 years of riding cabs, Habib had seen it all. “The worst is when kids come in and just run out of the cab without paying,” he tells me at one point. “Really? Does that happen a lot?” “Oh yeah, every day. It just leaves me in a bad mood, you know?” “Can’t you do anything about it?” “It takes too much time to report it, so we have to just move on to the next customer. But it really leaves a sour taste in your mouth, for the rest of the day, you know?” I knew. As I was leaving, I paid and left a nice tip. Just then, I found a little stuffed smile button in my pocket, so I leaned across the window separating us and told him, “Habib, I want to give you something small. It is a smiley-button made by women in the slums of India.” With a silent prayer, I hand it to him. “Whenever someone leaves your cab without paying, just look at this and remind yourself that good will prevail in the world.” He smiled genuinely. As I was rolling out my bags towards the airport screen doors, something told me to turn around. Sure enough, I saw him looking straight at me, waving his hand in a very cute, fatherly way. It’s doubtful that the impact investors of today can find replicable, scalable, measurable value in that encounter with Habib. But I sure hope that our next-generation philanthropists do.n Nipun Mehta is the founder of that incubates gift-economy projects globally. Visit for their projects in India.

india currents • september 2011 • 45



Khorshed Alam

Cancellation of Debt (COD) Income I

n the current economic climate foreclosures and short sales have become more commonplace. When a taxpayer negotiates with a creditor to settle his/her debt that is $600 or more, then the taxpayer should know that he/she will receive a Form 1099-C (Cancellation of Debt) from the financial entity, which may be a federal government agency, a bank, a credit union, or any organization in which a significant part of its trade or business involves the lending of money. The taxpayer should be aware of the fact that such financial institutions are required to file Form 1099-C with the IRS when a debt is forgiven. In 2010 well over three million of these forms were sent by creditors to taxpayers and the IRS. Accordingly, this debt cancellation has to be recognized in tax returns this year. Generally, if a debt for which a taxpayer is personally liable is canceled or forgiven, other than as a gift or bequest, the taxpayer must include the canceled amount in income. When the money was borrowed the taxpayer was not required to include the loan proceeds in income because he/she had an obligation to repay the lender. When that obligation is subsequently forgiven, the amount received as loan proceeds is normally reportable as income because the taxpayer no longer has an obligation to repay the lender. Internal Revenue Code Section 61 defines gross income as the money constructively received by the taxpayer during the year having no obligation to repay, irrespective of its source. When a taxpayer receives a Form 1099C it is important not to ignore it because it could have substantial tax implications. It may create a tax liability for the taxpayer because the canceled debt is considered income for tax purposes, unless statutory exceptions apply. The taxpayer may have the ability to reduce or eliminate this Cancellation of Debt (COD) Income, if they were insolvent immediately before the cancellation. The amount of debt forgiven must be reported on Form 982 (Reduction of Tax Attributes Due to Discharge of Indebtedness) and this form must be attached to the taxpayer’s tax return. Insolvent taxpayers are required to provide a statement showing their total assets and total liabilities at the point in time immediately prior to the cancellation of debt indicating that the liabilities were greater than assets. For the purposes of completing Form 982, the IRS considers a taxpayer insolvent if the total of all of the person’s liabilities exceeded the fair-market value (FMV) of all of that person’s assets. To determine insolvency, assets include everything the taxpayer owns, 46 • india currents • september 2011

e.g., car, house, condominium, furniture, life insurance policies, stocks, other investments, or pension and other retirement accounts, including assets that serve as collateral for debt and exempt assets which are beyond the reach of creditors under the law, such as interest in a pension plan and the value of a retirement account. Liabilities include the entire amount of recourse debts, and the amount of nonrecourse debt that is not in excess of the FMV of the property that is security for the debt. If the taxpayer hasn’t listed the income on their tax return and the creditor has provided the information to the IRS, the taxpayer could get a tax bill or an audit notice which could end up costing a lot in terms of additional taxes, interest, and penalties. In such situation, the first thing to do is to figure out whether the taxpayer qualifies for an exclusion or exception. The most common situations when COD Income may not be taxable involve: • Insolvency: As mentioned above, if the taxpayer is insolvent when the debt is cancelled, some or all of the cancelled debt may not be taxable. • Qualified Principal Residence Indebtedness: This is the exception created by the Mortgage Debt Relief Act of 2007 and applies to most homeowners. If the debt was from a mortgage on a primary residence lost in foreclosure, sold in a short sale, or from a restructured mortgage, the taxpayer still needs to include this forgiven mortgage on their tax return, but on Form 982, and shouldn’t face any tax penalty on it. Debt reduced through mortgage restructuring, as well as mortgage debt forgiven in connection with a foreclosure, qualifies for the relief. This provision applies to debt forgiven in calendar years 2007 through 2012. Up to $2 million of forgiven debt is eligible for this exclusion ($1 million if married filing separately), as stated in IRS Publication 4681. • Bankruptcy: Debts discharged through bankruptcy are not considered taxable income. The debt will be discharged in bankruptcy (unless the debt was incurred for business or investment purposes). • Certain Farm Debts: If the taxpayer incurred the debt directly in operation of a farm, more than half the taxpayer’s income from the prior three years was from farming, and the loan was owed to a person or agency regularly engaged in lending, the cancelled debt is generally not considered taxable income. • Non-Recourse Loans: A non-recourse loan is a loan for which the lenders only rem-

edy in case of default is to repossess the property being financed or used as collateral. That is, the lender cannot pursue the taxpayer personally in case of default. Forgiveness of a non-recourse loan resulting from a foreclosure should not result in COD Income. However, it may result in other tax consequences. • Student Loans. Student loans forgiven by an educational institution that is taxexempt are exempt if the taxpaper works for a certain number of years for a qualified employer. The taxpayer’s student loan cancellation will not result in taxable income if they agreed to a loan provision requiring him/her to work in a certain profession for a specified period of time, and they subsequently fulfilled this obligation. Additionally the student loan must have been made by (a) the federal government, or a state or local government or subdivision; (b) a tax-exempt public benefit corporation which has control of a state, county or municipal hospital where the employees are considered public employees; or (c) a school which has a program to encourage students to work in underserved occupations or areas, and has an agreement with one of the above to fund the program, under the direction of a governmental unit or a charitable or educational organization. The Internal Revenue Service Publication 4681 contains more information on the tax consequences of canceled debt. It also contains specific instructions on how to complete Form 982. When a taxpayer receives a 1099C, it should be kept with the taxpayer’s tax documents. Be it noted that such document should be made available to the tax preparer and provide the tax preparer with information regarding the taxpayers total liabilities and the FMV of assets as they were immediately before the cancellation of debt. State tax laws for cancelled debts may differ from that of federal tax law. When in doubt, consult a tax professional to help determine the tax consequences of COD Income.n The tax information contained in this article is of a general nature and should not be acted upon in your specific situation without further details and/or professional assistance. Khorshed Alam is a practicing CPA and Business Valuation Analyst. Check out http: // or call (408) 445-1120.

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Nidhi Asthana

A Village on the Tonle Sap

Vending on the river


he past sometimes unfairly overshadows contemporary delights. The ancient temples of Khajuraho are held up as magnificent examples of Indian history and culture, but what I remember from my visit there is the blind beggar singing folk songs outside an ancient temple in Khajuraho. He used a one-stringed ektara to keep time and weave a musical backdrop to the high-pitched dirge about a tragedy from the Ramayana. The temple is now a hazy image in the mind’s eye, but the song lives on in my memory. Similar, perhaps, is the tragedy that the natural beauty of the Tonle Sap, the great lake south of Angkor, is condemned to. It will always live in the shadow of the Empire That Was and the great temples at Angkor. The Khmer Empire (9th to 13th centuries AD) stretched over parts of modern Laos, Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar, and Malaysia at various times. The site of its capital at its zenith is Angkor in modern day Cambodia, famous for its astonishing architectural masterpieces. Had we not arrived in Siem Riep, the gateway to the Angkor region, after the “closing time” of the great Angkor and Bayon temples, we would probably have never bothered with the floating village on the

Tonle Sap. Luckily, a whole evening had to be whiled away. A two-hour ride on a noisy motorboat took us to see the sun setting on the Tonle Sap. The locals call it the “sea of fresh water.” I soon saw why. The moment we broke away from the kilometre-long inlet the shores were nowhere to be seen. The impact was even more dramatic because we had to leave the blinkers of the inlet to sail into the wider expanse of the lake. My guidebook told me that the Tonle Sap is 140 kilometers (87 miles) long and covers an area of 3,000 square kilometres (1,150 square miles).


t has been recorded and acknowledged that the Tonle Sap lake was the lifeline of the Khmers. Its waters undergo a natural annual phenomenon that elicits fascination: the southern end of the Tonle Sap lake is linked to the Mekong River by the Tonle Sap river. When the snows melt in the faraway Himalayas, the waters travel right up to China to enter the Mekong. They then travel south as part of the Mekong, which may not always be able to accommodate these extra waters. When the Mekong backs up, the overflow forces the Tonle Sap river to flow in the reverse direction. When this happens every year, between July and

October, the Tonle Sap river feeds the Tonle Sap lake, which doubles in size (and here I was—thinking that it couldn’t get any huger!) At the end of this season, the extra waters drain off and the Tonle Sap river reverses its direction, causing the Tonle Sap lake to revert to its original size. The best part about the tale of the two rivers—the Mekong and the Tonle Sap—was that it evoked a lot of mental imagery: the trees I had just passed actually go under water and the people on the banks (who I definitely could not see) abandon their homes to move to the hills. Apparently, some homes also stand on stilts to accommodate this annual drama.


he young boy steering our boat sailed into the sunset with single-minded focus because this is what we were there to do—to see the sun disappearing into the great lake, a beautiful sight indeed. But why hadn’t anybody hyped the sights we passed while sailing into the horizon? It was a village on the lake, spread around us! Pedestrian activities took on magical contours because they were being played out on water. I could imagine people on ships, but here was a whole village on floating homes and boats. Think village, think farming: we saw india currents • september 2011 • 51

patches of floating crops—just hydroponics … on a bigger scale. Some homes had fenced off areas adjacent to them; these were no backyards, but fish farms. However, not all the animals we saw were aquatic. Other than the pet cats and dogs that seemed perfectly at home in their floating dwellings, we saw a floating pig sty; porcine bottoms peeped out from between the wooden beams that made up the walls. Think village, think petty commerce: Not only were vendors of groceries and food rowing their wares to buyers’ homes, there were also proper stores and shops; a colorful and chaotic jumble—tin and cardboard boxes, jars and bottles, sachets, ketchup and shampoo—as Asian mom-and-pop stores are wont to be. These gaily painted shop/homes had balconies in front—a suitable landing stage for the clients. A prosperous home, with a wrought iron swing on an extension, had cut-outs on the walls of flashy models in fashionable poses. A hair dresser? I couldn’t be sure. The long arm of law easily reached here—there was a police station. Then there was a series of very dull colored cabins strung together like the carriages of a train. A little way off was the “engine”—bigger and much brighter; its second floor was covered by a wire mesh. This whole ensemble was the village school. The cabins were the classrooms. The area inside the mesh, then, was the outdoor gym and assembly hall! What exactly were the denizens of the fascinating village doing that evening? Perfectly ordinary things, of course. Here was a girl paddling off in her canoe, probably to dock at a friend’s for a chat. And there a family of Vietnamese descent, the woman’s hat a give-away, rowing away vigorously for what probably was just an evening jaunt— father, mother and three beautiful children. The Vietnamese, we were told, arrived here not just since the war with America. The Mekong has linked the peoples of Cambodia and Vietnam for hundreds of years: rarely peacefully. Arrivals in modern times are attributed to the fact that “It is easier to make money in Cambodia,” contrary to what economists would have us believe! Immigrants, as always, are resented and are held responsible for the fish population going down. The sighting of the Vietnamese family and the ensuing conversation immediately explained the family altars we had seen in some of the homes. Their red and gold glory had been visible from afar, proudly proclaiming the Chinese influence on their Vietnamese culture. One other thing shone constantly, even in the shabbiest of homes—the utensils on the wall of the kitchens. The kitchens were just open spaces at one end of each boat-home. Each kitchen had a roof but no outer walls, except for the one of the adjacent cabin (making the rear). It was sheer pleasure to 52 • india currents • september 2011

Sun setting on the Tonle Sap

Vietnamese Family

look at neat rows of bottles and jars stacked on racks and the gleaming colanders, pots, and pans hanging at neat intervals from nails on the rear wall. Some kitchen fires, made with wood in the old-fashioned way, were going at this evening hour; it made the utensils reflect the rich orange. I saw no contradiction in wood burning merrily surrounded by water because I saw how it was stored—atop high platforms on stilts, to keep it dry. Not all homes were humble; a few boasted music systems, televisions, carpets … the works. However, even the more prosperous ones seemed to have tiny tin toilet-sheds at the back. How the smaller boat-homes managed was not so evident. Did I feel awkward about gaping and gawking? Strangely, no, because nobody seemed to be noticing the tourists; not in the deliberate manner of those fed up of outsiders, but of those unconcerned about visitors. This made the whole experience genuine and refreshing. There was not a single soul smiling shallow smiles at any of the tourist boats. The only people who took notice of us were small children who made it a point to wave, but their faces were unsmiling, too. Could it be the travails of living on water? It couldn’t possibly be all fun. Mosquitoes, for instance. There was no discernable system for sewage management, so diseases could not be far away. I didn’t see a floating hospital, though I hope there are doctors floating around there somewhere. A living proof that tourism hadn’t caught the imagination of the village folk were two big restaurant boats or mini-ships. They

were alien to the setting. A few tourists were lounging around on the upper decks, but the crew seemed to be imported from elsewhere. That they could mill around and sell handicrafts to the few visiting tourists had probably not occurred to the villagers. Yet another proof that they were still untouched by commercial forces. The biggest tragedy about tourism in adulthood is not that food doesn’t taste that good anymore. It may have more to do with loss of wonder; reading travel guides and making detailed arrangements do take their toll. I rediscovered some of that wonder and curiosity in the floating village. It came with the realisation that broadening of some people’s horizons comes at the expense of the loss of innocence of some others. n How to get to the Tonle Sap Lake: The closest airport is at Siem Reap in Cambodia. It is well connected to the major cities in South East Asia—Phnom Penh, Bangkok, Singapore, etc. Overland travel is possible from the surrounding countries of Laos, Vietnam, and Thailand. There are taxi, bus, and van services between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, but the crossing at Aranyaprathet is the closest to Siem Reap. There is also a ferry service between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. Local taxis are available for hire in Siem Reap. An arrangement could be worked out to bring you to the boats. Till she became an “accompanying spouse” to her peripatetic husband, Nidhi Asthana was an India-based educational technologist.

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Malar Gandhi

The Humble Yet Exotic Naan N

aan bread is a staple in Central and South Asia, including Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Iran, and India. The word “naan” may trace its etymology to an old Persian word, “nagna,” which means naked or bare, perhaps referring to the style of baking it uncovered. Today the word simply means bread in its land of origin, though in South Asia it has come to mean a specific kind of leavened bread. According to one hypothesis, both tandoori roti and naan came into existence in Indian cuisine after Hindu refugees from Afghanistan migrated to India in the early 1300s. They brought with them a kind of clay oven called the tandoor, which eventually became popular throughout India. Amir Khusrau, a noted poet of the times, describes naan-e-tanuk (light bread), and naan-e-tanduri (cooked in a tandoor) in his work. The Mughal emperor Jahangir is credited with making the tandoor portable. However, a variety of naan may have been baked as early as the Harappan period. Exca-

Garlic Naan Ingredients 4 cups all-purpose flour 1⁄4 ounce dry active yeast 4-6 teaspoons sugar salt to taste 3 tablespoons whole milk 6 cloves garlic, minced 1⁄4 cup clarified butter (ghee) In a wide bowl, mix 1⁄4 cup of warm water, sugar, and yeast. Let this stand for about 10 minutes, or until frothy. Add salt, milk, and flour and knead to a soft dough. Leave this in a well-greased, lidded bowl. As the dough will rise to 2-3 times its original volume, make sure that the bowl is large enough. Allow this to stand for at least 4-5 hours at room temperature. Divide the dough into small balls of about 4 centimeters diameter each. Add about a 1⁄4 teaspoon of minced garlic to each ball and knead thoroughly. Then press it into a teardrop shape. Sprinkle minced garlic on top and glaze with melted butter. Heat up a charcoal oven and wait till it is reddish hot. Grill for about 2 minutes on 58 • india currents • september 2011

Peshawari Naan, top Sheermal, left

vations at Kalibangan, (Rajasthan, India) show evidences of mud-plastered small clay ovens in primitive kitchens which resemble the tandoor very closely. Naan is typically leavened with yeast, though it was also left to ferment naturally in the past. Cooks also add milk or yoghurt to the dough to make it soft and fluffy. Over time, variations have sprung up all over

each side. Wait till they are slightly puffed and lightly browned. The naan can also be baked in a conventional oven for 30 minutes at 350° F. Serve warm with a curry of your choice.


A light sweet snack from the naan family.

Ingredients 1 cup all-purpose flour 1⁄4 ounce dry active yeast 4-6 teaspoons sugar 2 tablespoons whole milk 1 tablespoon golden raisins 1⁄4 teaspoon saffron 1⁄4 cup clarified butter Prepare the liquid starter as mentioned in the Garlic Naan recipe. Add milk, saffron, and flour and knead thoroughly to a soft dough. Place the dough in a well-greased, lidded bowl. Let stand for at least 2 hours at room temperature. Divide the dough into small balls of 2 centimeters diameter each. Roll into a thin square flatbread and stud with raisins. Glaze with melted butter. Bake in a conventional oven for about 20

the subcontinent. We have regional specialties like Afghanistan naan, seasoned with cumin or caraway seeds; Pakistani naan is made aromatic with rose petals, saffron, or khus (vetiver); Myanmar naan bya is served during breakfast with tea or coffee, often accompanied with boiled peas and soup; Indian naan is usually glazed with ghee and flavored with garlic while the Peshawar and Kashmir variations are enriched with dry fruits and nuts. Malar Gandhi is a freelance writer who specializes in culinary anthropology and gourmet Indian cooking. She also blogs about Indian food at

minutes at 350° F. Wait till the breads are slightly puffed. Serve warm as a snack along with tea or coffee.

