Asia-US Summit To Explore Digital Opportunities

On May 2nd, 2019 entrepreneurs, investors and tech professionals from Asia and the United States will convene  at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Silicon Valley to explore possible areas for collaboration at the 4th Silicon Valley Entrepreneur Festival (SVEF).

They will explore possible areas for collaboration in digital transformation especially in the areas of Artificial Intelligence (AI), Big Data, and Internet Of Things (IOT).  Venture capital in new energy, the rise of social entrepreneurship, digital marketing trends and content revolution, as well as women in technology will be other areas of focus. Of special interest are the needs of small and medium sized enterprises and how big companies can support small companies and the overall community through business growth.

“It is an opportunity to meet with innovators, entrepreneurs and enterprises from both Asia and America in order to learn from them their game-changing insights to tackle real-world challenges,” said Diane Ding, Founder and CEO of Silicon Valley Innovation Channel–Ding Ding TV and the new President of the US-China Chamber of Commerce of Silicon Valley.

IN 2016, Silicon Valley Entrepreneur Festival (SVEF) started as a networking platform to bring together innovators, entrepreneurs, investors and tech professionals from Asia and the United States.

“SVEF is a great platform to strengthen relationships with businesses and industry in China,” says Praveen Gupta, organizing committee member, event advisor, and Corporate Quality Director,  who has worked with SVEF since its inception.

The keynote speakers are Chih-Kai Cheng, Acorn Pacific Ventures Co-founder and General Partner, Author of Password to Innovationand Human values behind Silicon Valley Steve Hoffman Captain, Founders Space, and Author of Making Elephants Fly, Michael Condry, Chair ofAdvisory Board at CLINICAI, and President of IEEE TEMS (Technical Engineering Management Society), Steve Westly Founder  of the Westly Group, one of the nation’s leading Clean Tech VC firms and Former Controller and Chief Fiscal Officer of the State of California, Presidential candidate Andrew Yang, founder of Venture for America, and Henry William Chesbrough, Adjunct Professor and Faculty Director Garwood Center for Corporate Innovation.

Some of the other speakers include Sureel Choksi, President and CEO at Vantage Data Centers, Ravi Pendekanti, Senior Vice President, Server Solutions and Product Management and Marketing at Dell EMC, Harbir Bhatia, Board Member of Selectiva Systems, Arun Parimi, Founder of Arevea and Co-Founder of BookMyCargo, Eugene Zhang, CEO of TEEC Angel Funds;,and Orrin Mahoney Rotary District Governor, and former Mayor of Cupertino.

The 4th Annual Silicon Valley Entrepreneur FestivalSVEFis jointly presented by Ding Ding TV- Silicon Valley Innovation Channel, a hub, bridge and platform for US – China business relations, and China-US Business Summit, a non-profit organization dedicated to enhancing business cooperation and cultural communication between China and the United States. Acorn Campus sponsors it.

The event SVEF 2019 will be held on May 2nd between 9:00 a.m.– 6:00 p.m.  PDT at Santa Clara Convention Center, 5001 Great America Parkway, Santa Clara, CA 95054. Tickets range from $199 to $699.

For guest speaker recommendations and partnership, please contact: Sandy Wang, sandy@dingdingtv.com; Diana Ding, diana@dingdingtv.com; Phone: 408-244-8883

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sabyasachi For The Masses?

Although the innovation behind the designer Sabyasachi is his willingness to break down barriers in traditional Indian designs, his movement towards historically cultural elements, signifies Fiza as a collection that serves to redefine the reputation of the designer, taking the classic elegance of a typical Sabyasachi piece, and combining it with a whimsical element, evidenced by the vibrant color palette, the prevalence of embroidery, and the use of the undisputedly “Indian” Khadi fabric.

The use of a uniquely Westernized color palette has been essential in the rise of popularity of Sabyasachi wedding wear. The muted tones, and generally heavy hues have characterized Sabyasachi’s ethnic fashion as high branded and luxurious. Through catering to the Indian desire to emulate European designs in an effort to appeal sophisticated, Sabyasachi has cemented his place among Indian designers. However, since 2017, and with this collection in  particular, he turns to an unabashedly Indian color scheme – of saturated yellows, greens, pinks and purples. Fiza marks the first time that a warmer orange tone has been a major player in Sabyasachi lehengas, contributing to the zeitgeist of designers who have embraced a purely “desi” aesthetic. This reversion, although not revolutionary, does evoke an image of the #JaiHind social media trend, that the designer himself has expressed affiliation with in the recent past.