Peshawari Naan Ingredients 4 cups all-purpose flour 1⁄4 ounce dry active yeast 4-6 teaspoons sugar salt to taste 3 tablespoons whole milk 1⁄4 tablespoon coarsely grated almonds 1⁄4 tablespoon coarsely grated cashew nuts 1⁄4 tablespoon coarsely grated pistachios 1⁄4 cup clarified butter Make dough as mentioned in the Garlic Naan recipe above. Divide the dough into small balls of about 4 centimeters diameter each. Add 2 teaspoons of mixed grated nuts to each ball and knead thoroughly. Then press each ball into a teardrop shape. Glaze the dough with melted butter. Grill the naan in the charcoal oven or conventional oven for 30 minutes at 350° F. Serve warm as a main course.

india currents • september 2011 • 59

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Teed Rockwell

Thinking Outside Pandora’s Box Sameer Gupta brings Indian music to Internet radio


hen I first found myself wanting to play Indian classical music I was, like many young lovers, scared of commitment. It was bad enough when I was a rock and country musician who wanted to play jazz in coffee houses, where most of the jobs paid little or nothing. I was living on the East Coast, and didn’t know of anyone else who would even listen to Indian music, let alone pay for it. Even the so-called alternative radio stations never considered Indian music to be a viable alternative, even if they played Sun Ra and Ornette Coleman. Sometimes I fantasized about starting my own radio program that played nothing but Indian music, but I never had the time or the faith to pursue the idea. Until now, that is. Thanks to Pandora Internet radio (, I have created “narrowcast” stations in less than a minute by typing into my cellphone. These stations have names like Ali Akbar Khan Radio, Carnatic Violin Radio, or Indian Slide Guitar radio. By hooking my cellphone into my car stereo system, I can listen to each kind of music wherever I go and whenever I want, with a sound quality that surpasses FM. Pandora’s “music genome” automatically selects songs that are similar to these artists and genres, and creates a playlist as artfully as the most knowledgeable radio host. This process is computerized in a certain sense, but it is not a souped-up version of the airlines message machine that hears the difference between the words “departure” and “arrival.” The actual listening is done by a team of 25 highly skilled musicians, who have listened to over 900,000 songs and rated them for possession of 450 different attributes. The computer assembles their ratings into a multi-dimensional similarity space, so that selecting one song will automatically connect you to a similar one. If a song comes up that I don’t like, I can click on the “thumbs down” button. This will not only bypass that song, but also reshape the station so that it will no longer select that kind of song for that radio station in the future. Listener’s choices are also statistically analyzed to reshape the selections offered on similar radio stations created by other listeners. “We rely both on our experts and on the wisdom of crowds,” says Pandora founder Tim Westergren. “The genome is really a hypothesis generator, and we use customer feedback to confirm or deny its hypotheses.” Pandora is available only in the United States because of copyright issues (all Pan76 • india currents • september 2011

Sameer Gupta

dora musicians receive royalties each time their music is played), so it is understandable that the music genome initially focused on western music. Eventually the music genome expanded to include respectable selections of different kinds of world music: African, South American, Chinese etc. The selection of Indian music, however, is especially outstanding. This is almost entirely the work of Sameer Gupta: Pandora music analyst, jazz drummer, and tabla player. Gupta was brought in as a jazz analyst, but he has strong family ties to India. Although he was born in the United States, his family visited India every year when he was growing up, and he continues to study in Calcutta with his tabla guru Anindo Chatterjee. He wanted a broad range of Indian music in the genome, including all kinds of folk, classical, and popular music. Similar requests were coming in from employee’s friends, and from customer support emails. So Westergren decided to fund Gupta’s next trip to India, and gave him a generous budget for buying CDs in both Calcutta and Delhi. “I didn’t want to make just the obvious choices,” says Gupta, “I wanted people who selected Ravi Shankar to discover other sitar players like Nikhil Bannerjee and Shahid Parvez. I also wanted help finding artists that I hadn’t heard yet.” His first expedition was to Melody Music in Calcutta, near the Rama Krishna Mission at Gol Park. Gupta tried to explain what he wanted to the store owner, but Gupta speaks no Bengali and the store owner’s Hindi was uncertain at best. On his

fourth visit, Gupta realized that the owner must have learned his Hindi primarily from Bollywood films, and adjusted his accent accordingly. Once the owner understood Sameer’s mission, he gave the project his personal touch, selecting the classic songs from every era, and making sure the CDs contained no overlapping tracks. In Delhi, which was Gupta’s family home town, his Hindi served him well, and a music store near Connaught place treated him like a long lost native son. “They were so excited about what we were doing, they welcomed me into their home and gave me the full Indian hospitality treatment; chai, biscuits, namkeen. I was glad I skipped the big chains; I really appreciated that personal touch.” On his return, Gupta developed a set of attributes for placing Indian music in the music genome, such as which taals were used, and which swaras were in the melodic scale. He even developed a method for measuring which notes in a given scale were used most frequently, which enabled him to identify ragas that had similar vadi and samvadi. He then had to teach these attributes to a team of five other music analysts. “I was the only one who knew any of the Indian musical terms, so I had to do things like refer to komal re as a flatted second. I showed them pictures of all the instruments, and went through chart after chart of ragas. It was a lot of work, but I’ve managed to create some hard core Indian music fans.” Gupta acknowledges that he learned as much as he taught during this process. “When I was a kid, I had no interest in the Bollywood music my parents were listening to. I started out liking heavy metal, then graduated to jazz, then Hindustani classical. But doing this project, I really learned to appreciate the golden era of Bollywood, when the playback singers also did ghazals and other semi-classical music, and before more pop elements were brought in during the 70s and 80s. My father usually doesn’t pay much attention when I do my music analysis on the computer in the living room. But I when I was analyzing this music, he would sit next to me on the sofa, and say ‘come on, let’s do the next one.’ It was a great bonding experience for both of us.” n Teed Rockwell has studied Indian classical music with Ali Akbar Khan and other great Indian musicians. He is the first person to play Hindustani music on the Touchstyle Fretboard.

india currents • september 2011 • 77

I C films Aniruddh Chawda

On Hollowed Ground AARAKSHAN. Director: Prakash Jha. Players: Amitabh Bachchan, Saif Ali Khan, Deepika Padukone, Manoj Bajpayee, Prateik Babbar. Music: Shanker Ehsaan Loy. Theatrical release (Reliance).


or dwelling on topical, politically charged themes, few Indian filmmakers have attracted as much attention in recent years as Prakash Jha. Gangaajal (2003) borrowed from the true story of a wave of police brutality in response to frustration over their powerlessness in Jha’s native Bihar. Apaharan (2005) again returned to gangland Bihar after a wave of sensational political kidnappings swept the region. Rajneeti (2010), Jha’s biggest box office hit, also attracted attention for plotting a powerful political matriarch that drew parallels to Sonia Gandhi. With Aarakshan, Jha turns his attention to the hot button topic of affirmative action, in favor of the so-called scheduled castes, ordered by Indian courts in recent years.

78 • india currents • september 2011

Enlisting Bachchan in one of his most pivotal role in recent years, Aarakshan is well-made and well-intentioned, but it rushes to get to the precipice and then pulls back just when it most urgently shouldn’t. The jewel in Jha’s crown here is definitely Bachchan, who plays Prabhakar Anand, an educator with a stellar reputation. Anand’s teaching methods—he himself is an ace mathematician—promote traditional learning without regard for a student’s family background or means to pay. The extremely high rates of matriculation from Anand’s school inevitably draws attention from the payfor-play-minded, scheming Mithilesh Singh (Bajpayee), who connives his way into becoming the school’s vice principal. After a local court issues an edict for schools to integrate students from traditionally disadvantaged groups, Singh exploits the controversy into having Anand removed as the school head. Undeterred, Anand sets up shop across the street and starts a brand new school. In the central role, Bachchan’s screen presence is both forceful and reverent. This is best put into focus in a couple of very long shots where Anand and Singh silently stare from their respective ivory towers a couple of hundred feet apart. Singh gazes with a sinister sneer while Anand remains cool and non-judgemental—at such distance and even spectacled, his eyes sparkle only with impish curiosity of one who would much rather be teaching instead of becoming the center of a vast controversy. Boosting Bachchan, there is a wonderful cast of supporters. The interplay between Bachchan’s protagonist and Bajpayee’s antagonist is drawn out sharply and both are stunning in their deliveries. There is Khan as Deepak Kumar, one of Anand’s former students and math whiz who returns from America to help his traditionally disadvantaged community join the mainstream. Deepak’s attachment to Anand’s daughter Poorbi (Padukone) puts their restrained love to test in a battle of wills pitting Anand against just about everyone

else. There is also Sushant (Babbar), an upper class scion who undergoes an awakening of sorts on his own. Shankar Ehsan Loy are known for delivering finger-snapping, bouncy musical scores (Dil Chahta Hai, Bunty Aur Bubli, Rock On!). Here they run counter with a laid back score. “Kaun Si Dor” is a memorable classical vocal piece by Pandit Channulal Mishra and Shreya Ghoshal. To get the 75-year old Mishra on a soundtrack is a milestone indeed. Also notable is “Roshanee,” a groundswell thematic hymn crooned by Shankar. Affirmative action in India is one of the last remaining taboos in Hindi movies. “Polite” Indian society frequently shuns any discussion related to the social inclusion of the groups that Gandhi collectively labeled “Children of God.” For raising that bar, Jha deserves a great deal of credit. What Jha needs to be figuratively scolded for, however, is not having Anand formally commit to either side. While the neutral ground is fertile and covered with thought provoking moments, combined they are not enough to ignite a core conviction. Anand’s “punishment” —him being removed from his respected post—turns on a mere misunderstanding in the media. With a slightly more judicious treatment and forceful point of view, Jha could have turned Aarakshan into a powerful measuring stick on a charged subject.n EQ: B






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india currents • september 2011 • 79

Suchi Sargam

Courting Controversy

Aakarshan Director Prakash Jha thrives on provocative movies about social and political issues


ollywood director-producer Prakash Jha’s latest film, Aarakshan, released to much hype and controversy in August 2011. Made with a Bollywood A-list star-cast of Amitabh Bachchan, Saif Ali Khan, Deepika Padukone, and Manoj Bajpayee, the film deals with the sensitive subject of reservations in the Indian education system, and predictably brought about a fierce discussion among the various stake-holders in the issue. The film faced bans in various states. In an interview prior to the release, Jha, who has previously made hard-hitting films like Gangaajal (on the constraints on the police), Damul (on bonded labor) and Apaharan (on kidnappings for hire), suggested that his motivation in picking the topics of his movies was trying to portray the conflicts that arose with changing times. When did you start working on Aarakshan? The idea for the movie has been around for a long time, around seven years. I have been reading articles, meeting people, thinking about it, assimilating things .... It was a major social movement and the way it brought about basic fundamental changes in our society (led me to make this movie). What are some of these changes? The rise of this new political class of Lalu Yadav, Mulayam Singh Yadav, Nitish Kumar... the politics of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh... in Southern India we already had the domination of the backward castes, but in North India it all happened post 1970s and early 80s. But that is one development. The whole education format changed then, and one can see that, in the post-Mandal Commission-era (post 1980), there has been a rise in the business of education. Because of “Mandalisation,” because of reservation, the number of seats (in education institutes in India) got reduced, increasing competition, and thus there are more specialised coaching institutes (in the country). The capitation fee [school donation] also increased as kids who could not get admission in government institutes went to private medical institutes, where they gave money and got admission. People began to see huge (commercial) opportunities in education. In an open market economy, which was the case in the post-90s economy, there was a lot of need of specialised managers, engineers, and the like, and suddenly the whole 80 • india currents • september 2011

texture of education changed. Until then, kids were studying B.Sc, M.A., B.A., and the like. No one today in India studies pure humanities, or pure physics, or chemistry, or mathematics. They are all going to become engineers, managers, or get some kind of specialised jobs. These are some of the things I had been observing. And I came across an emotional story Prakash Jha of a principal’s life seven years ago. Not a true story. But between me and my cowriter Anjum Rajabali, we felt that yes, here is a structure we can talk about—this story and commercialisation of education, in the backdrop of reservation. Then I went to (Amitabh) Bachchan and narrated the character and story to him, about seven years ago. And we had been talking for a long time about work together. I thought if he could do it, it would be fantastic. He really liked it too. It took seven years to start working on it. And of course, I had a commitment to do Apaharan (2005) and Rajneeti (2010) in between. Aarakshan was scheduled after Raajneeti. Did you think the title Aarakshan is loaded with meaning and controversy to begin with? So let us talk about it. If it is there in our society, then why not talk about it? The more we talk about it the more natural it will become. It is a constitutional truth... isn’t it? We are living in a society which is castebased, and we cannot deny it. Our polity is caste-based, our thinking is caste-based. So what’s the harm in it? Is it only India that you see as castebased? It is everywhere. Balkanisation, ghettosim, racism... I mean, affirmative action took place in America as well. Didn’t it? While the movie does not take a stand for or against aarakshan (reservation), what is your personal take on it?

Asking me “Are for reservation or against it?” is useless. The point is, whether you are for it or against it, it is there. Let’s learn to live with it and understand the pain of people who have been bearing it for centuries. Let’s understand the pain of children who are dealing with policies which are caste-based. By God’s honest truth, I have no opinion on it. I am somebody who has been observing things. If you ask me, in Apaharan, are you for Tabrez Alam’s character (played by Nana Patekar) or for Ajay Shastri’s (played by Ajay Devgn), I can’t be judgemental. I am telling a story. Even if my generation went through the trauma of Mandal Commission, the fact of the matter is, in a society where you have subjugated a large section of people, how do you bring them into the mainstream? How do you create an opportunity for social mobility for them? The look of Prabhakar Anand (played by Mr. Bachchan) in the movie is based on your real-life look and style. How did you feel about this? It’s just a look, you know. I cannot look like him. It’s just happened that while talking (about the character and the look of the film) we decided to base his look on me. He grew his own beard for the first time for this role. He had never ever grown his own full beard for any character before. Even in Mohabbatein (Aditya Chopra’s Bollywood film, 2000, where Bachchan had a long-beard look), it was not real. Incidentally, this is also the first time in




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408-246-3005 / 408-838-3079

 Email:  Web: india currents • september 2011 • 81

his 40-year-old career that he is doing a social issue-based film. Do the similarities between Prabhakar Anand and Prakash Jha end at this stylisation or is there something more to it? No, no. It is just this much. Which Indian state is the film based in? It is based in a Hindi speaking state. We have shot it in Madhya Pradesh, India, so you may say so. Many of your earlier works, like Damul, Mritudand, Apaharan, and Gangaajal, were based in Bihar. Was this one consciously not in Bihar? I did not base Rajneeti in Bihar. It was Bihar only until Apaharan. When I did those movies, the times were like that, society was like that. Now on, (my films) could be based anywhere. Your films have the country’s political system as an integral part of it. Even you contested election from Bihar in 2004 and 2009. What does this system mean to you? I am not a politician. I wanted the job of a Member of Parliament. I applied to the people. They rejected me. That is the end of it. I no more have the ambition of becoming a Member of Parliament. Was it a disappointment, being rejected when you were working towards the betterment of the people at the grassroots in the state.? Of course, when you don’t succeed you will be disappointed. But that’s the way you go. If a film doesn’t work, what do you do? Since Aarakshan talks of real problems, are there any real life episodes in it? I don’t think there are any real life incidents, but there are several experiences from real life. But nothing major. Like a student getting admitted (to college) on a capitation fee. Or the son of a close friend of mine not getting an admission at Jamia Milia Islamia (one of the top ranked universities in India, situated in Delhi) because there is 51.5% reservation there. Why the initiative to open a multiplex cinema hall in Patna, Bihar? I wanted the people there to have the experience of multiplex, and no one was building it there, so I built one. Why do you think your hard hitting movies (like Apaharan and Gangaajal) have done better than family dramas like Dil Kya Kare and Rahul? I have no idea about that. I make movies my kind of way. A good story will always work, whether hard-hitting or not. A story has to be told in an engaging manner. When my films are releasing, I am always tense about whether I have been able to tell it in an engaging manner. So I keep my fingers crossed. What will be your next project? It will deal with the concept of development in India. I have been working on a script, and we will shoot early next year. n Suchi Sargam is a journalist in India. 82 • india currents • september 2011

The Lion’s Den SINGHAM. Director: Rohit Shetty. Players: Ajay Devgn, Kajal Agarwal, Prakash Raj, Sonali Kulkarni. Music: Ajay-Atul. Theatrical release (Reliance).


he reason Hindi movies are often referred to as Bollywood movies is because Hindi movies have a rep for borrowing plots from Hollywood movies. While that is true in a some cases, Hindi movies of late have borrowed generously from South Indian cinema, that other India-based movie powerhouse that churns out regional movies by the truckloads. Recent Salman Khan Hindi language hits Ready, Wanted, and Tere Naam were all remakes of movies originally made in southern India. Rohit Shetty’s remake of the hit 2010 Tamil entry Singham would have to pass muster as a throwback, retro 1970s-style action flick from a genre presumed to have bit the dust along with bell bottoms and disco. In much the same way as Once Upon A Time In Mumbai managed to do with a well-made retro feel, and despite both cultural and linguistic regional barriers, Shetty’s Singham manages to hold its own. Taking dress, make-up, uniform, dark sunglasses, shirtless and bare-chested cues directly from Salman Khan’s playbook, Ajay Devgn finds himself as Bajirao Singham, a newly minted cop who lands in a criminal cesspool where Maharashtra, Karnataka, and Goa meet. The geographical vortex is crucial since Singham’s nemesis is the dreaded Jaykant Shikre (Raj), who hails from an uppercrust political family and delights in belittling the provincial cultural identity that Singham represents. In a polished package that resembles Salman Khan’s Dabangg in a nice way, the stage is set for a brute force battle of wits and guts between the stoic, soft-spoken Singham and the always strong-arming Shikre. Singham is the lion-hearted, one-man army up against Shikre, who is a one-man swarm of locusts nibbling away furiously at the fringes of a fragile, tattered balance between order and anarchy. Singham’s first name Bajirao, in a nod to 18th century Marathi cultural and military hero Bajirao Bhatt who

scored major victories over both the Mughals and the Portugese, also readily molds into an iconography that is exploited for a super-regional cultural appeal. The ethnic flair is extended to the use of colloquial Marathi, some Gujarati, and also Tulu, a smaller yet distinct language with proto-Dravidian roots. As urban legends go, it is a foregone conclusion that Shikre’s unrelenting legions of paid informants, corrupts police officers, ruthless henchmen, and gangsters must eventually blink first against the weight of the far gentler—and, hence, far more weighty—voices that Singham brings to his aid. The chief proponent of Singham’s cause is the grieving widow (Kulkarni) of the last guy who held Singham’s job. In a restrained role, Kulkarni infuses an air of genteel dignity to the widow as she assuredly and patiently bids for Singham to uncover the truth behind her late husband’s mysterious death. Even though Singham finds time to dilly-dally with gorgeous local lass Kavya (Agarwal, in a decent entry to a Hindi female lead role), the moral compass is always imperceptibly pointed elsewhere on the horizon. For his turn, Devgn’s character, playing so much like a stand-in for Salman Khan’s role from Dabangg, begs the possibility that the rascally, gray-shaded “cop role” may be the new norm for Hindi film protagonists in this decade. This may be the surest proof that the legacy gifted to Indian cinema by Bachchan’s “Angry Young Man” from the 1970s was no mere fluke. Rohit Shetty’s lessons from his father, the legendary action choreographer Shetty, are brilliantly apparent in how well the mano-amano fight sequences blend into the story. Yes, there are a couple of stops when the wires are just barely visible. However, given the rapid pacing, there is hardly any time to notice as Singham neutralizes yet another band of Shikre’s goons. Director Shetty and lead Devgn have had a string of remarkable boxoffice hits (the Golmaal franchise, Zameen). After Zameen, Singham may be the first effort that scores equally by both critical and mass appeal measures. These kinds of remakes we don’t mind at all!n EQ: B+ Globe trekker, aesthete, photographer, ski bum, film buff, and commentator Aniruddh Chawda writes from Milwaukee.

india currents • september 2011 • 83

84 • india currents • september 2011

Trek route by the Lakshman Ganga

india currents • september 2011 • 85

86 • india currents • september 2011


Bharata Natyam Arangetram of

An economic empowerment program for immigrant women

Samvika Mehra (Disciple of Dr. Bindu Shankar)


Sept. 10th(Saturday), 2011

Dougherty Valley Performing Arts Center (Dougherty Valley High School) 10550 Albion Road, San Ramon, CA 94582

Time: 4.00pm-6.00pm accompanied by : Jayanthi Umesh (Vocals) Ravi Sridharan (Mridangam) Lakshmi Balasubramanya (Violin) Ashwin Krishnakumar (Flute) All are Welcome (Free)

Contact: 925-875-1095/ 925-560-2456


FREE 11-week job-skills training program Get certificate upon completion Meets on Saturdays Free childcare on premises


Improve your English Develop computer skills Prepare for job interviews Conduct a job search Write a resume Budget and manage your money

Session starting on September 10 th 2011 Classes every Saturday from 11a.m. to 3p.m. Family Resource Center (Millennium Room) 39155 Liberty Street, Fremont To resister call: (510) 444-6068 or email:


Client: SAMVIKA MEHRA Fax: PDF Please indicate any changes or corrections needed on this proof, and e-mail/fax it back to us. India Currents Fax: (408) 324-0477 Initials Ad is Correct Needs Changes



School of Kuchipudi Artistic Director

DEREK NUNES Hima Bindu Challa 1885 Lundy Ave., Suite 220 Disciple of San Jose, CA 95131 Dr. Vempati Chinna Satyam (408) 324-0488 / (714) 523-8788 classes in FAX: (408) 324-0477

Kuchipudi (510) 770-9090

Email: Fremont San Jose (Evergreen) india currents • september 2011 • 87

Edited by: Nadia


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special dates Onam

Sept. 1

Ganesh Chaturthi

Sept. 1

Labor Day

Sept. 5

Navratri begins

Sept. 28

Gandhi’s Birthday

Oct. 2

Navratri ends

Oct. 5


Oct. 6

Sharad Purnima

Oct. 12


cultural calendar


2 Friday

Narinder Chanchal in Concert. Benefit

for the Shiva-Vishnu Temple of Stockton. Organized by Shiva-Vishnu Temple of Stockton and Tathaastu. 7:30 p.m. Hutchins Square, 125 S. Hutchins St., Lodi, 95240. Donations. (209) 986-3663.


3 Saturday

Bharatanatyam Arangetram of Nisha Par-

meshwar. Student of Indumathy Ganesh, artistic director of Nrithyollasa Dance Academy. Accompanied by Indumathy Ganesh (nattuvangam), Asha Ramesh (vocal), N.Narayan 88 • india currents • september 2011

Students from Kalanjali (above) and other dance troupes will perform at a Divali program on Oct. 15 in Hercules.

(mridangam), and Shanthi Narayan (violin). Organized by Nrithyollasa Dance Academy. 4 p.m. McAfee Performing Arts Center, Saratoga High School, 20300 Herriman Ave., Saratoga, 95071. Free. (408) 927-8010, (510) 623-8230.,

De Ghuma Ke. A cricket match and mela,

featuring the Indian Television Superstars vs. Bay Area Pathans. Half-time will feature entertainment by Shweta Kwatra, Zulfi Sayed, and Rajeshwari Sachdev. Organized by Sanjay Mitra and AAA Entertainment. Dilworth Elementary School, 1101 Staryer Drive, San Jose. (408) 476-1337, (510) 453-1521.


4 Sunday

Mother Ganga: The Eternal River. An

evening of bharatnatyam thematic dance ballet by Gauri Patil. The program is performed for the benefit of Lynbrook High School. The dancer is accompanied by world-renowned live orchestra ensemble visiting the Bay Area from Chennai, India. Organized by Shri Krupa Dance Foundation. McAfee Performing Arts Center, 20300 Herriman Ave., Saratoga, 95070. $10. (408) 621-1932, (408) 725-0174., skdc2009arange


5 Monday

Kabeer’s Musical Play in Hindi. The life story of a 15th-century mystic poet-saint in India. Written, composed, sung, and acted by Shekhar Sen. Organized by Sunnyvale Yoga and Music (SYAAM) Center and Vachikam. 5:30-8 p.m. India Community



Priya Das

Asha Bhosle Comes to the Bay A

few years ago, when you first heard Asha Bhosle and jazz in the same sentence, there was a split second before you accepted the essential truth of this living legend—that she is an ever-evolving performer. From playback Hindi Bollywood, she went on to other languages, then on to Western mainstream/ alternative (having collaborated with Boy George to Michael Stipe of R.E.M.), after all. Jazz was just another territory. Now, try this sentence: Bhosle is set to perform live at the 29th annual San Francisco Jazz Festival. Yes, live. At the jazz festival. Right in the Bay Area! “This’ll be my fist time at the festival,” Bhosle says, though she’s not new to the Bay. In fact, San Francisco inspires fond memories for Bhosle. “My very first concert tour of U.S.A. was in 1977 when I performed with Rahul Dev Burman and his orchestra. It was at the Masonic Theatre on Nob Hill. Sarod maestro, the late Ali Akbar Khan attended the concert. “I remember Rahul was very nervous performing in front of him because he was his guru. I particularly enjoyed performing in San Francisco and post concert spent a few days relaxing in the city.” Bhosle’s latest collaboration, “Naina Lagai Ke,” with Shujaat Khan, son of sitar legend Vilayat Khan, qualifies on some levels as jazz: One, it was created in an improvisational creative combustion session between the two artists. Two, it does not adhere to any specific style—it is not classical, has nuances borrowed from ghazal, thumri, folk, and light classical styles. Bhosle comments, “I would urge (Khan) to start, and in turn, he would provide me an opening, and so on. That is how quite literally, the recording took place. The album’s music sounds nostalgic, but is new at the same time. These endeavors need to happen more often, they make inspired music.” Khan says, “While an artist of Ashaji’s caliber can sing within the lyrical demands of the score, it is when she’s given the space and freedom that you can hear the soul call. I’m a sitarist and I sing, and she sings, and together we converse.” It can be said that Bhosle’s conversations with jazz began when the San Francisco band Kronos Quartet decided to use Burman’s numbers as base for their album, “You’ve Stolen My Heart (Chura Liya Hai Tumne Jo Mujhko). Bhosle sang those songs, which incidentally got nominated for

a Grammy in 2005, under the Best Contemporary World Music category. “Naina Lagai Ke,” on the other hand, claims to be neither evolutionary nor revolutionary; it promises instead a coming together of superlative styles and high-quality musings in music. The jazz event that Bhosle will be part of is an icon, one of the largest performing arts events in the San Francisco Bay Area, with more than 1 million concertgoers and over 10,000 musicians in 28 years. The first festival in 1983 featured Brazilian, Afro-Cuban music. The first Indian artists, including Ali Akbar Khan, performed in 1986. Since then, the festival has had artists from Chile, Venezuela, Panama, Mexico, Canada, Puerto Rico, Japan, New Zealand, Benin, Cape Verde, Senegal, Mali, Israel, and Sweden, among others. Randall Kline, founder and executive artistic director of t SFJAZZ, says, “The local scene has always been strong here. The Ali Akbar Khan school has been a focus for

us. Zakir Hussain has participated in many concerts with his own group, Remembering Shakti, with Joe Henderson, Charles Lloyd, and Pharaoh Sanders.” More recently, Grammy-nominee Vijay Iyer and Rudresh Mahanthappa have performed at the festival. When asked about what makes a memorable song, the queen of musical versatility said, “Lyrics, tune, and performance all contribute to the success of a song. I don’t consider myself as being the most important factor in a song’s success, nor do I consider just the tune or superior lyrics alone to contribute to a successful song.” Fans from the last several decades will beg to differ—they throng to wherever Bhosle is because they know that it is she who makes a good song great.n Friday, Sep. 30, 8 p.m. Paramount Theatre, 2025 Broadway, Oakland Tickets: $20/ $35/ $50/ $65 Premium, (866) 920-5299, india currents • september 2011 • 89



Jaya Murthy

Music for Minors

Nonprofit organization aims to keep music programs alive in the East Bay


n Indian culture we are often exposed to music well before we are born, before the spoken word reaches our ears. Whether it’s film music played on street corners and radios, devotional songs played in temples and homes, classical music learned or heard in concerts in every city or Western pop music heard via MTV and Hollywood films, music is everywhere, and it naturally permeates every Indian without us realizing it. Therefore the nursery school songs and simple tunes that we hear in children’s music here in America are a breeze to master. Once my children grew up I really missed the music. I became concerned when I learned of the void of music in local schools which had been so important for my children. Can you imagine being a student doing school work day after day without any music class break? I was grateful to discover Music for Minors II (MFMII), a nonprofit organization that has been initiating music programs in Fremont, Newark, Castro Valley, and Dublin schools since 1988 in a response to severe budgetary cuts in arts education. Carol Zilli, parent and former high school teacher, founded MFMII, modeled after MFMI that operates a similar program in the Peninsula. Zilli’s advocacy for music for children continues as she serves as the executive director and training instructor of the program since its inception. Music for Minors II recruits, trains, and supports community volunteers who become music docents who share half-hour music enrichment per week in preschool and elementary school classrooms. Lessons include singing/signing a wide variety of songs, rhythmic movement/dance, simple instrumentation, and listening appreciation. MFMII also sponsors community concerts and children’s showcases to raise the awareness of the need for quality music in everyone’s life. I became a MFMII docent by taking the 10-week fall training class in 2009. It was well organized and such fun. We sang songs and learned how to present children’s music every training day. You don’t have to be an expert in music to volunteer and 90 • india currents • september 2011

share your love of music but keeping a beat and singing in tune is a basic requirement. The training builds the instructor’s confidence and provides her or him with a huge collection of songs, CDs, and free access to four music resource centers and online music resources. My training classmates, Mira and Shweta, became better teachers in their preschool Nature’s Gift in Fremont after becoming MFMII docents. Radhika served at Parkmont School, and I became a docent in our neighborhood Ardenwood Elementary School. As a docent you can visit your own child’s class and/or other classes of your choice. I have taught three, second-grade classes weekly. The children love to see me and it feels wonderful to give back to the community. Last year the children enjoyed an excellent children’s recording artist, Charlotte Diamond, in a school assembly and attended and performed with her at a MFMII sponsored family concert. This was the highlight of the school year for them.

MFMII also provides performance opportunities for children in an exciting showcase on a huge professional stage with hundreds of other children in MFMII classrooms in other school districts. Children feel so proud and special to perform before audiences of 500-plus. Research shows that music develops the whole brain leading to better academic performance and a happier, healthier mental state for children and adults alike. It is therefore in the interest of our society to do all we can to ensure music continues in school curriculum. Given the current state of the economy, volunteers are the only way to fill the musical gap! MFMII’s next docent training is coming up. I encourage those interested to get involved and experience one of the best volunteer opportunities that will make a musical difference in a child’s life, and your own.n Friday, Sept. 16-Friday, Nov. 18. Fremont, or Castro Valley. (510) 733-1189.

Center, 525 Los Coches St., Milpitas, 95035. $20, $35, $50, $75. (510) 552-2521, (650) 360-0936, (408) 719-1011. =605643,,


7 Wednesday

Bharatanatyam Workshop. Dance instruc-

tor Sanjay Shantharam is now touring the U.S. performing and conducting workshops in several locations for bharatanatyam students and performers in the Bay Area, intermediate and advance level only. Music will be provided. Learn karanas and charis, basic yoga, and pranayam for dancers to enhance stamina, physical fitness, and wellness. Participants will get a chance to perform with Shantharam at the end of the workshop. Ends Sep. 11. Organized by Vidyalatha Jeerage. 6: 30-8:30 p.m. Sanatana Dharma Kendra, 897 Kifer Road, Sunnyvale, CA 94086. $150. (408) 507-0892.,


Kabeer by Shekhar Sen. An inspiring

musical mono act depicting the life story of 15th century poet-saint of India. Written, composed, sung, and acted by Shekhar Sen. 7:30 p.m. Davis High School, Brunelle Performance Hall, 315 W. 14th St., Davis, 95616. $25. (916) 484-6669, (530) 756-4655.


8 Thursday

Mahesh Dattani’s 30 Days in September, a dark and gripping tale about a crisis

that remains in the shadows of many communities; sexual abuse of children within families. The play is by famous playwright Mahesh Dattani, who is also known for the direction in the Indian film “Morning Raga” in English, released in 2004 starring Bollywood star Shabana Azmi. IndiStage, San Francisco Bay Area’s newest South Asian theater, staged a daring version of the play as its West Coast Premiere in the fall of 2010 to packed houses and standing ovations. The production was followed with numerous

requests for a re-staging in the South Bay. This year, the play takes place at the San Francisco Fringe Festival at EXIT Theater. The play is directed by Rooben Morgan, featuring an all-South Asian cast: Nandini Minocha, Rashmi Rustagi, Abhi Katyal, Ranjita Chakravarty, and Rooben Morgan, who founded IndiStage. Sept. 8, 7 p.m.; Sept. 10, 5:30 p.m.; Sept. 13, 8:30 p.m.; Sept. 16, 10 p.m. Organized by IndiStage. 5 p.m. EXIT on Taylor, 277 Taylor St., San Francisco, 94102. $6. (510) 860-3064., event/181922. (See story.)


9 Friday

World Music Benefit Concert for Tibetan Aid Project. Take a musical world journey for a good cause—no passports required. Duo Diana Stork and Diana Rowan will begin the set with enchanting harp music. Daniel Berkman will follow with traditional songs on the African kora, a unique ancient stringed instrument from West Africa. Teed


Tabla Like You’ve Never Seen Tabla Before I

“ ’ve seen a lot of tabla, but this is the first time I have seen it played like this!” exclaims an enthusiastic tabla-lover after experiencing Talavya. Talavya is Divyang Vakil’s creation, an Indiabased musical collective where four of his students play the tabla synchronously, producing a reverberating encounter that is sure to create an ever-lasting memory. Talavya is also where one sees Vakil’s own mark on performing the tabla drawn from an amalgamated interpretation of three different gharanas of tabla education, headed by the three stalwarts: Sudhirkumar Saxena (Ajrada gharana), Latif Ahmed Khan (Delhi gharana), and Allarakha (Punjab gharana). In an upcoming series of concerts, student-artistes Rushi Vakil, Kaumil Shah, Sahil Patel, and Rahul Shrimali will present what was formerly known as Table Ecstasy, a profound blend of classical tabla-playing set to a modern presentation style. They will be joined on stage by Heena Patel who will play harmonium. The group leader and son of Divyang Vakil, Rushi Vakil, says the “goal is to present Indian classical music in a contemporary language that can be enjoyed by more people.” Rushi Vakil is also known for his own world fusion music group called Taan. Heena Patel says, “People don’t expect the feelings involved, perhaps because they don’t think rhythm can do the same things emotionally as melody. As Guruji tells us, you smooth out the edges and perfect the contours to make music, otherwise it’s just drumming.” Based out of Ahmedabad, Gujarat, Divyang Vakil’s Rhythm Riders Music Institute has produced quality tabla players who seem to play the instrument with a spiritual feel. This is not surprising, as in addition to being famous as a tabla guru and composer, Vakil is popular as a spiritual teacher and healer as well. Vakil’s belief is that “the ultimate goal is one and the same: the experience of Truth, which occurs in a mindless condition. The three most direct paths

From left: Kaumil Shah, Rahul Shrimali, Rushi Vakil, and Sahil Patel.

to reach a mindless condition are yoga, music, and tantra. Each person is unique and so their path is unique, but there are similar experiences that sadhaks (spiritual seeker-practioner) share as they move towards a common goal.” In a bid to discover and define that common goal, the Talavya sadhaks rehearse constantly, getting to know the sound and musical motivation in one another, competing and encouraging the other to ride and extend the rhythm simultaneuously. The group believes that in the world of Indian classical music, there’s no such thing as practicing too much. The audience in turn, will see tabla being performed, not just played. The vision that will present itself as Talavya unfolds is born out of a unison of spirit and sound; a current that at the very basic level will get your feet tapping, but at a transcendental level will have your soul keeping pace.n—Priya Das Thursday, Sept. 15, San Francisco; Friday, Sept. 16, Ojai; Sunday, Sept. 18, Chico; Monday, Sept. 19, Berkeley. See calendar for details. india currents • september 2011 • 91



Praveena Raman

A World Without Alzheimer’s Annual walk and awareness campaign in San Francisco and San Jose


n New Year’s Eve 2010, I was at the Fremont Temple with my family when I ran into my friends, Nanda and Girish. After the initial greetings and pleasantries, Nanda said, “I know you are involved with the Alzheimer’s Association and I was wondering if you could help us.” Girish’s father who was living with them was being treated for symptoms of cognitive decline associated with Alzheimer’s Disease. Earlier, at the end of a routine trip to India, Girish’s parents were detained at the airport for overstaying their visa without registering with the police. His father, a meticulous and diligent person, was shocked that he had forgotten this formality. Sadly, this incident triggered other associated medical events that started a rapid decline. His ability to read English and Marathi and recite prayers in Sanskrit, which had remained intact for several months, had also declined to the point where he would open the prayer book and stares at it trying to read it. Girish mentions that his father’s speech has also been affected and is incoherent. “We cannot figure out what he is trying to say and he probably realizes that as well. On very rare occasions he is able to express something that we can piece together and guess what he is saying. “It is heartbreaking for me to see a man who had such stupendous memory, recollecting extracts from various books and sharing childhood anecdotes, now barely able to comprehend or express,” Girish says. The prevalence of Alzheimer’s Disease in the Indian population is thought to be quite low; however, instances of the disease are present and might even be on the rise. Edie Yau, director of Diversity and Inclusion at the Northern California chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association, is working on having more outreach and education programs in the Indian community. The Association has information and programs to support and help patients, families, and caregivers taking this heartbreaking journey. It also supports research in the form of awards and much needed grants to young and established scientists 92 • india currents • september 2011

working in academic institutions. The annual Walk to End Alzheimer’s raises awareness and funds for these initiatives. I started a new team this year with my friend Candy Kawamura, F.A.S.T. (Fremont Alzheimer’s Support Team) Walkers, because there was no community team from the Fremont area participating in the walk and beacause we wanted to educate and move the community to make a difference. The team is accepting anyone in the Bay Area interested in making a difference in realizing the dream for a world without Alzheimer’s Disease. We’ll be participating in the San Francisco walk. To join F.A.S.T. Walkers, go to http: //, or contact

San Francisco Walk: September 24, 8 a.m. check-in, 10 a.m. walk. Mission Creek Park, 290 Channel St., San Francisco. (650) 9628111. San Jose walk: Oct. 15, 8:30 a.m. check-in, 10 a.m. (650) 962-8111. Arena Green Park, Downtown San Jose. Free parking at the HP Pavilion. Praveena Raman is a volunteer at the Alzheimer’s Association and has been a member of the San Francisco Walk Planning Committee for the past two years. She is also the founder and team captain of F.A.S.T. Walkers.

Rockwell (touch-style veena), Peter van Gelder (sitar), and Michael Lewis (tabla) will conclude with a melodic jugalbandi of Hindustani ragas. All musicians will play together at the end the show with an original improvised arrangement of an A.R Rahman filmi song. All proceeds will go to Tibetan Aid Project’s Tibetan-language book production and distribution project. TAP is a nonprofit organization dedicated to keeping alive the endangered Tibetan culture and language. Every year, TAP helps fund the production and distribution of thousands of important books to refugee communities throughout Asia, leading not only to cultural preservation but increased literacy. Organized by Tibetan Aid Project. 8 p.m. Freight & Salvage, 2020 Addison St., Berkeley, 94704. $22.50 advance; $24.50 at door. (510) 644-2020. info@freighta


10 Saturday

Katmandu Fall Festival. The seventh

annual Katmandu Fall Festival returns to Sonoma to benefit the Children’s Medical Aid Foundation, Sonoma. Experience the sights, sounds, and flavors of Nepal and the Himalayas. The festival celebrates the many cultures of Nepal, Tibet, and India with traditional fresh-cooked cuisine, an open-air market with antiques, jewelry, clothing, art and crafts for sale, healing arts demonstrations, and a photo gallery of the many places and faces of Nepal. Both days will feature ongoing live entertainment, showcasing traditional music and dance from the Himalayas. Ends Sep. 11. Organized by Children’s Medical Aid Foundation. 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sonoma Veterans Hall, 126 First St. West, Sonoma. $10 donation. (707) 938-1807, (415) 938-1807.,

An Exciting Hindustani Classical Music and Devotional Songs Concert.

Bay Area vocalist Nachiketa Yekkundi will be accompanied by Anand Karve (harmonium), 3-4 p.m. Prasad Bhandarkar will play on flute both classical, semi-classical and devotional songs, 4-5 p.m. Surinder Mann will perform on sitar, classical and devotionals, 5-6 p.m. Satish Tare will accompany all three artists (tabla). Aarti will be performed after the concert in the mandir. Organized by Shirdi Sai Parivar and Sangeet Dhwani. 3-6 p.m. Shirdi Sai Center, 1221 California Circle, Milpitas, 95035. Free. (408) 3940554.

Kuchipudi Rangapravesam of Neelima Mandava. Student of Madhuri

Kishore, artistic director of Madhuri Kishore Kuchipudi School. Organized by Madhuri Kishore Kuchipudi School. 3:30 p.m. Campbell Heritage Theatre, 1 W. Campbell Ave., Campbell, 95008. Free.

Bharatanatyam Arangetram of Samvika Mehra. Student of Bindu Shankar,

Vrindavan Indian Dance Academy. Organized by Vrindavan Indian Dance Academy. 4-6:30 p.m. Dougherty Valley Performing Art Center, 10550 Albion Road, San Ramon, 94582. Free. (925) 858-6551. bindu@vrind www.vrindavanacademy. com.

Karnatik Vocal Arangetram of Sandesh Rallapalli. Student of Jayashree Varada-

rajan, artistic director of Sri Rama Lalitha Kala Mandir School of Fine Arts. Accompanied by Subha Narasimhan (violin) and Vignesh Venkataraman (mridangam). Organized by Sri Rama Lalitha Kala Mandir School of Fine Arts. 5 p.m. Mission City Center for Performing Arts, 3250 Monroe St., Santa Clara, 95051. Free. (408) 531-9470.

American India Foundation Gala:

“Mother Ganga: The Eternal River” will be performed on Sunday, Sept. 4 in Saratoga.