The innately “Indian” theme of this collection is further emphasized by the emphasis of embroidery over embellishment, new to Sabyasachi designs. Generally notable for the bejeweled stone look of both blouses and lehengas, Fiza marks a new face of the Sabyasachi lehenga, one that finds grace in a silhouette of simplicity. Drawing on elements of minimalism, Fiza oozes a sense of effortlessness and charm, speaking to the core of Sabyasachi designs.

The focus on thread and cloth is taken to a new level by Sabyasachi’s shift to Khadi, a handwoven fabric, significant in the Swadeshi Movement during Indian independence, where European (specifically British) goods were boycotted. Given the context of Sabyasachi’s opinions on the India-Pakistan situation, the use of Khadi in his designs is suggestive of a nationalist spin on this collection, a detail that might be essential in marketing his designs to a younger generation of politically conscious millennials.

As Sabyasachi’s consumer base moves from a generation of Sridevis to a younger demographic of Star Kids, the audience is reminded that Sabyasachi is a brand before he is an artist. His lehengas elicit a strong emulation of the relaxed and carefree desi style of a millennial India, and the choice to launch Fiza exclusively on Instagram speaks to a business strategy that targets desi youth in particular.

This collection is reflective of a new Sabyasachi — a designer who is adapting with the changing times through molding his famed lehengas into the new standard of desi pride.

Sumedha Vemulakonda is an avid follower of Indian designer brands. Looking at pretty lehengas makes her feel connected to her inner Deepika Padukone. This article was originally published on her fashion and culture blog à la mode (alamode2239641.wordpress.com), and has been republished on the India Currents page. All images courtesy of @sabysachiofficial Instagram page.

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    At The Cusp Of A New World: Suhas and Jayashree Patil

    Mr. Patil pulled out his cycle and called out to his three year old son. “Suhas! Let’s go!” he said as he picked up the toddler and thrust his small legs through the metal seat strapped to the front of his cycle. Furiously pedaling towards the maidan, Mr. Patil, an executive at the Tata Iron and  Steel plant in Jamshedpur, was very excited. The day was August 15th 1947. India had declared its independence from British rule. As the smoke from the chimneys of the steel plant curled towards the sky, so did the spirits of the father-son duo. India was independent of British rule! The toddler Suhas Patil would have the world open to him as a young child of independent India.

    ********

    A few years later, the teenage Suhas left the steel city of Jamshedpur to study engineering at the newly minted Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur. It was situated in a building that had served as a jail to lock up Indian freedom fighters during British rule. Young Suhas grew up imbibing the optimism of the new nation, and the lofty intentions of freedom fighters, to change the world for the better.

    As a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Suhas became interested in a new method of designing large semiconductor chips for computers. Based on his work at MIT and the University of Utah on computer aided design of semiconductor chips, he pioneered a new type of semiconductor company, one that focused effort on the design of semiconductor chip products but did not the manufacture of the chips themselves. He persuaded established semiconductor companies with fabrication facility to make semiconductor wafers for them. His company Cirrus Logic made application specific chips to support the emerging personal computer market that was rapidly unfolding around them.

    “I was working for Digital Equipment Corporation when Suhas, a professor who was then at the University of Utah came to me,” says Prakash Bhalerao, serial entrepreneur and investor. “He had developed an algorithm to design chips that until then had been designed using schematic drawings and graphics. As Suhas’s algorithm had no UI, the existing chip manufacturers found it complicated and difficult to use. Not one to be deterred, Suhas swallowed his own poison. When he found no buyers for his algorithm, he decided to design the chip himself and Cirrus Logic was born as was a smaller chip built at a lower cost,” said Prakash Bhalerao.  

    “To manufacture the chips, massive capital investment was  required, which made the task too daunting. Therefore I started as a fabless semiconductor chip manufacturer, a company that designed the chips for someone else to manufacture. This way we could benefit from lower capital costs and concentrate on research and development, ” shared Suhas.

    Suhas’s tenacity paid off. In 1989, the company Cirrus Logic went public, earning a profit that year of $4 million.“Cirrus Logic is the fastest fabless company to achieve $1 billion in revenues, doing so in 45 quarters,” recorded Semiconductor Industry Milestones in 1995.

    “Many people have ideas but they don’t have the tenacity to do whatever it takes. Tenacity, not taking no for an answer, and finding a way to solve the problem is Suhas’s sine qua non,” says Prakash Bhalerao, one of the first people to get to know Suhas in the Valley.