Celebrating a Decade of Impact. Emcee:

Poorna Jagannathan, actress, Delhi Belly. Honorees: Kiran Bedi, Indian police service; recipient of Ramon Magasaysay Award; Desh Deshpande, co-founder and chairman of Sycamore Networks Inc., founder of Deshpande Foundation; Shelley Rubin, co-founder and co-chair of The Rubin Museum of Art Entertainment. Featuring: Signature, Mona Khan Dance Company, DJ Ashrafi, food from Amber India’s executive chef Vittal Shetty. Organized by American India Foundation (AIF).

World Music Benefit Concert for Tibetan Aid Project will feature Mike Lewis (tabla), Peter van Gelder (sitar), and Teed Rockwell (touch-style veena) on Friday, Sept. 9 in Berkeley. india currents • september 2011 • 93

6 p.m.-12:45 a.m. City View at Metreon, 101 Fourth St., San Francisco, 94103. $1,000$25,000. (408) 916-1976.

Eid Celebration. Featuring special per-

formance by Iqbal Qasim, a versatile and proficient singer of ghazals and geets, such as “Dasht-e-Tanhai Mein,” “Lal Mori Pat Rakhyo,” “Aaj Jane Ki Zid Na Karo,” “Mujhe Tum Nazar,” and “Akele Na Jana.” Organized by India Community Center and Pakistani American Culture Center with Aligarh Muslim University Alumni Association. 6 p.m. India Community Center (ICC), 525, Los Coches St., Milpitas, 95035. (408) 934-1130.

Trikone’s 25th Anniversary Gala: Kulture Kulcha. A scale that Kulture Kulcha

has never seen before! Performers of national and international acclaim, the best local talent, as well as surprise guests. Catered food by Madhubhan. Dance the night away with fervor to the beats of Bollywood and bhangra. Come celebrate and honor 25 years of grassroots work by volunteers who have changed our world for the better. Come celebrate our future in true desi style – with food, music, drinks, and family! Ends Sep. 11. Organized by Trikone. 6:30 p.m. St. Mary’s Catherdral, 1111 Gough St., San Francisco, 94109. $55 till Aug. 15; $65 after Aug. 15. (201) 724-5050. index.shtml.

Mujhse Shaadi Karogi. A hilarious family

comedy play in Hindi. Written and produced by Prairna Agarwal and directed by Navin Kumar. Organized by Singh Entertainment. 8 p.m. Evergreen Valley High School, 3300 Quimby Road, San Jose, 95148. $35, $55, $75. (510) 538-1138, (408) 249-2599. Tickets: http: //


15 Thursday

Talavya (Tabla Ensemble) Live in San Francisco. Globe-trotting percussion ensem-

Sandesh Rallapalli will give a Karnatik vocal concert on Saturday, Sept. 10 in Santa Clara.

IC Roots in the Air, Branches Below

Featuring modern and contemporary art by Indian local artists and early trailblazers such as M.F. Husain, F.N. Souza, Tyeb Mehta, S.H. Raza, Ram Kumar, J. Swaminathan, Jahangir Sabavala, Krishen Khanna, Manjit Bawa, V.S. Gaitonde, Madhavi Parekh, Ganesh Pyne, K.G. Subramanyam, and Jamini Roy in one show. Now through Sept. 4 (closed Mondays). San Jose Museum of Art, 110 S. Market St., San Jose. (408) 271-6840.

Bali: Art, Ritual, Performance

While Bali is widely appreciated as a vibrant center of visual and performing arts, there has never been an in-depth exploration of its artistic traditions in the

94 • india currents • september 2011

ble Talavya (formerly Tabla Ecstasy) bring the Indian tabla to the center stage in new avatar, distilling its age-old spirit and practice into a high-energy, highly accessible evening that reveals the instrument’s true joys. Composed by Indian music maestro Divyang Vakil, the quartet moves between rousing peaks and smooth meditative passages, expressing the various emotions of tabla. Played with the

“Kabeer,” a musical solo act, will be performed on Sept. 5 in Milpitas and Sept. 7 in Davis.

passion and power of a rock drum solo along with the sophistication and subtlety of a classical performance, Talavya is contemporary in feel, while full of the richness of classical tabla. This show will be Talavya’s SF debut. 6:30-9 p.m. Red Poppy Art House, 2698 Folsom St., San Francisco, 94110. $15. At door only. (415) 826-2402.,, watch?v=U-8PHhHopqk. (See story.)

short-term ongoing events United States until now. “Bali: Art, Ritual, Performance” brings the art and artists of this special Indonesian island to San Francisco. See not only artworks but explore the context in which they were made and used, as the museum comes alive with the kinds of music and performance that fill Balinese ritual life. The 131 artworks on view—many borrowed from international collections and never before seen in the U.S.—range from simple, yet deftly woven images of the rice goddess to elaborately carved and gilded chairs. There will be puppetry, gamelan performances, masked dances, and more to provide a museum experience as unique and mesmerizing as Bali itself. The Asian Art Museum is the exclusive venue for this exhibition. Now through Sept. 11.

Closed Mondays. Asian Art Museum, 200 Larkin St., San Francisco. (415) 581-3500

Souful Stitching. An exhibit of Siddi

kawandi, or quilts made by South Asian communities of African origin. The work featured in this exhibit was created by descendants of Africans enslaved by Portuguese in the 16th century and brought to Goa. Slaves who fled their captures set up free communities in Karnataka, communities that still exist.Some quilts bear crescents or crosses to depict the artisan’s religious orientation. Ends Sep. 18. Museum of the African Diaspora (MoAD), 685 Mission St., San Francisco, 94105. (415) 358-7200. (See story.)

india currents • september 2011 • 95

96 • india currents • september 2011



A Story Not Told I

ndiStage, the Bay Area’s newest South Asian theater, is bringing its production of Mahesh Dattani’s “30 Days in September” back after a successful run in fall 2010 to packed houses and standing ovations. The play is directed by Rooben Morgan, and features a stellar all-South Asian cast. “30 Days in September” is a dark and gripping tale about a crisis that remains in the shadows of many communities; sexual abuse of children within families. Dattani, the famous playwright, who is also known for the direction in the 2004 Indian film “Morning Raga in English.” IndiStage was created by Rooben Morgan to bring fresh new voices across the South Asian performance arena. “There are many stories that are not being told,” says Morgan, is a third-generation Indian from Singapore. “We see so many stock portrayals of South Asians. It is often the IT folk, or the uberconservative first-generation Indians who are dealing with ‘Westernized’ children who want to rap, party, or become musicians. “The South Asian persona is a highly complex one. We have barely started addressing the effects of post-colonialism, and here we are, being touted as the ‘model immigrant.’ Somewhere in the middle of all this is the South Asian who is trying to find out who he or she really is—the identity is as complex as the shifting geo-political borders we are negotiating,” says Morgan. “IndiStage is a performative forum and community unit that aim to give voice, shape, and form the diverse and colorful experience that is the South Asian narrative. And that is one of the things that drew me to ‘30 Days in September’—its unique voice.” The story follows Mala (Nandini Minocha) who was abused as a child. She lives with her mother, Shanta (Rashmi Rustagi and Ranjita Chakravarty), whose escape from reality is religion. Unexpectedly comes along Deepak (Abhimanyu Katyal), with a hopeful promise to change everything with love. The limits of his commitment to her are tested as deeper and darker family secrets begin to emerge. Mala’s Uncle is played by Rooben Morgan. “What drew me to the play is how clearly and blatantly Mahesh Dattani deals with incest and pedophelia,” says Rustagi, a seasoned actress of the stage and film. “What attracted me to play Shanta’s character was how powerful she is in her powerlessness. She is as much responsible for Mala’s victimization as the perpetrator and yet she has had to look away in order to survive her own pain. I was drawn

Actors in “30 Days in September,” Nandini Minocha and Ranjita Chakravarty.

to the challenge of portraying the conflict in her character.” “30 Days in September” was originally commissioned by RAHI (Recovering And Healing from Incest), a Delhi-based NGO that provides support to female victims of incest. It is reported as an interesting coincidence that Dattani first discussed the play with Lillete Dubey on the sets of “Monsoon Wedding,” which also deals with the issue of child abuse. Since the first production of the play in 2001, RAHI has used it to spread awareness of the wide prevalence of incest in Indian households and to help women overcome the trauma inflicted on them by one of their own family. Minocha is no new face to the Bay Area theatre scene or the Fringe Festival. A resident of San Jose, she was last seen in PUS’s (Performers Under Stress) Cancer Cells, and played Mala in the play’s West Coast Premiere in 2010 with stunning range and dexterity. Rustagi is strong and convincing. With her roots in theater and radio, Rustagi is active in the Bay Area theater community: She has been in productions with Theatre Works (“Baby Taj”) and Naatak’s (“Bravely Fought the Queen and Mataji”). She has been in several films, including the feature

films “Perfect Mismatch,” “Chains,” “Khanda,” “Karma.” Chakravarty brings a gritty honesty and rawness to the character in a performance that is both strong and complex. Ranjita has appeared in productions with Naatak, the Marin Fringe Festival, and the Stanford Drama Department. She has also acted in feature films (“Perfect Mismatch,” “Bicycle Bride”). Morgan, who plays Man and directs, was last seen as Shanker in “Dancing On Glass” by Ram Ganesh Gamatham. He was also featured in Siren Tehatre’s preview of “SITA: Daughter of the Dirt” and in David Lindsay-Abaire’s Pulitzer –winning “Rabbit Hole.” A graduate of performance studies from UC Berkeley and a resident of Richmond, Morgan dons the multiple roles of Man with admirable dexterity. In his portrayal of Uncle, Rooben manages to penetrate and portray the character of the sexual predator with uncanny ease, comfort, and commitment. His portrayal is speckled with a muted eeriness that permeates his performance.n Thursday, Sept. 8-Friday, Sept. 16. Exit on Taylor, 277 Taylor St., San Francisco. $7$10. (415) 673-3847. india currents • september 2011 • 97


16 Friday

Mantra Concert with Deva Premal.

Deva Premal sings mantras, accompanied by Miten (guitar, vocals) and Manose (Nepalese flute). Says Miten, “The true purpose of our music is to awaken a longing in the heart for that which is omnipresent: the experience of silence and meditation. It’s not about entertainment--it is simply our spiritual practice.” Organized by CIIS (California Institute of Integral Studies) Public Programs & Performances. 7:30 p.m. Palace of Fine Arts, 3301 Lyon St., San Francisco, 94123. $25/$35/$50/ $65. Tickets: (415) 392-4400. (415) 575-6100.,,

Drums and Dance of India, Featuring Talavya and Kathak by Jin (JoungJin) Won. The famed Talavya and Jin Won

return in their newest production! Imbibed with the nuances and richness of classical, molded with the look and flavor of contemporary, Drums and Dance of India is today’s

incarnation of classical tabla and the classical dance style of kathak. Conceptualized by world-renowned tabla maestro Divyang Vakil, Drums and Dance of India combines the power of percussion, precision of dance postures and passion of the performers to enchant and excite its audiences. Organized by Beatrice Wood Center for the Arts. 9: 30 p.m. Zalk Theater, 8585 Ojai-Santa Paula Road, Ojai. $15 advance, $20 at door. Tickets: (805) 646-3381; (805) 646-3381., (See story.)

Janaki: Daughter of the Dirt. A theater

performance, written by Virali Gokaldas. Directed by Shruti Purkayastha and Krishnakali (Roke) Chaudhuri. Ends Sep. 18. Organized by Siren Theatre. Mission Cultural Center, San Francisco.

Music for Minors II (MFMII). Help

keep music in children’s classrooms and lives! Become a volunteer music docent in Music for Minors II (MFMII), the nonprofit music

program keeping music in local schools since 1988. Children need music to be healthy and successful academically. Severe cutbacks in arts education in our schools has deprived so many children of the joy and nurturing of music education, especially reflecting many diverse cultures. MFMII recruits, trains, and supports community volunteers (18 and older) every fall in a music docent training program one morning a week in Fremont or one evening weekly in Castro Valley. Learn about training and how you can share Indian cultural music. Ends Nov. 18. Organized by Music for Minors II (MFMII). Fremont, Castro Valley. (510) 733-1189. (See story.)


17 Saturday

Bharathanatyam Arangetram of Rekha Nagarajan. Student of Mythili Kumar, ar-

tistic director of Abhinaya Dance Company. Organized by Abhinaya Dance Company. 4 p.m. The McAfee Performing Arts Center, Saratoga High School, 20300 Herriman Ave., Saratoga, 95070. Free. (408) 871-5959. home.shtml.

The Hindu American Foundation Annual Northern California Awareness and Fundraising Dinner. This year’s

event will feature keynote talks by U.S. Army captain and Bronze Star recipient, Rajiv Srinivasan, Satguru Bodhinatha Veylanswami, Spiritual Head of the Kauai Adheenam, and Aseem Shukla, co-founder and board member of the Hindu American Foundation. A separate room will be provided with entertainment and activities for children.

Share your stories on health with India Currents readers! We are accepting original submissions that focus on health and wellness. Send your 600-800-word essay on disease prevention, exercise, ayurvedic cooking, or any other health-related topic to Nadia Maiwandi at Musical band Deva Premal will give a mantra concert on Friday, Sept. 16 in San Francisco. 98 • india currents • september 2011

Organized by Hindu American Foundation. 5:30-9:30 p.m. Quinlan Community Center, 10185 N. Stelling Road, Cupertino, 95014. Free. (408) 464-8715, (510) 396-0892.,, hafncalannualdinner.eventbrite. com.

Vocal Concert by Ritesh and Rajinesh Mishra. Organized by Basant Bahar. 5:30-8: 30 p.m. Jain Temple, 722 S. Main St., Milpitas, CA. $20 general; Basant Bahar members free. (510) 651-6386, (408) 390-7094.


18 Sunday

ICC Bridal Expo. Featuring apparel, jew-

elry, DJs and entertainment, cakes, mehndi artists, fashion show, mandap and decor, wedding planners, makeup and hairstylists, catering, and photography/videography. Organized by India Community Center (ICC). 11 a.m.-5 p.m. ICC, 525 Los Coches St., Milpitas. Free entry and parking. (408) 934-1130.

Talavya’s Tabla Ensemble at Chico World Music Festival. Globe-trotting

percussion ensemble Talavya (formerly Tabla Ecstasy) bring the Indian tabla to the center stage in new avatar, distilling its age-old spirit and practice into a high-energy, highly accessible evening that reveals the instrument’s true joys. Composed by Indian music maestro Divyang Vakil, the quartet moves between rousing peaks and smooth meditative passages, expressing the various emotions of tabla. Talavya is contemporary in feel, while full of the richness of classical tabla. Organized by Rhythm Riders. 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Chico World Music Festival, CSU Campus, Chico, CA. Free. cwmf.html,, talavyatabla. (See story.)


19 Monday

Petals in the Dust. A unique comedy

show fundraiser to benefit the making of “Petals in the Dust: India’s Missing Girls,” a documentary about female genocide in India. Samson Koletkar, an Indian Jewish standup comic, presents an all-female lineup. 7-9 p.m. Punchline Comedy Club, 444 Battery St., San Francisco. (415) 397-7573. www.punchlinecom,

Talavya (Tabla Ensemble) Live in Berkeley. Globe-trotting percussion ensem-

Rekha Nagarajan will have her bharathanatyam arangetram on Saturday, Sept. 17 in Saratoga.

ble Talavya (formerly Tabla Ecstasy) bring the Indian tabla to the center stage in new avatar, distilling its age-old spirit and practice into a high-energy, highly accessible evening that reveals the instrument’s true joys. Composed by Indian music maestro Divyang Vakil, the quartet moves between rousing peaks and smooth meditative passages, expressing the various emotions of tabla. 7-9:30 p.m. Freight & Salvage Coffeehouse, 2020 Addison St., Berkeley, 94704. $22.50 advance, $24.50 at door. Tickets: SaleEventDetail?dispatch=loadSelectionDa ta&eventId=3793955. (510) 644-2020. info,,, (See story.)


23 Friday

Mumbhai Connection: Film Screening. Faisal is a hard working, honest Indian

IT salesman living in Atlanta. When he gets laid off, he struggles to find a company that will sponsor his work visa and give him a job. Dejected, he plans to return to India but just then he runs into an old friend at a party. As luck would have it, his friend happens to be a recruiter for a new IT startup company called BA-IT. His friend offers him a job and

P l a c e y o u r e v e n t f o r f r e e : w w w. i n d i a c u r r e n t s . c o m / s u b m i t - e v e n t india currents • september 2011 • 99

Faisal immediately accepts. Faisal is grateful and works hard at his new job. However things are not as they seem. BA-IT is run by a shady Indian, Kal, who belongs to the Mumbai underworld. Worse, Faisal is forced to sell IT services to the Atlanta mafia … but they are not buying! Even worse, Faisal is hounded by an eccentric undercover Indian cop to turn informer against Kal. Faisal’s parents are threatened by the Mumbai underworld and his own life is in danger. There is no way out except one…a path that is going to require all the persuasion and creativity he can muster, and to go boldly where no salesman has gone before. Official selection Third World Independent Film Festival, San Francisco, Sept. 22-25. Organized by Third World Independent Film Festival. 4-5:45 p.m. Century Theater, Great Mall, Milpitas.

Roobaroo 2011: Indian Ocean in Concert. Take a trip down memory lane ... with India’s own rock band Indian Ocean at the Roobaroo 2011 concert series. Organized by Association For India’s Development. 7 p.m. Reed L. Buffington Visual and Performing Arts Center, Chabot College, 25555 Hesperian Blvd., Hayward, 94545. $25-$50. (415) 320-8243. http:\\

Induz Dandiya 2011. This

Navratri make your celebrations extra special by joining for the Induz Dandiya. Dandiya sticks and food/refreshments will be available for sale. Proceeds from the event will benefit art and music programs for underprivileged children in India and the U.S. Organized by Induz. 7:30-11:30 p.m. Centerville Junior High School, 37720 Fremont Blvd., Fremont. $10 general adSeptember Saturday vance, $6 children ages 5-9 advance; $12 general at door, $7 children Veena Sahasrabuddhe will give a vocal concert Saturday, Sept. 24 in San Jose. Walk to End Alzheimer’s in San 5-9 at door. Children under 5 free. Francisco. Walk to End Alzheimer’s (510) 875-5006, (510) 449-8530, is the nation’s largest event to raise (510) 449-8535. awareness and funds for Alzheimer’s care, nondualism and its modern transformation. support and research. Events are held annuAlso, film screening of Satyajit Ray’s film, ally in the fall in nearly 600 communities na“Agantuk,” a comedy. Film: 3 p.m. at Media tionwide. The San Francisco Walk is one of September Sunday Center; lecture: 5:30 p.m. at Recital Hall. Orthe largest in the country, and has raised over ganized by Satyajit Ray Film & Study Center. $1 million every year since 2007. Participants Bharatanatyam Arangetram of Suchita 3 p.m. UC Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz. $6. (831) can either do a three-mile or a one-and-aNety. Student of Mythili Kumar, artistic 459-4012. half-mile walk. Organized by Alzheimer’s director of Abhinaya Dance Company. Association. 9 a.m.-12 p.m. Mission Creek Organized by Abhinaya Dance Company. 4 Hindustani Vocal Concert by Veena Park, 290 Channel St., San Francisco, 94158. p.m. Mission City Center for Performaning Sahasrabuddhe. Sahasrabuddhe is one of Free. (650) 962-8111. Arts, 3250 Monroe St., Santa Clara, 95051. India’s top vocalists in Hindustani (See story.) Free. (408) 871-5959. cal music and has performed all over the world. This will be her first concert in the Satyajit Ray Lecture. By Karan Singh, Bay Area after four years. Accompanying president, Indian Council of Cultural RelaLegacy of Bhimsen Joshi: A Grand are Vivek Datar (harmonium), Abhiman tions; ambassador to the U.S.; Indian cabinet Hindustani Vocal Concert. A celebration Kaushal (tabla), and Jayanti Sahasrabudmember; former governor of Kashmir; poet; of the work of Bhimsen Joshi, a legendary dhe (backing vocal, taanpura). Organized musician; philosopher. Lecture on “Nava Hindustani musician who with his sonorous by Shivani Thombare. 6-9:30 p.m. Theater, Vedanta,” ancient Indian philosophy on voice and formidable technique captivated 3300 Quimby Road, San Jose, 95148. $20 listeners beyond the ethnic and linguistic general; discount for students. Tickets: boundaries. In this tribute, Nachiketa (408) 531-8126, kundi (formerly Sharma), the illustrious dis(408) 203-0362., A SUGGESTION: ciple of Basavraj Rajguru (who also learned



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

CALL TO CONFIRM! 100 • india currents • september 2011

Share your stories on health with India Currents readers! We are accepting original submissions that focus on health and wellness. Send your 650-800-word essay on disease prevention, exercise, ayurvedic cooking, or any other health-related topic to Nadia Maiwandi at

from the same Kirana gharana stalwart, Sawai Gandharva as Joshi) brings together a bouquet of Joshi’s renderings in a concert to benefit ICA, a Bay Area-based nonprofit. Yakkundi is accompanied by the renowned Bay Area artists Vivek Datar (harmonium) and Ravi Gutala (tabla). Also featuring an exclusively choreographed dance performance by the noted bharatanatyam dancer Gargi Panchangam on songs popularized by Joshi. Organized by Indians for Collective Action. 5-9 p.m. JCC Palo Alto, 3921 Fabian Way, Palo Alto, 94303. $15 till Aug. 31st; $25, $35 after. (650) 326-2542. RememberingTheLegend@g


30 Monday

Asha Bhosle in Concert. Since making

her soundtrack debut in 1948, the legendary “Queen of Bollywood” Asha Bhosle has stunned fans with her flawless vocal that has been heard on more than 13,000 songs and featured in over 1,000 films—in at least 15 different languages—a mind-boggling feat that makes her the most widely recorded vocalist in history. While never appearing on screen, she became a bigger star than most of the actresses lip-syncing to her voice, particularly as Bhosle collaborated with her late husband, celebrated composer R.D. Burman. Now 78, she sounds like a woman half her age. Bhosle has created music that’s as sophisticated and entrancing as any in the world. Organized by 29th San Francisco Jazz Festival. 8 p.m. Paramount Theatre, 2025 Broadway, Oakland, 94612. $20/$35/$50/$65. (866) 920-5299. (See story.)