    Suhas’s father, Mr. Patil looked on with pride from Jamshedpur as his son made a name for himself in Silicon Valley turning sand into dollars. Raised in post Second World War times, Suhas knew the value of these dollars. He maintained a Gandhian lifestyle and did not run out to buy a Ferrari;  instead he turned his focus towards other engineers in Silicon Valley who may have the ability but not the social smarts to navigate the pathways of entrepreneur alley. The Indus Entrepreneurs (TiE) was born to guide and mentor engineers to achieve their entrepreneurial dreams. As its first President, Suhas played a hand in shaping TiE’s structure.

    “Suhas was the lightning rod that brought people together. His name was so highly respected in the Valley that people were drawn to the organization by his very presence. His presence at meetings got more people to come to them,” says AJ Patel who hosted the TiE offices for the first three years in his office building. “While AJ Patel brought conviction and confidence to the future of the organization, Suhas instilled a new commitment to quality as a basic TiE value,” said Kanwal Rekhi.

    Sanjay Subhedar, Founding Managing Director of Storm Ventures agrees with this thought. “ He was a mentor to entrepreneurs and an early investor in many young companies .  “Along with Kanwal Rekhi, he was a driving force in starting TiE, an organization that continues to help entrepreneurs to this day,” said Sanjay.

    Vani Kola was one of the new entrepreneurs who was supported in her first start-up by Dr Suhas Patil. He guided Vani as she slowly found her feet as well as funded her company RightWorks with $2 million of his money.  Today Vani herself is a mentor at TiE and an IT visionary. “He was a great mentor because he genuinely enjoys giving and sharing from his experiences. He likes to see others grow and succeed. A good teacher takes pride and passion in teaching what they know and allowing the student to spread their wings and fly. It is a model I want to strive to embody,” Vani said.  

    Suhas also mentored K. B. Chandrashekar in the formation of Exodus Communications says AJ Patel. After the initial public offering (IPO), the company was valued at $560 million with clientele like Oracle and Hewlett Packard.

    Jayashree Patil, Suhas’s wife, put her shoulder to this wheel – of building TiE in its initial days. ”In addition to working at the non-profit India Community and Service Center (ICSC), the precursor of India Community Center (ICC), I started attending TiE’s monthly meetings. ICSC and TiE were always next door to each other.” says Jayashree Patil, “We worked hard to ensure that TiEcon was well attended.”

    They set about organizing an annual conference,TiEcon, to bring tech mentors and mentees together. It has gone on to become one of the most successful conferences in Silicon Valley and soon developed a cult following. With four children and two aging parents at home, Jayashree was not one to stay behind in this revolution. Along with Meera Gupta and Hem Joshi, she staffed the office. Jayashree helped with evangelizing the cause and drove attendance to the conference. She was to be the wind beneath its sails for 5 years till TiE sailed its way to success.

    Five hundred people attended the conference in 1994. At the TiECon 2018 alone, there were over 5,400 participants from 22 countries. Over the years, TiEcon has attracted over 60,000 entrepreneurs and professionals from over 50 countries. It was ranked alongside Demo, TED and World Economic Forum as among the top 10 conferences worldwide for ideas and entrepreneurship by Worth magazine. TiE now has 60 chapters in 17 countries.

    ********

    In addition to encouraging the creation of new technology, Jayashree and Suhas Patil were cognizant of the importance of recording the history of the computer revolution. They supported the Computer History Museum in Mountain View and the Tech Museum in San Jose. Suhas joined the board as a founding member. In 1999, Jayashree brought together the Marathi community in the Bay area by helping organize a convention attended by over 5000 people.

    Jayashree Patil loves colors – they suffuse her paintings, her clothes and her rangoli drawings, as she works to promote the arts. The Patil Theater in Harker School’s performing arts center, funded by them is a premier venue for Harker student performances and community events. Jayashree is also on the board of India Currents magazine and helps guide the magazine’s social media strategy. India Currents, a 32-year-old publication and, now a community media digital platform, is devoted to the exploration of the heritage and culture of India for the diaspora.

    *******

    The walls of the Patil house are bare. Large windows frame the majestic California oaks, a single crystal chandelier reflects at itself in the long mirror above the fireplace. The lilting music of Suronki Baraat, a CD of songs written and composed by Jayashree Patil fills the air. Jayashree is drawing a rangoli drawing on the floor. The face of a woman emerges from the white outline as she colors in the profile with red and yellow lentil grains. A vibrant flaming tea light sits as the bindi on the face of the goddess. The benign goddess has kind eyes and a non-threatening expression. She infuses love and joy into their Cupertino home. Suhas, their children Chirag and Rajita Patil, Dr. Teja Patil J. P and Julie Patil, and Dr. DJ and Devika Patil, are looking through the photographs,  taken by Suhas with his beloved camera. Suhas’s shy eyes have painstakingly captured the world through its lens. His commitment to quality is evident in every picture.