1 Saturday

Zankaar Four Raga Concert. Hindustani

classical concert. The four Ragas are Bhatiyar, Basant, Basant Bahar, and Gara. The event includes a Karnatik version of ragas, instrumental (flute) and eight movie songs based on the theme ragas. Organized by Sangeet Dhwani. 2:30-5:30 p.m. Divine Science Center, 1540 Hicks Ave., San Jose, 95125. Free. RSVP: (408) 394-0554.

Sharod Utsav (Autumn Festival) and Durga Puja 2011. Sharod Utsav (Au-

tumn Festival) and Durga Puja is the biggest Bengali festival of the year celebrated in some regions of India and several parts of the world. This festival is celebrated for five consecutive days during autumn in India, and in some parts of India, these five days are observed as a municipal holiday. For the Bengali community, it is the most significant sociocultural event. The fourth annual Baybasi event will celebrate Durga Puja in the morning, and several cultural events in the evening, including a Dandiya event on Sunday. The festival and puja runs Oct. 1-2, 9 a.m.-10 p.m. Ends Oct. 2. Organized by Baybasi, Inc., Foster City. Bowditch Middle School, 1450 Tarpon St., Foster City, 94404 . Free, except for the Dandiya, which will be ticketed for non-members.


2 Sunday

Gandhi Day: World Non Violence and Peace Day. A salute to the legacy of

non-violence, peace, and tolerance, featuring children’s activity, arts, craft, painting, inspirational cultural program, testimonials, and other activities in message of non-violence andpeace. Community

leaders from various ethnicities will be present. Organized by India-American Organization. 12-4:30 p.m. Cupertino Library-City Hall, 10800 Torre Ave., Cupertino, 95014 . Free. (510) 7896182, (510) 221-6175.

Samkirtan. Celebration of KalaAwishkar

Dance School’s fifth anniversary. Organized by KalaAwishkar. 3-7 p.m. Hoover Theater, San Jose. (408) 656-5019.

Nritya Tarangini. A kuchipudi dance recital,

presented by Tejaswi Kondapalli and directed by Uma Rama Rao, based on Saint Narayana Teertha’s “Sri Krishna Leela Tarangini” in the 17th century. It is the longest opera written in the Sanskrit language. The text consists of 150 keertanas (songs) that detail Lord Krishna’s life from his birth till his marriage to Rukmini. The text also contains many slokams (poetry) and gadyams (prose) to keep the story line connected. Kondapalli researched Tarangini as part of Fulbright Scholarship for 2010. This is a unique production that aims to explore “Krishna Leela Tarangini” through Kuchipudi dance. The production will follow the story line of Krishna’s life through a collection of five dance items. Each piece tells a part of Krishna’s life, from the point of view of a unique character that comes into contact with him. Through these various songs the dancer explores the moods of different raagams and the rhythms and math of different talams. Dancer will display acrobatic talent that unique to Tarangam choreography. 4 p.m. Mission City Center for Performing Arts, 3250 Monroe St., Santa Clara, 95051. Free. (408) 836-0795.

Maa ... Tere Liye 2011. Music recital by

students of Praveen Chaddha. Organized by Shanamo. 4:30 p.m. Holly Community Center, 31600 Alvarado Blvd., Union City. (510) 798-

From the left: Nachiketa Yakkundi, Vivek Datar, and Ravi Gutala will perform for the Bhimsen Joshi musical tribute on Sunday, Sept. 25 in Palo Alto. india currents • september 2011 • 101



6 Thursday

Vijayadasami Celebrations. Organized by Nrithyollasa Dance Academy. For more information, contact: (510) 623-8230, or


8 Saturday

Diwali Festival. Visitors to the festival

will be treated to a festive atmosphere of sari festooned trees, spectacular lanterns, and a cultural kaleidoscope of activities and performances. Beginning with the popular Kids Zone art show and grand opening, featuring community and elected leaders in traditional Indian clothing, the festival appeals to all senses. Indian food, music, and dancing, featuring classical kuchipudi and kathak to folk koli, and innal kolatam to popular Bollywood dances. Attendees may get decorative mehendi drawn on the palm of their hands, learn their future with a visit to the fortune teller’s stall, or attend the bazaar with Indian art, clothing, jewelry, children’s books, and toys. The elaborate and exciting Kids Zone will be packed throughout the day with children visiting the magic show, petting zoo, pony rides, bounce houses, face painting, and coloring contests. Organized by Cupertino Chamber of Commerce. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Memorial Park, 21251 Stevens Creek Blvd., Cupertino, 95014. Free. (408) 252-7054, (408) 806-9142.,

Bharatanatyam Arangetram of Ishani Joshi. Student of Mythili Kumar, artistic

director of Abhinaya Dance Company. Organized by Abhinaya Dance Company. De Anza Visual and Performing Arts Cener, 21250 Stevens Creek Blvd., Cupertino, 95014. (408) 871-5959.


15 Saturday

Walk to End Alzheimer’s. The nation’s largest event to raise awareness and funds

“Nritya Tarangini,” a Kuchipudi dance recital, will be performed on Sunday, Oct. 2 in Santa Clara.

for Alzheimer’s care, support and research. Events are held annually in the fall in nearly 600 communities nationwide. The San Francisco Walk is one of the largest in the country, and has raised over $1 million every year since 2007. 8:30 a.m. check-in; 10 a.m. walk. Organized by Alzheimer’s Association. Arena Green Park, San Jose. Free parking at HP Pavilion. (650) 962-8111. (See story.)

Divali Fest Comes to Libraries. An af-

ternoon of dances, arts and crafts, and more. Bharatnatyam by students of Kalanjali (artistic director Katherine Kunniraman), Kanha School of Dance (artistic director Ashwini Srivatsan), Saraswati Kala Nilaya (artistic director Barbara Framm), and Bollywood dance by Richa and Sanjana Shukla. Please call to

participate. Organized by Prabha Gopal of Bay Area Performance. 3-5 p.m. Hercules Library, 109 Civic Drive, Hercules, 94594. Free. Info: (925) 947-1908, Venue: (925) 947-1908.

Kuchipudi and Bharatanatyam Solos.

By Siri Yellamraju, Chitra Kalyandurg, and Ramya Ramesh students of Shashikala Penumarti, Anuradha Nehru, and Vishal Ramani of Yuva Bharati. Organized by Yuva Bharati. 4-6:30 p.m. Cubberley Theatre, 4000 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto, 94303. Free. (650) 565-8859. © Copyright 2011 India Currents. All rights reserved. Reproduction for commercial use strictly prohibited.

Have you had an inspirational experience? Share it with the readers of India Currents! India Currents runs monthly spiritual essays written by members of the community. We accept spiritual or religious-themed essays from any religion or denomination, or lack thereof. IC looks for pieces that are written from a personal standpoint, rather than academic. Send your 600-800-word submissions to Nadia Maiwandi at 102 • india currents • september 2011



Deepak Chandani

The Arrival of Nrsimhadeva T

he timing of Sri Sri Laxmi Nrsimhadeva’s arrival at the ISKCON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness) temple in San Jose was astounding. On Sept. 11, 2001—at the exact time terrorists were attacking the World Trade Center in New York City—Nrisimhadeva, famous for being the protector of His devotees, made His appearance at our temple. Devotees at an ISKCON preaching center in Tijuana, Mexico—seeking protection from persecution by extreme religious groups in their area—had taken up the worship of this deity of Nrsimhadeva. Later, after they moved from Tijuana, they brought Nrsimhadeva to ISKCON San Diego, where He stayed at the home of the temple president, Gandharvika Dasi, for one year. Desiring that Nrsimhadeva receive a more opulent standard of daily worship, Gandarvika Dasi, called one of the devotees at ISKCON of Silicon Valley (ISV) in San Jose. After hearing Gandharvika Dasi’s proposal, they were eager to receive Nrsimhadeva. After that, there were only some vague plans for someone to bring Him from San Diego to ISV, but no one was clear exactly when Nrsimhadeva would actually arrive. One day, a devotee making the 600mile drive up the coast, showed up at our temple with Sri Sri Laxmi Nrsimhadeva. Amazingly, His arrival came during the 9/11 attacks, a time when people all over the world were afraid and wondering where to find shelter. All the devotees at ISV took this as Nrsimhadeva’s special mercy on them. Since that day, the devotees at ISV have been worshiping Nrsimhadeva and His eternal consort Sri Laxmi Ji, beholding their beauty and opulence, praying for their special mercy. This year, marks the 10th year that the devotees of ISV have been blessed with continuous association, causeless mercy and much needed protection through serving their Lordships, Sri Sri Laxmi Nrsimhadeva. Lord Krishna incarnates time and again

to deliver the souls of this world. Among his incarnations, however, His appearance as the half-man, half-lion, Nrsimhadeva, is especially merciful. Millions of years ago, Nrsimhadeva first incarnated to save His devotee, the 5-year-old boy Prahlada, from the hands of Prahlada’s cruel father, Hiranyakasipu. Hiranyakasipu, an ardent materialist and demon, was bent on dominating the universe and did so after performing severe austerities and being rewarded by Brahma. Hiranyakasipu considered the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Visnu, to be his archenemy and held a special hatred for Him because Visnu had killed his brother, Hiranyaksa. When Hiranyakasipu found out that his own son, Prahlada, was a pure devotee of Visnu, he became so disturbed that he tried to kill Prahlada. Nrsimhadeva then appeared from inside a stone pillar, killed Hiranyakasipu and rescued Prahlada. Nrsimhadeva not only protects His devotees from all dangers, he also removes

obstacles on their pathway to perfection in devotional service. This is one reason that sincere devotees pray to Nrsimhadeva, who is Krishna himself (“Kesava dhrta narahari rupa”) asking His assistance in achieving complete purity of heart. Nrsimhadeva is well known and regularly worshiped in South India, especially Andhra Pradesh. However, in America, people rarely get to see a deity of Nrsimhadeva. This year, out of this sense of appreciation the devotees decided to do something special to celebrate His divine appearance day, which they observed on Monday, May 16. With gusto, the devotees at ISV opened the doors of the ISV temple, inviting people from all over the Bay Area to come receive the blessed glance of Nrsimhadeva and His consort, Sri Laxmi Ji, the Goddess of Fortune, who sits upon Nrsimhadeva’s lap. Leading up to this event, community members at ISV held a month-long festival that included the distribution of transcendental books, prasadam and the holy names of God for the benefit of others. Participants went door to door, distributing books and invitations to come to see Nrsimhadeva. They also went to parks and street corners and performed public sankirtana (the congregational chanting of God’s holy names). Their motive behind organizing these events was to emulate the mood of Prahlada, who felt compassion toward souls suffering in the material world. Prahlada taught that the best service to these suffering souls is to teach them about Krsna consciousness, bringing them closer to Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The festival of Lord Nrsimhadeva was a grand success, and now the devotees of ISV are eager to invite visitors to 951 S. Bascom Ave., San Jose, to see Sri Sri Laxmi Nrsimhadeva. For more information, contact Deepak Chandani works at Apple and is the director of communications and publicity at ISKCON of Silicon Valley. india currents • september 2011 • 103


spirituality and health


1 Thursday

Ganesh Chaturthi. Program Highlights:

live music, skit on Ganeshji, talk “Ganesh Chaturthi and It’s Real Significance,” prasad. Organized by Brahma Kumaris Silicon Valley. 6:30-8:30 p.m. Milpitas Library, 160 North Main St., Milpitas. Free. RSVP required. (408) 935-8740.

Ganesh Chaturthi Celebrations. Pujas

conducted by Pandit Ravichandran. Organized by Chinmaya Mission San Jose. 6:30 p.m. Sandeepany San Jose, 1050 Park Ave., San Jose, CA 95126. Free. (408) 998-2793. sa

Sri Gauri, Sri Ganesha Puja, and Kirtan. Annual worship of Gauri and Ga-

nesha followed by aarati & mahaprasad. Organized by Badarikashrama. 7 p.m. 15602 Maubert Ave., San Leandro, 94578. Free. (510) 278-2444.

Sri Ramana’s Arrival at Arunachala.

Sept. 1 is when Sri Ramana Maharshi arrived at Arunachala, steadily abiding in and as the self, where he would henceforth reveal the highest nondual truth with teachings of self-knowledge, showing the primary means of the path of Knowledge, self-inquiry. This event is to celebrate this holy day. Meditation, readings, recitations, and devotional chanting in praise of Sri Ramana Maharshi followed by prasad. Organized by Society of Abidance in Truth (SAT). 7:30-9:30 p.m. Society of Abidance in Truth (SAT), 1834 Ocean St., Santa Cruz, 95060. Free. (831) 4257287.,

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




3 Saturday

Discourses on Ashtavakra Gita. By Acha-

rya Prabodh Chaitanya of Chinmaya Mission San Jose. Ends Sep. 5. Organized by Chinmaya Mission San Jose. 6:30-10 a.m. Sandeepany San Jose, 1050 Park Ave., San Jose, CA 95126. Free. (408) 998-2793. sanjose@chinma

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

Sundarakhanda Ramayana of Sri Tulsidas Goswami, followed by aarati and mahaprasad. Organized by Badarikashrama. 2:30 p.m. 15602 Maubert Ave., San Leandro, CA 94578. Free. (510) 278-2444. www.badarikashrama.orgs.


4 Sunday

Sri Ganesha Homa, Music. Annual wor-

ship of Sri Ganesha. Homa, fire ceremony, conducted for Ganesha. Group participation. Organized by Badarikashrama. 2:30 p.m. 15602 Maubert Ave., San Leandro, 94578. Free. (510) 278-2444.

Lalitha Shasaranam Puja. Organized by Balaji Temple. 7 p.m. 678 Cypress Ave., Sunnyvale. (408) 203-1036, (408) 733-9266.

How to Spiritualize Business. SRF Cen-

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


5 Monday

Saraswati Puja 2011. This event is de-

signed to involve kids in invoking the blessings of Mother Saraswati. Let’s help kids achieve their best in school and everything they do. Organized by M. A. Center. 3-5 p.m. 10200 Crow Canyon Road, Castro Valley, 94552. Free. (925) 398-0632. ranga_ saraswatipooja2011.eventb


7 Wednesday

Karan Singh will give a lecture on Thursday Sept. 22 in San Francisco.

Ekadesi Sri Ramanama Sankeertana. 7 p.m. Balaji Temple, 678 Cypress Ave., Sunnyvale, 94085. (408) 203-1036, (408) 733-9266.


9 Friday

Onam Pradosham Rudraabhishekam and Lakshmi Puja. 5:30 p.m. Balaji

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

Kirtan (Chanting). Join for an evening

of sacred chanting. Most chants are simple to learn, so you’ll be able to join in easily your first time. Words are provided. We’ll sing many beautiful chants in English as well as some Indian chants accompanied by harmonium and guitar. Fridays, Sept. 2, 9, 16, 23, and 30. Ends Sep. 30. Organized by Ananda Church. 7:30-9 p.m. 2171 El Camino Real, Palo Alto 94306. Free. (650) 323-3363.

Discourses on ABCs of Vedanta. Home satsang. Organized by Chinmaya Mission San Jose. 8-9 p.m. Ruparel Residence, 20668 Seaton Ave., Saratoga, 95070. Free. (408) 867-9550.

Ribhu Gita. Readings, with commentary

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

P l a c e y o u r e v e n t f o r f r e e : w w w. i n d i a c u r r e n t s . c o m / s u b m i t - e v e n t 104 • india currents • september 2011

spiritual growth


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11 Sunday

Lecture “Integral Yoga” by Kundan Singh. Singh obtained his Ph.D. from the

San Francisco-based California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS) in East-West Psychology. He has a deep knowledge and sincere commitment to the philosophies of Sri Aurobindo and Haridas Chaudhuri, who brought Integral Yoga to California in 1951. Singh teaches at the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology and CIIS, where he offers a lively comparison of the works of Aurobindo and Chaudhuri with postmodern philosophers, both East and West. In this lecture, Singh will outline the salient points of Integral Philosophy including its core teachings from Aurobindo and Chaudhuri, as well as its roots originating from the teachings of Ramakrishna and Vivekananda, forefathers who brought Indian spirituality to the West. Organized by Cultural Integration Fellowship. 11 a.m.-12:15 p.m. 2650 Fulton St., San Francisco, 94118. (415) 668-1559. culturalfell www.culturalintegratio

Sri Satyanarayana Swami Puja and Kirtan. Worship of Satyanarayana in Ve-

dic worship, group participation, followed by aarati and mahaprasad, and Sunday service. Organized by Badarikashrama.

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

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


12 Monday


Shiva Puja. Abhishekam, chanting of

Rudram/Chamakam. Organized by Chinmaya Mission San Jose. 7:30-9 p.m. Sandeepany San Jose, 1050 Park Ave., San Jose, 95126. Free. (408) 998-2793. sanjose@chinmayamissi


technique that brings the attention from the head to the heart. Come just for the yoga section, just for the meditation section or both. Meditators may sit in a chair, if sitting on the floor is uncomfortable. Classes will be held on Thursdays, Sept. 15, 22, and 29. Ends Sep. 29. Organized Hamsa Yoga Sangh. 7:30-9 p.m. Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Redwood City (Block Room), 2124 Brewster Ave., Redwood City. Free. (650) 823-6108.,

15 Thursday

Discourses on Kapil Gita from Srimad Bhagavatam. Home satsang. Organized by

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


Introduction to Hamsa Yoga and Meditation Meetup. Yoga asanas combined with the Hamsa breath 7:30 to 8:30 p.m., and Siddhanath Golden Lotus Meditation from 8:30-9 p.m. Himalayan yoga master Yogiraj SatGurunath Siddhanath has developed a

16 Friday

17 Saturday

The Art of Following Your Intuition.

Learn to find the right balance between selfcontrol and self-expression, to understand the difference between the needs of the ego and the needs of the soul, and how to direct your energy positively. Organized by Ananda


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spiritual growth

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All kinds of Hindu traditional Pujas and homas Ganapathi, Navagraha, Vasthu, Ayushya Homas, Marriages, Seemantham, Nama-karnam, Upanayanam, Sathyanarayana Puja, Lakshmi Puja, Durga Sapthasathi Yanthra Puja. Hiranya Sradha and last rites. American born children’s horoscopes.

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india currents • september 2011 • 107

Church. 10 a.m.-1 p.m. 2171 El Camino Real, Palo Alto 94306. $30. (650) 323-3363.

and a deeper, extensive understanding of the Knowledge revealed by the Maharshi. Organized by Society of Abidance in Truth (SAT). 8-9:30 p.m. Society of Abidance in Truth (SAT), 1834 Ocean St., Santa Cruz, 95060. Free. (831) 425-7287.

Mandalas in Harmony. Talk by Ariosto J.

Coelho, licensed marriage and family therapist; clinical art therapist, integral artist. Coelho is an exceptional professional artist, author, therapist, and multilingual interfaith spiritual director and contemporary Catholic priest. He will be talking about “Mandalas in Harmony,” Chapter 6 in his latest book, “Integral Art.” There will be a display of some of his “Mandalas.” Organized by Badarikashrama. 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Badarikashrama, 15602 Maubert Ave., San Leandro, 94578. Free. (510) 278-2444.


Vishnu Sahasranaama and Bhagavad Gita Paaraayanam. Organized by Chinma-

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

Sri Karunamayee will dedicate a concert to Gandhi on Sunday, Oct. 2 in San Francisco.

18 Sunday

Guest Speaker and Kirtan. Guest speaker to be announced. Organized by Badarikashrama. 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Badarikashrama, 15602 Maubert Ave., San Leandro, 94578. Free. (510) 278-2444.

The Adventure of Self-Transformation: The Architecture and Foundation of Yoga. Lecture by Steven Satyavan Krolik,

who studied for 10 years with the late Haridas Chaudhuri, the founder of Cultural Integration Fellowship (CIF) and is a member of its board of directors. Certified by Chaudhuri, Krolik has practiced and taught yoga since 1960. In this lecture and experiential community event, Krolik will share his grasp of yoga’s underlying psycho-spiritual principles and facilitate a group experience and discussion on the topics noted in the title. A potluck luncheon will follow; please bring your favorite vegetarian dish to share. Organized by Cultural Integration Fellowship. 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Cultural Integration Fellowship, 2650 Fulton St., San Francisco, 94118. (415) 668-1559. culturalfellowship@sbcglobal .net.

Be a Smile Millionaire. SRF Center Sac-

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


22 Thursday

Vedanta Today. Lecture by Karan Singh,

born heir-apparent to the Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir. He has held important cabinet portfolios in the goverment of India and has been a leading thinker and leader there for decades, serving in many educational and cultural organizations. Organized by Cultural Integration Fellowship. 6:30-7: 45 p.m. Cultural Integration Fellowship, 2650 Fulton St., San Francisco, 94118. (415) 668-1559.


23 Friday

Discourses on Aparokshanubhooti.

Home satsang. Organized by Chinmaya Mission San Jose. 8-9 p.m. Dash Residence, 6789 Glenview Drive, San Jose, 95120. Free. (408) 268-5056.

Ramana Darshanam. The Ramana Dar-

shanam events are focused on the teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi, as contained in books published by Sri Ramanasramam. Passages are read aloud, and their meanings are explained in detail so that seekers can fully practice the teachings and comprehend their profound significance. Dialogues also occur in which aspirants raise questions from their own practices and receive answers so to provide better absorption


24 Saturday

Meditation Seminar. An introduction to

the practice and benefits of the eight-point program of passage meditation. We can’t control what life sends us, but we can choose how we respond. If we calm the mind, we can access the deep strength, love and wisdom within us all. What is passage meditation? In this method developed by Eknath Easwaran, you meditate on inspirational passages from the world’s great wisdom traditions. It can help you to: deepen concentration, develop richer relationships, live more fully in the present, discover your unique contribution to life. Organized by Blue Mountain Center of Meditation. 10:30 a.m.12:30 p.m. Pacific School of Religion, 1798 Scenic Ave., Room 100, Berkeley, 94709. Free. (800) 475-2369.

Make a Joyful Noise. Enjoy a beauti-

ful evening of Ananda music conducted by David Eby, director of music, Ananda worldwide. Featuring choral and small group pieces as well as solos and instrumentals, including Eby playing cello. 7: 30-9 p.m. Ananda Church, 2171 El Camino Real, Palo Alto 94306. Free. (650) 323-3363.


25 Sunday

Sri Ramanama Sankirtana and Meditation. Group singing of 108 stanzas depicting the Ramayana followed by aarati and mahaprasad. Organized by Badarikashrama. 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Badarikashrama, 15602 Maubert Ave.,San Leandro, 94578. Free. (510) 278-2444.

Have you had an inspirational experience? Share it with the readers of India Currents. We are accepting spiritual or religious-themed essays for print, from any religion or denomination, or lack thereof. Send your 600- to 800-word submissions to Nadia Maiwandi at 108 • india currents • september 2011

The Metaphysical Instincts and Spiritual By-Passing. Lecture by by Dr. Bahman

Shirazi, a proponent of the Integral Yoga of Sri Aurobindo. Shirazi teaches at several Bay Area graduate schools in the comparative philosophy and religion departments. He is the archivist at the California Institute of Integral Studies in S.F. This lecture will outline how the higher unconscious’ metaphysical instincts must be made conscious to harness their positive aspects for spiritual growth and transformation. Organized by Cultural Integration Fellowship. 11 a.m.-12:15 p.m. Cultural Integration Fellowship, 2650 Fulton St., San Francisco, 94118. (415) 668-1559. culturalinte

Our Immortal Nature. SRF Center Sac-

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


28 Wednesday

Navratri: Sri Durga Puja, Nine Days Worship of Divine Mother. Daily: 5:307:30 a.m. Sri Durga Saptasati Patha; 10:30

a.m. Sri Durga Homa; 7:30 p.m. Sri Lalitha Sahasranama Puja and Kirtan; Saturday, Oct. 1, 8:00 p.m. Mataki Chowki; Tuesday, Oct. 4, 8:00 pm Astami Puja & Garba; Thursday, Oct. 6, 6:00 pm Sri Vijayaja Dashmi Homa & Garba. Ends Oct. 6. Organized by Badarikashrama. 5:30 a.m.-7:30 p.m. Badarikashrama, 15602 Maubert Ave.,San Leandro, 94578. Free. (510) 278-2444.


30 Friday

Navaratri. Samashti Lalitha Sahasranaama

Archana. Pujas conducted by Panditji Ravichandran. Organized by Chinmaya Mission San Jose. 7 p.m. CMSJ Facility, 10160 Clayton Road, San Jose, 95127. Free. (408) 998-2793. s


2 Sunday

Gandhi Birthday Celebration: A Vocal Concert Offering by Sri Karunamayee.

Sri Karunamayee is renowned for her soulempowering vocal music, having studied under the late Pran Nath. From the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in Delhi, Karunamayee excels in North Indian classical vocals. She will be accompanied by Arshad Syed (tabla)

and members of the Sur Laya Sangam Study Center for Indian Devotional Music in Albany, Calif. Organized by Cultural Integration Fellowship. 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Cultural Integration Fellowship, 2650 Fulton St., San Francisco, 94118. free will donation. (415) 668-1559.


3 Monday

Annual Durga Puja. Durga Puja is cel-

ebrated all over India in worship of the Goddess, Durga, the Mother Goddess who protects and redeems in situations of distress, manifesting fearlessness and strength. Ramen Chakrabarti officiates in this authentic Hindu ritual, one of the first continuing celebrations of Durga in the Bay Area. The Sri Chandi will be recited by Professor James Ryan, co-chairman of the Asian and Comparative Religion Department at the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco. Prasad will be shared with guests. 6:30-8 p.m. Cultural Integration Fellowship, 2650 Fulton St., San Francisco, 94118. (415) 668-1559. culturalinte © Copyright 2011 India Currents. All rights reserved. Reproduction for commercial use strictly prohibited.

india currents • september 2011 • 109

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

(408) 226-3600

32B Rancho Drive, San Jose, CA 95111

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

Friday, September 2, 2011 Rishi Panchami Saturday, September 3, 2011 Sashti Vratha At 8.30 pm Sukla Sashti Sri Valli Deva Sena Sametha Sri Subramanya Sahasranama Archana Sunday, September 4, 2011 At 3.45 pm Sri Ganesh Visarjanam

Tuesday, September 13, 2011 Mahalaya Paksha (Pithru Paksha) Begins Friday, September 16, 2011 At 4.00 pm Sri Bhuwaneswari/Sri Lalitha Devi Abhisheka followed with Sri Lalitha Sahasranama chanting At 5.00 pm Sankata Hara Chathurthi Ganapathi Homa, Sri Lakshmi Ganapathi Abhisheka Aarati and Manthra Pushpa Saturday, September 17, 2011 Maha Bharani Sunday, September 18, 2011 Kritika Vratha At 4.00 pm Sri Valli Deva Sena Sametha Sri Subramanaya Abhisheka, Sri Lakhmi Ganapathi Abhisheka, Sri Shiva Abhisheka Aarati and Manthra Pushpa Tuesday, September 20, 2011 Madhya Ashtami, Mahavyadeeya Padam Wednesday, September 21, 2011 Avidava Navami

Monday, September 5, 2011 Labour Day Week End Timings Friday, September 9, 2011 At 5.00 pm Sri Bhuwaneswari/Sri Lalitha Devi Abisheka, Pradosham Shiva Sri Rudra Abhisheka followed by Sri Lalitha Sahasranama chanting Aarati and Manthra Pushpa Sunday, September 11. 2011 Annantha Chathurdasi Vrata At 2.00 pm Pournami Vratha/Pooja Sri Sathyanarayana Swamy Pooja/Vratha. All are welcome to participate with family. At 4.00 pm Sri Lakhsmi Ganapathi Abhisheka, Sri Valli Deva Sena Sametha Sri Subramanya Abhisheka, Sri Shiva Abhisheka Aarati and Manthra Pushpa

Sunday, September 25, 2011 Pradosham At 4.00 pm Pradosham Shiva Sri Rudra Abhisheka, Sri Lakhsmi Ganapathi Ahisheka, Sri Valli Deva Sena Sametha Sri Subramanya Abhisheka Aarati and Manthra Pushpa Tuesday, September 27, 2011 Mahalaya Amavasya Special Tharpanam's at the temple 1st Batch 7.00 am, 2nd Batch 8.00 am, 3rd Batch 9.00 am, 4th Batch 10.00 am, 5th Batch 11.00 am, 6th Batch 12.00 noon. Please contact temple for further details, keeping of Golu (Golu set up at the temple) Wednesday, September 28, 2011 Navarathri Begins, 28th, 29th, 30th and

October 1st, October 2nd, October 3rd, October 4th, October 5th - Daily night at 8.00 pm Sri Lalitha Sahasranama Archana Sunday, October 2, 2011 Sashti Vratha Sukla Sashti Vratha At 8.30 pm Sri Valli Deva Sena Sametha Sri Subramanya Sahasranama Archana Tuesday, October 4, 2011 Durga Ashtami At 4.00 pm Shiva Abhisheka Aarati and Manthra Pushpa At 5.00 pm Chandi Homa Chandi Havan Night At 9.00 pm Sri Hanuman Chalisa Wednesday, October 5, 2011 Maha Navami Saraswathi Pooja Thursday, October 6, 2011 Vijaya Dasami Temple Opens at 7.00 am with Sri Venkateswara Suprabhatam continued with Shiva Abhisheka Aarati and Manthra Pushpa Aksharabhyasa 1st Batch 8.00 am, 2nd Batch 9.00 am, 3rd Batch 10.00 am, 4th Batch 11.00 am, 5th Batch 12.00 Noon, 6th Batch 1.00 pm. Please contact temple for further details. Aksharabhyasa. Please bring the following items: Turmeric Powder, Kum Kum, Sandal Powder, Agarbathi Camphor, Coconut 2 Nos, Banana 6 Nos, Varities of Fruits, Flowers, Rice 1 Pkt, Coins (15 Nos), Naivedya (Any sweet of your choice), Slate and pencil (writing materials), New Dress for the baby, Beetel Leafs 6 Nos, Beetel Nuts 4 Nos. Continuous Archana to Sri Bhuwaneswari Devi At 5.30 pm Shirdi Sai Haarathulu Dhoop Aarathi At 10.15 pm Final Druga Aarathi and Jai Jagadesha Hare Aarathi for Balaji Ekantha Seva. Temple Closes

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


For Pujas & Rituals Contact: PANDIT

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

110 • india currents • september 2011

GANESH SHASTHRY 245-5443 / Cell: (925) 209-7637 E-mail:


Thursday, September 1, 2011 Ganesh Chathruthi, Sri Vinayaka Chathruthi At 9.00 am Temple opens with Sri Venkateswara Suprabhatam At 10.00 am Srlakshmi Ganapathi Abhisheka, Sri Siddhi Vinayka Abhisheka, Sri Siddhi Vinayaka Vratha Pooja Aarati and Manthra Pushpa and Prasada Viniyoga continuous Archana, through out the day At 5.30 pm Sri Shirdi Sai Haarathulu Dhoop Aarati At 10.30 pm Final Aarati Sukha Hartha Dukha Hartha Aarati and Jai Jagadesha Hare Aarati and Sri Balaji Ekantha Seva and temple closes

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the healthy life

Living with Migraines Mamta Singh


or most women suffer from migraines with no history in the family, the learning curve begins slowly and usually after a couple of years have been spent grappling with the horrors of repetitive episodes. My learning began four years after I started having migraines. Today, seven years on, I have learned to tackle them fairly successfully. I believe migraines in women caused by fluctuations in their hormone levels can at best only be managed, not cured. Though demystifying of the Why, What, When, and How took me through reams of research material that were available in books and on the Web, I found them esoteric for a layperson to assimilate in a short while. So I took to experimenting and settled on a rather strange mix that worked well for me. The bonus was that since I was the architect of the blueprint, it suited my lifestyle to a T! In 2002, I joined a program of the popular Art of Living Foundation. There, we were made to go through cardiovascular workouts before practicing the various pranayams and meditation techniques. I realized that shortly after each session, I felt lively and positive about life. After moderate-intensity exercise session beyond 20 minutes, the body releases a chemical called dopamine. Its secretion is linked to increased heart rate, blood pressure, and rise in body temperature. It acts as an inhibitory hormone, which stops the anterior pituitary gland from releasing prolactin —a polypeptide associated with pain alertness and reception of the body amongst other functions. It works in axis with serotonin—a key neurotransmitter deficient in the migraineur’s brain that triggers a chain of events eventually triggering migraines. Every time I got off the exercise regime for a couple of months, citing a busy schedule of a mom of young twins, I got myself into the low dopamine and low endorphin cycle, triggering migraines. So working out every day became a medicament for me. There is a gamut of aerobic activities that one could choose from to do on a pain-free day—step aerobics, pilates, yoga, kickboxing, martial arts, jogging, walking, hiking, interval training, weights, dancing, etc. Daily workouts have reduced both the frequency and the intensity of my migraine episodes. When I began the workouts, I did them every other day. I found them tiring with a young family to raise. On the off days, I practiced my pranayam—the ones I had learned at the Art of Living courses, as well as those of Baba Ramdev 112 • india currents • september 2011

whom I had watched on TV. Though each of us is born with a natural breathing rhythm, we seem to alter it unconsciously reacting to the various experiences in our lives. It was a revelation when I noticed that my breathing patterns were actually running in reverse—with abdomen deflation during inhalation! I rectified this and stayed focused while I breathed. Imagine having to learn how to breathe at the age of 32! I would like to share that Bhastrika Pranayam, Anulom-Vilom Pranayam, Kapalbhati Pranayam and the Brahmari Pranayam benefitted me in particular. Barring the Anulom-Vilom, the other three actually help reduce the frequency of migraines over a period of time through normalising the serotonin levels beyond the blood-brain barrier. Incidentally, the practice of Sudarshan Kriya taught at the Art of Living classes got me off the migraine path for a six months. Procrastination made me give up on them and the pain returned to haunt me. I would not be true to myself if I didn’t mention that I also used modern medicine to fire-fight migraines. When the migraines started after the twins were born in 1998, I took paracetamols. Later I toggled from aspirin to paracetamol every six months when one chemical stopped having its effect on the pain. I also noticed that taking a pain-killer along with an antiemetic always bore better results for me. I was also prescribed with Beta-blockers (Propanolol 10 mg) at one point as a prophylactic and these I found particularly helpful. I was later weaned off them when my situation

stabilized. Asking a migraineur to eat right is like asking a typist to check for typos. The norm. They have probably tried to keep off almost everything even mildly dubious. I did, too, until I was weak enough not to be able to keep myself and my household running. It occurred to me just before bedtime one evening to see what chemicals could help me and if there were available in foods we eat. To my surprise I found that minerals such as magnesium, calcium, tryptophan, omega-3 and conezyme Q10 were my saviours. I included foods that contained these on a rotation but made sure I had at least two of the items in the list every day. To my regime, I’ve also added to my advantage massage, homeopathy, ayurveda, stretches, aromatherapy, and reiki. Most of these therapies are sciences unto themselves with minimal or no side-effects. My migraine mix, as I call it, guided me toward the alternatives and long-term solutions available for prevention, management and treatment. Today my migraines still occur but they are milder, infrequent and I can still go about the activities of the day without giving up too much of my life or hope. Though not an easy walk, here is hoping that every migraineur finds their own road to freedom.n Mamta Singh is a certified fitness instructor and author of “Migraines For The Informed Woman,” “Mentor Your Mind,” and “The Urban Woman’s Integrated Fitness Guide.”


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Meditation and chanting. Yogalayam,


1717 Alcatraz Ave., Berkeley. Sundays, 9-10: 30 a.m. (510) 655-3664.

Laughter Yoga Club. Simple effective yo-

Sunday Worship Services. Seekers from all

gic exercises with laughter therapy for perfect health and happiness and to reduce stress. Serra Park, Hollenbeck Roadd, Sunnyvale. Daily. 7 a.m.-8 a.m. Free. (408) 490-1260.

Vishnusahasranama. Daily, 12 p.m. Ba-

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

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

Patanjali Yoga Sutras: Satsang. Parama-

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

Sunday Simplified Kundalini Yoga (SKY), plus

physical exercises. We guide and initiate SKY meditation. We also provide Kayakalpam and Introspection courses. Sundays, 8-10 a.m. Sunnyvale-Sanadan Dharma Kendra,897 Kifer Road, Suite #1, Sunnyvale. Free. (510) 456-8953.

Guru Gita Chant Siddha Yoga Meditation Ctr, 4115 Jacksol Dr., San Jose. Sundays, 8 a.m. (408) 559-1716.

Purification and Meditation Ananda

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

Discourses on Bhagavad Gita, Ch. 12 by

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

114 • india currents • september 2011

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

Yoga and Meditation. Sundays, 9:

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

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

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

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

Jainism Classes for children 4 years and

older. Organized by Jain Center of Northern Califorina. Jain Bhavan, 722 South Main St., Milpitas. First and third Sunday of every month. 10-11:30 a.m. $35 annually for members, $50 anually for non-members. (408) 5170975, (408) 262-6042.

Satsang, silent meditation, discourse by

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

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

Advaita Vedanta and the teachings of

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

Monthly Satsangs of Vaswani Mission of

Bay Area. Includes video discourse tapes of Dada Jashan, reading of the Noori Granth, Gita path, bhajans, and shloka recitation. Fremont Hindu Temple, 3676 Delaware Dr., Fremont. Third Sundays, 10:30–11: 45 a.m. (510) 796-4472, (408) 218-6364.

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

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

Community Gatherings include a short

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

Ramanama meditation and kirtan. Orga-

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

Sunday Service Organized by Self Real-

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

Sunday School for children 6-14 years of

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

Zoroastrian Temple Arbab Zoroastrian Temple, 10468 Crothers Rd, San Jose. First Sundays, 12 p.m. (408) 365-0119.

Nithya Dhyaan Meditation Satsang, a

powerful meditation technique to achieve physical and mental well-being. Organized by Life Bliss Foundation. Sundays, 3:30 p.m. 451 (Kung-Fu School), Los Coches St., Milpitas.

Sunday Festival, an evening of bhajans,


Sunday Festival, an evening of bhajans,

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

Traditional Vedanta and meditation class-

es. Presented by Swami Dayananda’s Arsha Vidya Center. Jain Bhavan, 722 S. Main, Milpitas. Sundays, 5-6:30 p.m. for beginning students; 8-9:30 a.m. for intermediate students. (650) 208-9565.

Festival and Feast an evening of bhajans,

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

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

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

Satsang. Prayer, chanting meditation, lecture

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

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Women’s Sufi Gathering Discussion

of Sufi principles, poetry, literature and meditation. Organized by International Association of Sufism. Berkeley venue to be announced. Sundays, 7 p.m. Free. (510) 8495309.