    The Patil grandchildren, Surya, Beyla, Om, Veyd  Samaara, Eva and Milo run around the backyard chased by Lalipop, their caramel colored dog.

    They are secure in the love of their parents and grandparents confident that the world they will inherit leave for them will be a better place.

    The family is planning their evening at San Jose Harker’s Patil Theatre on April 13th where a Hindustani classical music vocalist from Mumbai, Ashwini Bhide is singing in the Jaipur-Atrauli style. The concert, organized by Swara Sudha  a Silicon Valley cultural organization that hosts classical music concerts in the Bay Area, starts at 6 p.m.

    A Lifetime Achievement award awaits them that evening.

    Voices of Friends

    “I remember once when Suhas was invited to deliver the keynote in Bangalore and he missed his Delhi Bangalore flight Suhas did not take no for an answer. He demanded a solution. The answer was to charter a flight and in order to do that he had to speak to his credit card company in the US. His credit card limit was raised and he did reach Bangalore to deliver the keynote.”

    – Prakash Bhalerao, Serial Entrepreneur and Investor.

    “Suhas and I have traveled over half the world together sometimes even sharing the same room. There are a lot of memories but Suhas is so low key and matter of fact person that there is nothing I can think of as out of the ordinary. With him around you have that peace and calm around all the time.  During our last safari in Africa, we had a baboon jump in our vehicle. The baboon landed in Suhas’s lap, stole Jayshree’s supply of vitamins and eat them all. During all this we were all shouting except you guessed it, Suhas. He did not say a word. That is Suhas for you.”

    – A J Patel CEO Odyssey Enterprises

    Suhas despite all his success is a very modest person. Jayshree and Suhas’s home in the hills of Cupertino was always a place for hosting politicians, entrepreneurs and other thought leaders. Suhas and Jayshree have given back so much to Silicon Valley in general and to the Indian diaspora in particular. Suhas is an avid photographer and has a great collection of photos from weddings and other family events. He usually will print large enlargements. And give them as gifts. What could be better than a personalized gift like that taken so lovingly and patiently by Suhas.

    Jayshree and Suhas’s four children are all very accomplished in their own right. AJ is a PhD and J.P. is a lawyer, Chirag and Teja are both doctors.

    Suniti and I are proud of Suhas and feel privileged to have him as a friend.

    – Suniti and Sanjay Subhedar Founding MD Storm Ventures    

    Ritu Marwah is a student of history and the place of real people in it. Her article on Jinnah’s Daughter, Dina Wadia was widely read and was featured in New York Times’s Express Tribune blog published in Pakistan.

    The Bravest Sikh You Never Heard Of

    “I am honored and humbled to portray Havaldar Ishar Singh. He had an important role in the history of India. I’m lucky to have the privilege of portraying this incredible Sikh in my lifetime.” The Khiladi (player) of Bollywood, Akshay Kumar, continues his affair with social and realistic dramas with his latest offering, Kesari. He also returns to action with his first war drama. Wearing the pagadi (head gear) gave him a sense of pride and responsibility.

    Never heard of Havaldar Ishar Singh? Or the Battle of Saragarhi? “It was a battle that was truly forgotten, if not erased from our history,” says Akshay. “The story of the bravest battle ever fought in history. It depicts the bravery, values and valiance of the Sikh regiment.” Havaldar Ishar Singh led the British Indian contingency of 21 Sikh Soldiers to protect the army post at Sargarhi. The Battle of Saragarhi was fought against 10,000-12,000 Afghani invaders in 18th century India.

    Despite being a pro in action, the 51-year-old actor admits it was quite challenging to shoot the movie. “I shot with my heavy turban in unbearable weather conditions, in Mumbai heat and the low altitude of Spiti. It was a grueling schedule, with a lot of intense action sequences as it had to look real. In the end, watching the film and the scenic locations, it was so worth it.”

    About director Anurag Singh, who moved successfully from Punjabi to Hindi cinema (Kesari is his second), Akshay says, “He has amazing clarity in what he wants and is relentless in achieving it, no matter what. And he has a pure heart. He stayed true to the story and is one of the best directors I’ve had the pleasure of working with.”

    As a superstar and actor, Akshay’s journey has been admirable. He started with passable acting skills, but has been learning and staying admirably true to his craft. He has also succeeded in staying relevant and balanced stardom with creativity quite easily. Akshay strived to pick fresh subjects throughout his career, moving from action to comedy to romance and in recent years, to the real-life genre. Last year, the actor had three releases, the brave sanitary napkin tale Pad Man, the sports chapter Gold and the villainous venture with Rajnikanth 2.0.

    With Kesari, he forays into the war genre to a story that needs to be heard and experienced for all its wonders. “I genuinely feel the audience will connect with every scene and character. This film is extremely special and close to my heart. I’m very emotional about it — it’s my dedication to all the martyrs back then and even now who keep fighting for our country, our Bharat Ke Veer,” he says.

    Looking back at his own career spanning just over 27 years, Akshay says, “I think I’ve done well enough to make my parents proud. They believed in me when I wanted to concentrate on sports, then in martial arts and eventually movies. At every step, they encouraged me and my sole aim was to show them they were right in doing so. Today, when I look back, I can say I didn’t let them down.”

    Hamida Parkar is a freelance journalist and founder-editor of cinemaspotter.com. She writes on cinema, culture, women, and social equity.

    This article was edited by India Currents Culture and Media Editor, Geetika Pathania Jain, Ph.D.

    From Our Sponsors




    Si Se Puede! Yes, We Can!

    On the evening of Sunday, March 3rd 2019, The School of Arts and Culture at the Mexican Heritage Plaza, San Jose,  was the venue for an interesting portrayal of the life of one of America’s famous civil rights leaders, Cesar Chavez. What set this production apart was not only the object of the story, but the medium of storytelling. Cesar Chavez and his celebrated struggle on behalf of migrant farmworkers in California, was conveyed through the traditional Indian dance form of Bharatanatyam.

    Presented by the Abhinaya Dance Company of San Jose, “Si Se Puede!” brought to light not only the echoes of those long ago struggles, but also placed today’s issues front and center for us to examine. In the current political environment, with the subject of Immigration – illegal or otherwise – taking centerstage;  spotlighting Chavez’s struggles and successes seemed especially appropriate.

    Beneath the layers of music and movement, poetry and lyrics, the stage lights lit up an immigrant narrative made up of two separate cultures.  And weaving through it all were the universal tenets of human rights, freedom and social justice.

    Abhinaya Dance Company:

    Abhinaya School of Dance, founded in 1980, is well known for originality in creative exploration. The recipient of several grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, state and city agencies, the dance company has deservedly earned a leading name for itself in the SF Bay area. Helmed by an accomplished dancer, teacher and choreographer Mythili Kumar, the company has until date staged over 50 original productions. Offering classes in San Jose and Monte Sereno, the school has 130 students who have graduated with their solo debut (arangetram) performances.

    Abhinaya has staged socially relevant productions in years past. “Gandhi the Mahatma in 1995 was the first of such projects that we staged. Our 2018 production ‘Stories of Justice’ featured the legacy of Martin Luther King. Jr – which included a 6 minute piece on Cesar Chavez,” says Artistic director Mythili Kumar. Her research revealed the fact that Chavez was greatly influenced by Gandhi’s successful non-violent resistance which helped India gain independence from British rule in 1947.

    She felt the time was ripe for delving deeper into Chavez’s life given the recent upheaval in the lives of immigrant workers all over America, Her goal is to educate and inspire the diverse Bay Area community about Cesar Chavez’s pioneering work, while also highlighting ongoing struggles that continue to be part of the lives of those who strive so hard to provide us with the very lifestyle that is denied them. 

    Cesar Chavez’s quote from the 1960s is relevant even today – “It is ironic that those who till the soil, cultivate and harvest the fruits, vegetables and other foods that fill your tables with abundance have nothing left for themselves!”

    Si Se Puede! – Yes, You Can!

    Abhinaya Dance Company’s first production in 2019, titled “Si, Se Puede” – which translates to mean “Yes, You Can!” – pays homage to the slogan made famous by the farmworkers under the leadership of Cesar Chavez in 1962.

    The program opened with dancers outfitted in traditional Bharatanatyam attire, dancing to a beautiful rendition of verses from the Bhagavad Gita. Stories of the demon king Kumbhakarna, Ravana and King Midas highlighted the central idea of greed as being the downfall of the human condition. Lord Krishna’s twin messages of Universal Love – “Vishwaprema”, and the victory of Truth – “Satyameva Jayate,” set the tone for the story of the man, the visionary, and the leader – Cesar Chavez.

    Cesar’s humble beginnings working the fields with his family showed him the harsher truths of life. He was forced to bear witness to abject poverty, hunger, mistreatment, ill health and poor living conditions while working as a migrant farm worker. Abhinaya’s dancers deftly led us through scene after scene showing families of itinerant farm laborers struggling under sweltering temperatures, facing immense hardship, leaving children with no opportunity to enjoy their childhoods.