• • • • •

Devotional Meetings Programs including

prayer, chanting meditations, video discourse (Bhagvad Gita series), arti and homage. J.K.P. Sunnyvale Center, 955 Ponderosa Avenue #27, Sunyvale. Sundays, 7:30-8:45 p.m. (408) 7381201.

Sri Ram Amrith Vani and bhajans. Sun-

days, 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. followed by Preeti Bhoj. Sunnyvale Hindu temple, 420-450 Persian Dr., Sunnyvale. (408) 734-4554, (408) 734-0775.

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Bhajan, Kirtan, Sathsanga or Puja. Sundays, Balaji Temple, 678

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

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

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

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

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

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

Discourses on Sri Ramacharitmanas (Tulsi Ramayana) by Acharya Prabodh

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

Shri Appaji Meditation. Participate in

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

Jain Spiritual Lectures on topics such

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

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

Gakara Ganapathy Sahasranama Hindu


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

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

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

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

Discourses on Brhad-Aranyaka Upanishad by Acharya Prabodh Chaitanya.

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

Chanting Hanuman Chalisa. Chanting

of the powerful Hanuman Chalisa in a group grants the devotee protection from all harm and blesses him/her with health, wealth and prosperity. It is followed by special aarthi to Ram parivar (Ram, Lakshman, Sita, and Ha-

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numan). Transcripts of the Chalisa provided (in English, Hindi, and Tamil). Tuesdays, 8-9: 30 p.m. Nithyananda Vedic Temple, 513 Los Coches St., Milpitas. Free. (408) 263-6375. www.vedictempl


Wednesday Yoga for Wellness. This class will offer

tools to help manage stress, enhance the immune system, promote healthy digestion and sleep, and optimize the body’s own healing mechanisms, by using movement, breath, meditation, and sound in a supportive group setting. Wednesdays, 9-10:15 a.m. Yoga Shala, 330 Melville Ave, Palo Alto. $15. (650) 857-0226.

Discourses on Kena Upanishad by

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

Worship Services include a burning bowl

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

Bhagavad Gita Class An in-depth explo-

ration of the Bhagavad Gita, led by Vaisesika Dasa Adhikari. ISKCON, 951 S. Bascom Ave., San Jose. Wednesdays, 6 p.m. Free. (408) 5593197.

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

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

Bhagavath Seva - Voluntary Service to

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

Ramayana Katha Aranya Kand with

pravachan by Shastriji. Vedic Dharma Samaj, Fremont Hindu Temple, 3676 Delaware Dr., Fremont. Wednesdays, 7:30 p.m. (510) 6590655.

Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, a discourse

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

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lecture series on devotional topic (Geeta, Bhagwatam, Brahma Sutra, Upnishads etc.), followed by arti and prasad. Jagadguru Kripalu Parishat (JKP) Center-San Jose. Wednesdays 7:30-8:45 p.m. 4940 Avenida de Carmen, Santa Clara. (408) 980-9953.

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday Discourses on Kena Upanishad by Acha-

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Satsang. Prayer, chanting meditation,

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

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Devotional Meetings including prayer,

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

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

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

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

tion of Kashmir Shaivism. Organized by Sri Sambha Sathashiva Vidya Peetham. Thursdays, 7-8:30 p.m. Nine Star University of Health Sciences, 441 DeGuigne Drive, Suite 201, Sunnyvale.

Shri Shirdi Sai Baba haarathulu dhoop

aarti. Sri Lakshmi Ganapathi Temple, 32B Rancho Dr., San Jose. Thursdays, 7:30 p.m. (408) 226-3600. www.siliconvall


Prakash S. Advani D.D.S.

ADVANI DENTAL GROUP Preventive Dentistry for the Whole Family

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FREE • Root Canals, Complicated INIT • Extractions CONSU IAL L EXCLUD TATION • Crowns, Bridges, Dentures ING X-R AYS • Emergency Patients Seen promptly Veneers

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

Inspirational Service SRF, 303 E. Main St,

We accept all PPO and Indemnity Plans

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

State of the Art Dental Technology

Zen Fitness Designed to reduce stress,

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

Ancient Wisdom, Modern Mind,

guided Kriya meditation led by Pratibha Gramann, longtime student of Sri Baba Hari Dass. Thursdays, 7-9 p.m. Shubhamayurveda Center, 3606 Thornton Ave., Fremont.

Dada Bhagwan’s Satsang. Thursdays, 8-10 p.m. For location, call (408) 910-6052, (408) 578-5685.

Prakash S. Advani D.D.S.

Family & Aesthetic Dentistry 13 Years Experience

Regulation Performed Weekly

860 E. Remington Dr. #F Sunnyvale, CA 94087

Open Mon-Sat 9am-6pm By Appointment Only

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Jain Swadhyay with an illuminating study

Internal Medicine & Primary Care BOARD CERTIFIED

of Jain scriptures Series continues on Samyag Tap, Samyag Gyan, Samyag Darshan and Samyag Charitra, with samanijies from Jain Vishwa Bharati, Ladnun, Rajasthan. Jain Bhawan, 722 S. Main Street, Milpitas. Thursdays, 8-9:30 p.m. Free. (408) 262-6242, (650) 2078196.

200 Jose Figueres Ave., Ste 230, San Jose, CA 95116

(408) 929-6922


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

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

Shirdi Sai Bhajans. Shirdi Sai Center, 897-

1569 Lexann Ave., Ste 220, San Jose, CA 95121

(888) DR ARA

Most Health Insurance Plans Accepted including Medicare, HMO, PPO. Cash Paying Options Available. Languages Spoken: Tamil & Hindi

Aparna C. Nayudu, D.D.S. General and Family Dentistry

Personalized Care for the whole family • Cleaning, Fillings, Crowns , Bridges • Root Canal Treatment, Extractions • Bleaching Check out IC online at


• Digital X-Ray (98% radiation free) HYG IENE KIT • Ultrasonic Cleaning for all new pa • Intra Oral Cameras afte r initia tients l cleaning • Air Abrasion Polisher • Sterilizer Monitoring Service per OSHA

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• Office hours by appointments • Evening/Weekend appointments • Most Dental Plans Welcome • Emergency Care • State of the Art Sterilization

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

Blvd, San Francisco. Fridays, 8 p.m. (415) 681 2731,


Sri Sai baba Aarti and Bhajana.

Bhajan Class for Children, ages 4-18. Fridays, 8-9:30 p.m. Nithyananda Vedic Temple, 513 Los Coches St., Milpitas. Free. (408) 263-6375.

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

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

Brhad-Aranyaka Upanishad by Acharya


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

Guided Meditation, followed by discours-


Guided Meditation followed by video

Kirtan and chanting. Organized by Ananda

Sangha. Ananda Sangha, 2171 El Camino (at College), Palo Alto. Fridays, 7:30-9:15 p.m. Free. Note: Only on the first Friday of the month, these sessions will be held at 240 Monroe Dr., Mountain View. (650) 323-3363.

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

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

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

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

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

Kirtan, an evening of chanting. Words pro-

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

Meditation, self-inquiry meditation in-

es on Taittiriya Upanishad. Sandeepany, 1050 Park Ave., San Jose. Saturdays, 6:30-8 a.m. (408) 998-2793. discourses on Svetashvara Upanishad by H.H. Swami Tejomayanandaji. Organized by Chinmaya Mission San Jose. Saturdays, 6:308 a.m. Sandeepany San Jose, 1050 Park Ave., San Jose. (408) 998-2793.

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

Simplified Kundalini Yoga (SKY), plus

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

Sri Venkateswara Suprabhata Seva

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

Video Satsang, bhajan, kirtan, Pranayam

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

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

Balajyothi Classes The classes focus on

Group Meditation with mantra chant-

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

ing and lecture with Swami Pranavananda, a senior meditation teacher. His kirtan and music is lively and his talks are practical. Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Center, 1200 Arguello 120 • india currents • september 2011

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

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

Video Gita from Tulsi Ramayana, by

Bala Vikas Classes Organized by San

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

Eucharistic Celebration in Tamil. Or-

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

Osho Evening Meditation Meeting

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

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

Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Literature, a

discourse by Swami Prapannananda. Vedanta Society of Sacramento, 1337 Mission Ave., Carmichael. Saturdays, 7:30 p.m. (916) 4895137.

eN-Kriya for Kundalini Awakening. eN-

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

I C dear doctor

Alzak Amlani

Drawing the Line Q

I am a 17-year-old girl with an uncle in his forties. He is mildly retarded and has never had a girlfriend. He grew up with a lot of abuse and hasn’t been able to have much of a relationship with women. He is very sweet and, in many ways, kind and innocent. I empathize with his struggles and have always been kind to him. I also feel sorry for him because he is so lonely. I know he feels very comfortable with me and seems to find me attractive and likes to get close to me and put his arm around me. It seems he expects me to be his friend. I get a little uncomfortable around him and don’t totally trust his impulses. My parents expect me to be accepting of him and not make him feel bad about his needs. However, I get scared that he will touch me sexually and will get upset or angry if I tell him not to. So there are times when I don’t want him around at all. I don’t quite know how to feel safe around him.


You are clearly being very sensitive about this issue and your uncle’s challenges and the familial-cultural expectations around you. When you care about someone and the

inappropriateness is more subtle, it’s quite challenging to set a clear limit. Nonetheless, you are pointing to enough infringement and lack of safety that you need to take some measures. First, letting your parents and family know that you care about your uncle, but that you need to trust that you won’t be touched in a sexual way is absolutely necessary. Unless they are negligent, think you are lying, or want to stay in complete denial, they need to support you. Ideally they need to speak to your uncle about what is okay and not okay in his relationship with you. This doesn’t have to be done in a harsh or crude way. They simply need to let him know that you feel uncomfortable in certain ways, and therefore, he needs to stop. Your parents need to find out if there is any history of him being inappropriate with other girls. They can ask other relatives and other people who know him. If he has been inappropriate then parents of these girls will need to be notified, so they can take appropriate measures to protect the girls. This can be a very delicate situation and you don’t want to

accuse anyone falsely, however, it’s too important an issue to take lightly. You also have a right to set boundaries around how anyone touches you, no matter how lonely they are, how much they like you or you them. For any relationship to sustain, that clarity and boundary has to be honored. What do you fear in his anger? For now, you ought to not be alone with him in any room, so he is inhibited and you have support if you need to say something and he has an outburst. You can physically hold your distance or stand close to another person when he is around. This will make it harder for him to have immediate access to you. Lastly, you can make a simple statement such as: “Please don’t put your arm around me.” Every person needs to learn such boundaries so they can relax and be themselves. Some assertiveness training could be helpful for you.n Alzak Amlani, Ph.D., is a counseling psychologist in the Bay Area. 650-325-8393. Visit

Is a family member or loved one hurting you?

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

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Bangla •Farsi •Gujarati • Hindi • Kannada • Malayalam •Marathi • Nepali • Punjabi • Sinhala • Tamil • Telugu •Urdu india currents • september 2011 • 121

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

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124 • india currents • september 2011




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REPLYING TO A FORWARD NUMBER: Seal your letter in an envelope, and mail it to INDIA CURRENTS FORWARD, 1885 Lundy Ave, Ste. 220, San Jose, CA 95131. Be sure to write the correct FORWARD NUMBER. No commercial solicitations please.

ANNOUNCEMENTS designed to help you pick out the best of Indian restaurant, realtors, groceries, shopping, services, events and all else right where you are. Also, find us on and on Twitter @theindianlist to get recommendations and updates on Indian businesses. Business owners, to add or verify your listing and send pictures, contact us at m. Marketing students interested in working with us - email

BEAUTY BEAUTY PARLOR. Specialist in herbal facial, henna, waxing, manicure, threading, pedicure, party and bridal makeup, hair cutting etc. Also latest Indian jewelry for sale and rental, bridal and party at reasonable price. Located in San Jose/Evergreen area. California licence holder. Call Amarjeet (408) 274-3450 or email sihraamarjeet@yah SEEMA BEAUTY SALON. Threading, waxing, facials, color, hair-cut, henna, perms, Japanese style hair straightening, head massage, hair conditioning, manicure, pedicure and bridal makeover. Located in Sunnyvale. Call (408) 244-6009. MAKING THE WORLD a beautiful place one face at a time. Savvy’s Bridal services specializes in meeting your needs to plan your wedding at your doorstep so that you don’t have to run around. Services offered are wedding planning, consulting, make-up, hair, dressing, mehndi, flowers, catering, photography. Call (408) 401-401-9821 or PINK AND BLUE DAY CARE. Licensed quality care, Almaden Valley, San Jose. Spacious, comfortable, hygenic, healthy, safe environment for children 8 months and above. Contact Neeru (408) 268-7886.

SHRANGAR BEAUTY PALACE. Waxing, facial, manicure, pedicure, Bridal make-up, Mehandi all occasions. 20 years experience. Call Priti Goel (408) 732-9587. FULL SERVICE FAMILY hair salon in South San Jose. Haircut: Men $8.95, Women $15. Threading: eyebrows $5, upper lip $3, full face $15. Facial $30. Waxing: full arm $20, full legs $30. Call Fantastic Sams for appt. (408) 448-7267. Location: 1659 Branham Lane, San Jose, CA 95118. HAIRSTYLING BY FARIN, 30 yrs. experience. Located in Sunnyvale. Cut, style, color, highlights, updo, keratin complex straightening, waxing, threading, facial, brides. Call (408) 307-3679. NAZ THREADING SALON, Sunnyvale. Facial: gold, pearl or diamond $40 with free veg. peel; waxing: full leg $29, full arms $18; manicure and pedicure $25; men’s haircut $12. Valid on Tues from 9am-1pm. Call (408) 400-0629. The Beautiful Bride Team provides all the services needed to make you feel like the most important person on the most important day of you life. We are experts in Make-Up, Hair, Bridal Dressing, Mehndi and Everything Else! Call and make an appointment now: (408) 401-9821.

BUSINESS DYNAMIC OPPORTUNITY for businessminded person. Related to printing industry. Investment needed. Website developer and graphic design expertise required. Desi related theme. Call (954) 817-6899. Online classifieds for the Indian community. Promote your business and services for free. Post classfieds in various categories in different cities for free.

CHILDCARE BALMANDIR, CUPERTINO. Infant/toddler care, convenient Cupertino, I-280/Foothill Blvd location, close to Mountain View, Sunnyvale, and Palo Alto. Licensed, good ratio, provide hot vegetarian lunch. Afterschool program available, qualified staff, preschool activities, age appropriate program, large playground. Lots of happy parents! Call (408) 737-0790. KARVE’S FAMILY DAY CARE. License #434406420. In Cupertino, early childhood educated and experienced. Safe, enthusiastic, and encouraging environment. Abundant toys, age-appropriate activities, vegetarian food. Call (408) 343-1073.

GHARKUL DAY CARE. Marathi licensed day care in Cupertino. Flexible timing, homemade food, affordable rate. Accepting children of all ages. Please call (408) 7927014 or L’IL STARS afterschool care for Cupertino schools-Collins, Stocklmeir, Portal, and Eaton. Free pick up. Homework help. License #434411071. Call Deepa (408) 255-2596. AFTER-SCHOOL PROGRAM (Grades K-8) by California credentialed Teacher Math/English. School pickup available. Summer full day and half day. (408)962-0754

CLASSES: DANCE CHHANDAM SCHOOL of Kathak dance. Classes held in Berkeley, Mountain View, San Francisco, San Bruno, San Rafael and Union City. Beginning classes available in all locations. Call (415) 759-8060 or visit SRIVARNISA KALALAYA offers bharathanatyam classes at Sunnyvale (Central and St. Mary). Flexible timings. Contact Nirupama at (208) 954-2477 or email nirupama.varad Also available for Nattuvangam.

CLASSES: MUSIC CLASSES OFFERED BY LAKSHMI C. SAXENA in San Jose. North Indian vocal music: classical, semi classical, light music like bhajans, geet, ghazals; film songs; instrumental music: harmonium, tabla. Also Hindi lessons. Available for performances. Call (408) 268-3651 or email ALI AKBAR COLLEGE OF MUSIC offers study in North Indian classical music. Classes are offered in vocal, instrumental and tabla. All are welcome. For more information please call (415) 454-6264 or classes.html AKHIL BHARATIYA Gandharva Mahavidyalaya Mandal. India music examinations are conducted in vocal, instrumental, dance, kathak, and bharatnatyam. Call (408) 7927014 or email SITAR LESSONS by Joanna Mack of Maihar Gharana. Teaching all levels. Acquire a firm grounding in theory and structure of North Indian Classical Raga and Tala. Learn Sitar maintenance and care. Assistance in selecting an instrument. Classes in Berkeley, San Rafael and SF. Please inquire about group classes. Call (510) 229-7497 or email india currents • september 2011 • 125



COSMIC KHAYALS. Shweta Jhaveri offers north Indian classical and semi-classical vocal music classes in San Rafael and Berkeley. Please visit “

CLASSES HINDI LANGUAGE CLASSES in Milpitas. Learn basics, letter recognition, vowels, consonants etc. Also Art classes for kids. For more information visit www.firstartclass.weeb or email: HINDI LANGUAGES CLASSES offered by Madhu Bhasha Kendra for Children 3+ to Adults in Bay Area. Accredited by WASC and UC System for High School Foreign Language Program. Credits and Grades transferrable for students in Palo Alto, Fremont, Milpitas, Saratoga, Cupertino. NEEDLE CRAFT CLASSES in Fremont - learn Embroidery, Knitting, Crochet. Please contact Usha at (408) 644-4965 or

COUNSELING LICENSED MARRIAGE and family therapist offering psychotherapy in English and Bangla. Please visit for more information or call (415) 820-1550.

COUNSELING FOR children and adults. Kids struggling with low grades, experimenting with drugs and alcohol, behavior problems? Adults experiencing family and marital conflicts, anxiety, depression, cross cultural issues? I offer counseling in English, Hindi, Urdu and Punjabi. Shalini Dayal, licensed Marriage and Family therapist in Fremont. Info: http: //

AD OF THE MONTH M AT R I M O N I A L : F E M A L E GROOM WANTED. Parents invite suitable alliance from US born/raised MD /PhD /MS/Similar aged 31-35 for their daughter, US MD, 30, slim, 4’11’’,Arya Vysya. Caste no bar. Contact:

EMPLOYMENT, seeks Software Engineer, M.S. in EE/CS, 2yrs exp. Co-own the front end architecture with Information architect. Create abstract cash back platform. Mentor team on performance optimization techniques and best practices. Design, development and testing of product. Knowledge of JAVA, JSP, Velocity, PHP. Apply HR, 333 Bryant Street, #250 , San Francisco , CA 94107 . Account Rep-P/T Sales payment & bookkeepers.Applicants must be computer lit-erate w/access to the Internet. Email:

E N T E RTA I N M E N T CLASSICAL NORTH INDIAN musicians for weddings, parties, events, lecture, demon strations and private concerts. Please contact Zamzaman Arts at (510) 229-7497 or email HOST YOUR own party or join ours! Celebrations are important and we make them memorable with top quality LIVE music performances. Contact for an exclusive performance or how to join ours. Call (408) 789-7201 or email melodystardhananjay@g



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FOR SALE: ART AVNISH CHANDRA (B.1931-D.1991). For sale: collection of works, 4 paintings and 4 watercolors by Avnish Chandra. Sold as a group only. Contact Fred Page, Grace Lane Gallery, or call (949) 6754100

FOR SALE: MUSIC INSTRUMENTS - Greatest selection of North Indian instruments in the U.S. Ali Akbar College store sells the finest quality sitars, sarodes, tanpuras, harmoniums, tablas, flutes, etc. Complete repair service. We ship anywhere in USA. 1554 4th San Rafael, Ca 94901. Call (415) 4540581. CARNATIC MUSIC live concert CD of Vinjamuri compositions sung by Sangeethakalnidhi RK Srikatan for sale for $6.00. Call (310) 341-3884 or email SANDHYAVINJAMURI@ YAHOO.COM

H E A LT H SOUTH ASIAN HEART CENTER at El Camino Hospital provides special health care for South Asians from Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Nepal and Sri Lanka. We can help with early detection and advanced screening and health assessments, recommend lifestyle adjustment, provide referrals to wellness providers and assists participants in ongoing management of risk factors. Call (650) 9407242 or visit WWW.REKHASLIST.COM Introducing community driven free, low cost, or slidingscale medical providers from general medicine, specialities, dental, vision, to fitness and mental health. BAY VALLEY MEDICAL GROUP serves the East Bay with offices in Hayward, Pleasanton, Danville, and Castro Valley. With a diverse staff of physicians, BVMG provides compassionate, primary and speciality care, including an all female OB/Gyn departmenFluent in Hindi, Telugu, Kannada, Urdu and Farsi. For information please visit www.bayval or call (510) 785-5000.