    The soulful voice of Bay Area’s notable Carnatic music vocalists, Asha Ramesh, was ably supported by respected instrumentalists – Ravi Gutala (bols & tabla), Amit Ranganathan (mridangam & kanjira), Lakshmi Balasubramanya (violin), Ashwin Krishnakumar (flute) and Prasant Radhakrishnan (saxophone). Lending counterpoint were Ignacio Alvarez (guitar & vocals) and Gil Cruz (guitar) from the Trio Igalva group.  Ignacio’s rendition of ‘De colores’ was especially poignant. Originally a traditional Spanish song sung during happy occasions, De colores’ was adopted by the striking farm workers at their meetings, and it eventually became a symbol of hope for their resistance movement. Mr. Alvarez’s soft, gentle rendition brought to mind a thirst for beauty and kindness that all human beings yearn and strive for.

    Malavika Kumar Walia’s crisp nattuvangam added the perfect vigor to the famed UFW (United Farm Workers) march from Delano to Sacramento, bearing the distinctive flag of resistance. Likewise, Ravi Gutala’s sprightly rendition of bols enhanced the scene where the striking workers were brutalized by law enforcers. Rasika Kumar’s narration provided continuity along with a backdrop of slides from that period in history.

    The final scene brought home the fact that the struggles of immigrants is not over yet. Mythili Kumar portrayed a Hispanic woman’s story as she lives with the constant fear of deportation. A normal day in her life with her children shadowed by fear, every time there is a knock on the door. Finally, the law comes calling and she is taken away. The twist came at the end of the scene where the woman wakes and realizes it is a nightmare. This is the reality that untold numbers face today.  

    Abhinaya’s production shows us that fear lives among us and holds us in its clutches in today’s world, as it did in Cesar Chavez’s day. Will we have the courage to shed ourselves of the manacles of fear?

    Will we have the courage to say – Yes We Can? 

    ===============================================================

    Pavani Kaushik is a visual artist who loves a great book almost as much as planning her next painting. She received a BFA from the Academy of Art University, San Francisco. Her new avatar requires creative juggling with the pen and the brush.

    Oh Rapturous Spring!

    “There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature – the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.” – Rachel Carson: The Sense of Wonder

    Growing up in the Nilgiri hills in South India, I must admit that I did not feel the keen delineation of seasons. In jest, we often told each other that our seasons were broadly divided into two: rainy and not rainy.

    It was beautiful and scenic all around me, and I am eternally grateful for a childhood spent in those charming environs. It isn’t a gift granted to many – I realized this truth as a child, and this becomes even truer with every passing day, as I live as an adult far away from those beautiful hills which formed the landscape of my childhood. Nestled in the South of India where the Eastern Ghats met the Western Ghats, the Nilgiris was at the unique spot of inviting monsoon rains that lashed both the East and West coasts of the Indian peninsula. Between the South-West monsoons and the North-East monsoons, it rained for almost 9 to 10 months during the year. The few months in April and May, when we could hope for sunshine, doubled up as our summer.

    Spending many months with rainy weather in an environment devoid of electronic stimulation meant that we learnt to occupy ourselves with books and our imagination. Complaining about being “bored” got us the gift of chores or more homework. We were smart enough to give these two a wide berth and be completely at peace with ourselves. The books that I read were varied and often spoke of fantastic adventures in the English countryside or on the slopes of the Alps; books about sleuthing that made me yearn for such deductive skills; or travel and humor that made me want to pack up and get started on adventures of my own.

    Many of these books were set in Europe where the seasons were far different from the rainy and not-rainy strains of weather that I experienced.  They spoke rapturously of spring and autumn. I suppose the magic of youth made me read about “gold and scarlet leaves” and imagine a wondrous world of multi-colored leaves though my forays into the forests nearby always revealed only shades of green. I wondered what geography textbooks meant when they spoke of Deciduous and Evergreen forests. Did the leaves fall like clumps of hair? What did they mean by resplendent autumn? The trees were always beautiful, green and calming – I could not quite understand how they became especially resplendent in autumn.

    I think it is fair to say that I did not truly get the meaning of spring and autumn till I saw it for the first time with my own eyes. When I first moved to the United States as a wide-eyed lass in my twenties, everything about the weather and seasons seemed wondrous (it still does!). Suddenly, what the books were talking about when they referred to autumn and spring took on a new meaning.

    The bare trees of the winter have a beauty of their own. How could there be trees without any leaves, I wondered when I first came. But every year since, my heart has burst at this explosion of beauty when the leaves change colors, when the stark branches stand out, and when the flowers burst forth on the trees all at once, before slowly growing and complementing them with leaves.

    I watch wondrous, a child again, as I see my flowering cherry tree, and the apricot tree that flowers a little later.

    Looking at the earth fresh and colorful in its spring glory has been marvelous. Does your heart not sing when you see geese flying towards the waters making a perfect landing? The joyous anticipation of seeing mallard babies as they get ready to hatch in a few weeks has me in a tizzy. The blooming of my first daffodils has given me joy beyond measure.

    Growing up in the Nilgiris gave me the immeasurable gift of finding pleasure in the simple gifts of nature. It is the reason I persist in passing this on to my children, even though I am given the “who-is-the-little-nature-nutcase?” eye roll and pat on the head by them.

    I could not have put it better than Rachel Carson as she comments in her book, “Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is symbolic as well as actual beauty in the migration of the birds, the ebb and flow of the tides, the folded bud ready for the spring.”

    Spring is here!

    Of Down Dogs, Goats and Salvation: 5 Yoga Myths

    Down dogs go well with beer. Goats are Yogis in disguise. Humans evolve into The Divine Pretzel to gain salvation. Instagram images implode with visions and variations of what Yoga has become all over the world. Sweaty, smiling “yogis” in heated rooms twist and turn to seek deeper truths. There are as many myths about the practice and the outcomes associated with Yoga as there are human beings and other creatures practicing Yoga (37 million two-legged creatures in the U.S. alone).

    As a Yoga teacher, one hears it all with some humor, some compassion and some exasperation. Here are five of the most common myths about Yoga.

    I am NOT flexible/bendy to practice yoga: As light as a feather, as bendy as Gumby. Many beginners are intimidated to get into a Yoga class with more “experienced practitioners” who seem to effortlessly fold forward, bend backward, transition gracefully from one difficult pose to another without losing their breath, a beatific smile always writ large on their glowing faces. Flexibility comes from practice and conscious, skilled stretching of deep connective tissue and muscle fibers. It’s a complex function involving the musculoskeletal, the circulatory and the nervous system. Most of us who practice regularly see an increase in flexibility. It is a gradual process. Each of us have areas that are more flexible than others in our bodies. There is such a thing as being too flexible. Hyper flexibility can cause a person to stretch too deep into the joints and may cause pain and injury if the movements are consistently above the normal range of motion for that joint.

    I don’t have a Yoga Body: There is no such thing as a “Yoga body”. If one has a body, it’s a Yoga body. If one can breathe, it’s a Yoga body. If one can practice kindness, it’s a Yoga body. If one can drive in freeway traffic and not cuss at someone who cuts you off, you are practicing Yoga. While social media showcases acrobatic poses by mostly young men and women, this is not the real, whole picture of what a complete yoga practice, or a real practitioner, looks like.

    There is absolutely nothing wrong in practicing advanced and how-the-heck-is-she doing-that-when-alive poses. Asanas tone, stretch, and strengthen one’s physical body. The advanced poses can help motivate the practitioner to practice physically in a regular and disciplined fashion.

    Asana practice taught by an experienced teacher is inclusive. A group class can, and should, be modified so anyone who wants to practice, can practice and reap all its benefits. From B.K.S. Iyengar, a stocky South Indian man, the trailblazing Indian Guru, to Jessamyn Stanley, an advocate for body positivity and the author of “Every Body Yoga”, to Tao Porchon Lynch, the vibrant 99 year old Yoga icon and the oldest living Yoga teacher, there are inspiring Yoga teachers and practitioners who have diverse body types.

    There’s only one type of Yoga, and that’s the true Yoga: Hatha Yoga, the ubiquitous umbrella term refers to all of the physical practices in the ancient Yoga tradition. It is sometimes confused with other brand names of modern Yoga such as Power Yoga, Vinyasa, Ashtanga, Iyengar, Restorative etc. Each of these variations of modern Yoga stem from Hatha Yoga, and have nuances and practices that have evolved due to innovation and study by the founder of that particular style. Each of these variations offer something unique and there is no one true “Yoga” style. One can think of modern Yoga as a delicious buffet, and try different combinations of styles to see what suits one’s lifestyle and needs the best.

    Yoga belongs to Hindus and Indians: Does relativity belong to Einstein? Do the stars belong to Galileo? Yes, Yoga has deep, historic and mythological connections to India. Ancient sages believe that Lord Shiva was the original creator of Yoga. References to Yoga are found in the Bhagavad Gita and the Upanishads. While Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras is widely regarded as the most important codification of Yoga practices (Ashtanga or the Eight limbs), some scholars believe that the text had very little to do with the physical practice and more to do with the Yogi’s quest for the Divine or salvation. From the 10th century Hatha Yoga Guru Matsyendranath (believed to be an incarnation of Shiva) to the 15th century Svatmarama’s Hatha Yoga Pradipika, there are many texts that pertain to the study and the practice of Yoga. However, it was only in the early 19th century that Guru Krishnamacharya, the “Father of Modern Yoga”, revived and synthesized all his learning from ancient texts, study under sages, Indian wrestling, and gymnastics, and created the Vinyasa style of Yoga, variations of which are taught and practiced today all over the world.