HELP WANTED Hiring master chef for Indian restaurant. North Indian, South Indian, Gujarati food, Sweet (methai) maker and namkin (farsan) maker. Banquet manager, assistant cook, servers for an upscale restaurant in Fremont, CA. Good pay, medical and 401K. Apply to (650) 867-8288 or (415) 827-0703 or email to

128 • india currents • september 2011

M AT R I M O N I A L : F E M A L E ATTRACTIVE HINDU DOCTOR Female 34 seeks American Born Indian Professional Match. I am 5-2, never married , modern thinker with traditional values based in Northern California as an Internist. Email me a recent picture and complete details at GROOM WANTED. Parents invite suitable alliance from US born/raised MD /PhD /MS/ Similar aged 31-35 for their daughter, US MD, 30, slim, 4’11’’,Arya Vysya. Caste no bar. Contact:

M AT R I M O N I A L : M A L E AMERICAN MALE who manages his own business based in L.A. is looking for a lady friend that will eventually lead to marriage. Call Shawn (323) 969-9347. USA SETTLED RELATIVES, seeking bride for India based nephew, good looking, very bright, Hindu 31 years, 5’ 9” B.Com., equity portfolio management business. Attractive, supportive females, with good family values and positive outlook desirable. With biodata and photos contact: yrm888@

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india currents • september 2011 • 129


in focus

Uttara Sivaram

Going the Distance! Being diagnosed with asthma has not stopped this young runner from attempting the ultimate endurance race


ishad Singh should never have been a runner. Asthmatic and naturally slow, 15-year-old Singh bitterly resented timed runs in middle school; the last thing on Singh’s list of aspirations should have been a masochistic slog through 100 miles. But Singh certainly seems drawn to the counterintuitive—after attempting and completing the Silicon Valley half marathon at the age of 12, he proceeded to join the Crystal Springs Uplands cross-country team and succeed in running 50 miles. Singh now prepares for his biggest challenge yet: the “Run de Vous” ultra marathon, 100 miles set in San Martin around a two mile loop on August 20-21, 2011. If he succeeds, Nishad will become only the second under-16 runner in the U.S., not to mention the first one of Indian origin, to complete a 100-mile foot race. “It’s definitely a daunting task,” said Singh. “Especially when donors are waiting to see how you’ll do. Personal confidence plays a big role, too—I really want to do well for myself.” This race, which can be likened to running four marathons back-to-back, will pose a myriad of intense physical and emotional tests involved with keeping the body in motion for more than 24 hours. Training for a 100miler involves running no less than 30 miles a week, with a prolonged, 10-or-over mile run every two weeks. These runs are designed to accustom one’s muscle to continuous movement while preparing the mental state for the inevitable cramping and exhaustion, not to mention the emotional upheaval that one must overcome to complete the race. Although Singh has been training tirelessly with shorter runs, the crippling heat, coupled with bouts of dehydration, fatigue, and, in Singh’s case, asthma, will ensure the most trying day Singh has ever had. Asthma, which directly impacts breathing, can keep most sufferers from any activity that involves exertion. Running with asthma requires intense discipline and meticulous preparation. Even a regular marathon would be a challenge for an asthmatic, let alone an ultra-endurance effort like the 100-miler. Singh attributes much of his success to family inspiration. His coach and family friend, Rajeev Patel, is an accomplished runner; his mother, Anu Singh, caught the running bug from Patel after supporting him through a 100-miler and proceeded to run 130 • india currents • september 2011

her first marathon in 2003. She continued maintains, “1) I love running 2) I can’t run her running career with marathons of varyfast. I decided I would run—run slow but run ing length—50k, 50 miles, etc. As an active longer. Thus the endurance athlete in me was member of Asha For Education, a charity that born!” helps raise money for children living in KolHis blog, titled “Ad Astra” or “to the kata slums and red light districts, Anu Singh stars,” documents his desire to give greater provided the link between running and phisignificance to his passion by running for a lanthropy, thus galvanizing her son’s mission cause. Whether he’s writing about strateto utilize the sport gies for maintaining pace, as a healthy and systematic cramping, the charitable outlet. power of an Oreo mid-race, She undertook the or even his desperate hunt 2009 Lean Horse for a port-a-pottie, Singh 100 mile race with gives voice to a mission that the support of her he emphasizes, “anyone can coach, friends, do. It takes minutes to email and, surprisingly, a foundation and tell them Nishad, whose runyou’re interested. Doing what ning career had not you love is great, but doing yet taken off. it for something bigger than “The race was just a personal passion is incrippling,” she said. credible.” “Nishad saw me at Over the course of about some of my lowest four years, Singh has built times—plus, it was up a considerable running long, hot, and borresume—one that includes ing. He stayed with running a 50k and the Ruth me the whole time Anderson 50-mile race. Now, and even ran with his latest goal of running me at the end, see100 miles dwarfs his middle ing me just collapse school objective—to “get Nishad Singh when it was over.” fitter.” This race, created by Despite the Singh’s coach, will help him clear challenges to raise money for his school’s that an ultra-marascholarship program, another thon posed, Nishad told his mom a few days charitable cause that he says will “make it later that he, too, wanted to run a 100-miler. easier for deserving kids to attend Crystal “I asked him, ‘Are you sure you want to do Springs.” And for Singh, it’s no chore. this?’” Singh recalled. “And he did! That’s the “I really love to run—I love the way it thing with Nishad—not only is he determined makes me feel. This isn’t running the mile, to do things right, but he’s thorough about it where it’s all nerves and hurt. It’s fun and it as well. I’m so proud of him.” feels good—especially when you know you’re Singh’s unusual honesty about himself doing a favor for yourself.”n and his aspirations have allowed him to use his initial drawbacks to fully assess his Nishad Singh completed the gruelling race in capabilities. His brief forays into T-ball and 28 hours and 48 minutes. After hurting his AYSO soccer he admits to having been “slight ankle at the 45-mile mark, Nishad ran the next disasters,” partly due to his asthma, which he 20 miles in his socks before switching to opendescribed as “debilitating.” toed sandals. He is recovering well and “eating “But I wanted to give being athletic a continuously,” says mom Anu, who adds, “I shot,” Singh said, “Even though my asthma envy him. He is almost back to normal in just got really bad sometimes, I know I was using two days.” it as a crutch, and that it was holding me back from things I could love.” Uttara Sivaram is freelance writer and will be a As he succinctly puts it in the blog he freshman at Stanford University this fall.

india currents • september 2011 • 131

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I C relationship diva

Long-distance Relationships Q

I recently had a few great phone conversations with a guy introduced to me by my parents (via family friends). This is the first guy in the last few years with whom I felt I really connected. The only problem is that he’s based on the East Coast, while I’m clear across the country on the West Coast. Given the geographical distance, should I even bother?


Long-distance relationships can face a number of challenges. Spending time together (not easy to do when living on opposite coasts) can generally be helpful in getting to know a prospective partner well enough to assess mutual compatibility on a number of different levels. That said, as your experiences suggest, really connecting can be relatively rare. In my opinion, geographical distance need not necessarily be an insurmountable hurdle to exploring the potential of your connection further (unless there’s reason to believe eventual relocation would be absolutely impossible on the part of either of you should things get serious). In fact, our matchmaking service introduces people from different cities throughout the country all the time.

Should you decide to explore the potential of your connection with this guy, below are some general suggestions to keep in mind: • Invest the time/energy/money required to meet in person prior to getting emotionally invested. Since far easier said than done, I generally advise people to meet sooner than later, as opposed to investing considerable time, energy (and heart) into voluminous email and/or telephone exchanges. While traveling to meet does require a certain level of time and money, meeting only after engaging exclusively via email/phone/IM’s/texts can be far costlier on many different levels in the long-run. • With geographical distance, it can be difficult to get a sense of each other’s authentic everyday way of being from day-to-day (as opposed to the substantially more limited personality during periodic and relatively brief fun-intensive visits together). For this reason, I generally recommend both people be vigilant of advancing the relationship too quickly as a way of resolving the infrequency of contact; as well as spend time while together doing more typical or mundane day-to-day

Jasbina Ahluwalia

activities, i.e. errands, cooking, and/or simply co-existing with each other in private, as opposed to exclusively limiting together time to places like restaurants, lounges, theaters, concerts, and museums. • Invest in regular contact via phone calls and visits as the relationship unfolds; and • Address any potential “emotionally unavailable” issue head-on in the event the other person’s behavior gives reason to suspect he/she may be seeking out a long-distance relationship as a means of maintaining emotional distance. Remaining mindful of the above suggestions will likely mitigate common pitfalls in long-distance relationships.n Jasbina is the founder and president of Intersections Match, the only personalized matchmaking and dating coaching firm serving singles of South Asian descent in the United States. She is also the host of Intersections Talk Radio, a monthly lifestyle show featuring conversations with published authors/experts on relationships, health and wellness. www.Intersections

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Ankita Rao

What is a Slum? It’s hard to define these cities within cities


he spring day is out of storybooks— warm sun, cool breeze, shouts of playing children. Everything but the rustling leaves; there aren’t many trees in this neighborhood. I sit on a rope cot with the matriarch of my adopted family, my host grandmother, watching kids play cricket with a stick from the nearby construction in progress. Dadi’s face is etched with age, her silvered hair covered with a white scarf. She smiles and jokes with me, her usual volatile anger tucked away until evening. There are elements of my latest home that I could only romanticize about when I was in suburban Florida; Bapu Dham is a community where everything is shared, from food to clothes to children who roam in and out of neighbors’ houses. In the evenings mothers take their kids to the park, gossiping about a scandalous wedding while kids coast down the broken slide. There is no alone here, there is no laziness. But this is a slum. This is the place that people in other parts of posh Chandigarh continue to forget about; some of them don’t know it exists. If they do mention it, they talk about the violence, the dirtiness, the poverty. They tell me: Be careful. Don’t play Holi in Bapu Dham, you will get hurt and sick. Don’t drink water there. Don’t roam around after 6 p.m. Part of it is true. I’ve been living in and out of family homes in this community for nine months now. Long enough to know about stealing and sickness. Long enough to know about the “Bapu Dham cough,” that everybody suffers from. I know that one block doesn’t trust the others, that mothers hide their daughters from the boys who I see as my biggest helpers. I’ve lost sleep over kids plucked out of school and our library to spend hours repairing motorcycles. I’ve met women with AIDS, male prostitutes that fit in nowhere, toddlers who may never walk because surgery is too expensive. But I still don’t know exactly what a slum 138 • india currents • september 2011

is. The word denotes poverty—evokes illegal huts and dirt lanes filled with trash and water and mosquitoes. There are development terms: marginalized community, scheduled caste, migrant laborers. Then there’s the effect of Hollywood, of Slumdog Millionaire and Born into Brothels, of any developing country-documentary that makes it to the big screen. But defining a slum is a task beyond my grasp. Though I prefer the word to any politically correct term when describing my proj-

ect, I feel unsettled classifying Bapu Dham, in all its diversity, as such. From what I’ve seen, these communities are often the running, supporting legs of a city, filled with people who make other, richer people’s lives easier. This is where the tasty street stall pani puris are originally rolled and fried, and the fabric grocery bags are sewn. This is where the sweepers, moppers, drivers, cooks, and carpenters sleep at night. If parties are planned and events organized, the origin of the decorations, the labor, the food is usually here. This society is complicated, fitting nowhere in the neat, urban planned grid of Chandigarh. There are three phases, varying in income levels, livelihoods and family size. There is the Great Divide between the pukka and kaccha houses, the cement apartments

and temporary huts, respectively. And therein exists an unorganized division of caste, Indian state, language, religion, and even crime rate. This is a city, perhaps even a country, within a city. Lack of education, income and awareness—the pillars of poverty—cannot be quantified in bar graphs here. In one nearby household, the oldest girl was pulled out of school in seventh grade while the younger daughter continues to excel in the best public school available. My current host family buys ice cream every week and has marble floors while the next lane’s ten families share a single, inconsistent water tap. There is nobody here I’ve met who doesn’t know that smoking is bad, school is good and that they can have better quality of living. But the issues persist, leading to untimely deaths, dropouts, preventable illness, and bad reputations. To make peace with figuring out development, my project or this neighborhood, I’ve let go of definitions. I can’t look at a slum in any city now without fitting it into the puzzle of the greater population. I recognize that the flaw is not in the people or the locality, but in the system of oppression that blinds the rich and the poor. The task of labeling becomes less daunting, less important, when working with the kids in Bapu Dham, whose talent and enthusiasm have little to do with BPL cards or government schemes. In the end this is a neighborhood. It is the place that the children think of when they want familiar comfort, their mothers, their homes. It is where tired women continue to work and exhausted men find shade from the ceaseless day. And for all that it is and can be, Bapu Dham continues to reveal its points of light, its sharpened edges, its quickened pulse.n Ankita Rao is an August 2010 Indicorps Fellow. Based in Chandigarh, she is partnered with Yuvasatta and focuses on creating positive after-school learning environments.

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ENTERTAINMENT 16 Gilroy Gardens 7 Most Unique 85 WBT Television EVENTS 79 Abhinaya Dance - Jalwa 17 IBPW 54 Indians for Collective Action 84 KalaAwishkar 87 Narika - Seed 85 Neelima Mandava 87 Samvika Mehra Inside Frt SF Jazz Org 83 Sandesh Rallapalli 73 South India Fine Arts 77 ViVRTi 2011 96 VEDA - Ultimate Melody 84 Tiruchitrambalam School 87 UC Santa Cruz Satyajit Ray FABRICS 28 Borrow It Bindaas 29 Elegant Drapery Concepts 28 Fusion India 28 Kamakshi Kreations 27 Khoobsurat Saree 86 Pia Ka Ghar 25 Preet Fabrics 26 Pulvy Boutique FINANCIAL 41 Tushar Kumar GIFTS 126 Anything Indian GROCERY 57 India Cash & Carry 55 Madras Groceries HEALTH 115 Alpha Dental Care 118 Anagha Joshi, DDS 116 Anakha Nambiar, MD 118 Anjali Tate, MD 119 Aparna Nayudu, DDS 113 Archana Gulati, DDS 121 Bill Gray, M.D. 118 Geetha Narayanan 53 Healthy South Asians 113 Homeopathic Healing Center 117 Jyoti Sahdev 115 Mamta Desai, DDS 119 Manjari Aravamuthan 117 Meenakshi Bhargava PhD 111 Mount Madonna Institute 118 Pacific Homeopathy 123 Palo Alto Medical Foundation 122 Physicians Medical Group 119 Prakash Advani, DDS 113 Ranjini Venkatanathan 111 Reena Johar 116 Smilesavers Dental 116 Sujatha Rajagopalan, MD 123 Summit Estate Recovery INSURANCE 43 Amar Sehgal 43 Amila Insurance Services 43 Avninder Singh 43 Bindu Bhandari 41 Gill Financial & Insurance 43 Global Health Ins Center Inc 43 Manjit Singh 43 Mann Insurance Services 41 Rachel Payne

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india currents • september 2011 • 143


the last word

Sarita Sarvate

Hazare, My Hero


n this age of globalization, when India thrives on foreign business, and celebrity culture dominates its news media, Anna Hazare evokes a bygone era of austerity, nationalism, and self-reliance. With his penchant for fasting and his traditional garb, Hazare evokes comparisons with Gandhi. But the irony is that Gandhi was fighting against a foreign power; Hazare is forcing his own government to be less corrupt and more honest. Anna has clearly hit a nerve among the masses of India, who are fed up with bureaucracy, bribes, and red tape. But there is more to Hazare than meets the eye. While the world has focused only on his latest anti-corruption campaign, his lifelong achievements include the development of a model eco-village with its own grain bank built as a protection against droughts, a watershed of small dams, canals, and percolation tanks created with shramdan or volunteer labor, and improvements in techniques for milk production. In Ralegan Siddhi, Hazare’s village, untouchability has been eliminated and education levels, particularly among girls, have risen with the help of a charitable trust. The gram sabha, or village government, makes all the policy decisions. But Anna Hazare has not stopped there. He has recognized that social reform has to be accompanied by cultural change as well. So, with the help of a youth group, he has organized communal marriages, aimed at preventing peasants from going into debt over wedding expenses. Of course Western media has almost entirely ignored all of these achievements, focusing only on one aspect of the story, namely, corruption in the Indian government. And why not? After all, the more Americans can point to corruption in other countries, the more smug they can feel about their own government. The truth of course is quite different. Corruption in America surpasses corruption anywhere else in the world. It was in these pages that, nearly 20 years ago, I wrote an essay titled, “Corruption is not a Third World Disease.” I think the statement holds truer today than ever. The only difference is that corruption in India is often on a small scale and illegal; corruption in America is of astronomic proportions, but conducted entirely with the blessings of the law. In India, policemen often take bribes. I still remember the night when a policeman stopped me for riding my cycle without a light. The city was under complete blackout then, whether for load shedding or for one of our numerous wars with Pakistan, I can’t remember. So the man gave me a ticket. When I came home, my baby brother asked, “Don’t you know you are supposed to give him a few rupees?” I did not. I guess I was like Anna Hazare. Not only did I not approve of bribes, but I did not even know how to give one. Looking back now, I can sympathize with that policeman. The poor man had such a small salary that he was forced to supplement it with the largesse of the population. The same goes for clerks issuing passports in India

Corruption in America surpasses corruption anywhere else in the world. Where is the American Anna Hazare?

144 • india currents • september 2011

or peons handing out ration cards. Here, in America, on the other hand, policemen, who get much better salaries and benefits, who often drive around in their squad cars doing precious little for the citizenry (I am speaking from experience of the police force in my own city, which has repeatedly failed to protect me—a topic for another column), have little incentives to take bribes. Corruption in American government occurs on a different scale and in a different arena all together. When an oil company buys the loyalty of a political hack like Rick Perry, is it not corruption? When the U.S. Supreme Court steals an election away from a guy who got more votes than the guy who eventually occupied the office, is that not corruption at the highest levels of government? When a company like Standard and Poor's looks the other way while investment bankers plunder the country with their fancy derivatives, but gives the Obama administration a poor rating in order to oust it from office, is that not corruption on a monumental scale? My father used to say that the British never did anything illegal; they always passed a law before perpetrating any act of violence. They passed the Rowlett Act, for example, before they committed the Jallianwala Bagh massacre. I wonder; where is our American Anna Hazare? Where is the outrage against our system of government? Why is no one conducting a satyagraha in front of the New York Stock Exchange to protest the control of our government by Wall Street hacks like Larry Summers, Timothy Geithner, and Hank Paulson? Why is no one sitting down to fast until the Pentagon stops taking bread out of our children’s and seniors’ mouths? The trouble is that American leaders like Noam Chomsky have only used words but have not set examples by their acts. Chomsky has a lot to say in critique of our government, but what has he actually done? The man cannot even suggest an alternative to the status quo, let alone lead us to where we can follow him. I am grateful to Anna Hazare for reminding us of a different era, when idealism reigned, when the peasants of one of poorest countries of the planet were able to oust an imperialist power from its borders, when moral righteousness ruled. It is heartening that the tradition of andolan—nonviolent resistance—lives on in India more than six decades after Independence. If the likes of Anna Hazare are speaking up against abusive governmental practices in India, leaders like Vandana Shiva are pointing out exploitation of tribal lands by industrialists like the Ambani brothers and protesting the destruction of our farms and farmers by foreign corporations like Archer Daniels Midland. Not only does America lack the likes of Anna Hazare, the tragedy of American politics today is that its only grass roots movement, the Tea Party, was started by the billionaire Koch brothers whose only agenda is to reduce taxes for corporations and wealthy people. Only a poorly educated populace could be so foolish and ignorant as to organize against its self-interest. This begs the question: should we invite Anna Hazare to America and ask him for tips on how we can wake up the American public and make it demand its rights? n Sarita Sarvate writes commentaries for Pacific News Service and KQED. Visit

September 2011, Northern California Edition  

September 2011, Northern California Edition