    The history of Yoga, like most phenomena that have survived the test of time, is highly debated, studied and analyzed, and is open to one’s interpretation, perceptions and world view. In the modern context, most of the standing asanas have evolved and are a product of study and creativity. It is a true global practice since it has influences from Asian martial arts, Buddhist philosophy, Western gymnastics, and modern science. It hence belongs to all of humanity. If Yoga has to survive and evolve further, its teachers and practitioners will continue to absorb the context and needs of the time.

    Yoga is Asana: Yoga is really much more than the physical body. The very meaning of Yoga comes from the word, Yug, to yoke, to unite. To connect the physical, mental, emotional, and the spiritual, and eventually, the Divine in all of us. To narrowly define this all-encompassing practice is not giving it its due. Asana is the third limb of the eight limbs of Yoga (Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana, and Samadhi). Each progressively aims to advance the practitioner’s path from the physical body to the subtle body, to eventually merge with the Divine.

    A consistent Yoga practice can take many forms, styles, shapes, and colors. As one goes deeper and deeper into the practice, the practice permeates into everyday life, the way we live, our relationships with each other and the world, the way we deal with stress, the ways in which we grow as human beings. While this author has nothing against beer or goats or the two in combination, a down dog just may be better executed without having the other two. Maybe a pup some day.

    Anjali Kamath Rao believes that Yoga can help one live a life of meaning and intention. Her passion is to help others discover their own strength and potential. She teaches at Stanford Cancer Program, Washington Hospital and corporate locations in the Bay Area. When she is not on her mat, you can find her with her kids on a bike, or in the car with her kids practicing Yoga on the freeway. Contact her at yoganjali05@gmail.com

    First published in March 2018.

    My Search For My Great Grandfather Among 1.3 Million

     

    Like most people, I love chocolate, ice cream, and—as every Indian knows—delicious sweets such as laddoos, jalebi, and gulab jamuns. And for most of my life, I rarely gave a thought for how sugar, the key ingredient in all these treats, is grown and manufactured. I most likely would never have thought about it, but for the curiosity about my roots.

    As a child, my grandmother told me stories about my great-grandfather – that he went to South Africa, was hardworking, but died poor and in tragic circumstances. I wondered why he went to South Africa and what happened in his life. Unfortunately, there were no records or photographs for me to see. All I had were stories from my grandmother and a lot of questions.

    As a youngster, I realized that my great-grandfather was an indentured coolie.

    He was one of the 1.3 million (13 Lakh) Indians who were sent as indentured laborers in the nineteenth century to sugarcane plantations in the Caribbean, Mauritius, South Africa and Fiji.

    The search for my great-grandfather spanned most of my adult life and only recently after a series of miracles, I found the original ship record of my great grandfather. After a search of more than three decades, I was finally able to piece together my great grandfather’s life and mine.

    The indenture journey

    These indentured laborers suffered immense hardship on the plantations, working dawn to dusk, six days a week in inhuman conditions.

    They struggled against all odds and faced humiliation so that their descendants would have a better life. The indenture life was close to slavery. The farm owners withheld pay and rations at their whim. Coolies were whipped for the slightest transgression and women coolies were sexually harassed.

    Today, about 4.5 million people of Indian descent live in these countries, most of whom are the offspring of indentured laborers. Like their forebearers, many of them have worked hard and seen great success in their lives, such as Alvin Kallicharan, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, famous West Indian cricketers, Vijay Singh, the World Number 1 golfer; V. S. Naipaul, the Nobel literature prize winner; and Anerood Jugnauth, former prime minister of Mauritius.

    During the course of my research, I was shocked to learn that the indenture system is very much alive even today. In the Middle East, hundreds of thousands of kafala workers from India, Pakistan, and other countries labor in the scorching sun to build gleaming malls, office towers, and stadiums. The lives of laborers haven’t changes much since the indenture days.

    This book is an attempt to present a sadly neglected chapter in human history, the story of Indian indenture in the industrialized world. The addendums on Gandhiji, Colonial history, Sugar history and Kafala will surely make this an interesting read.

    Book: Viriah: 1.3 Million (13 Lakh) Indians Were Shipped as Indentured Laborers to Sugarcane Plantations in British Colonies to Replace Slaves. My Great-Grandfather Was One of Them. This Is his story.

    About the Author

    Krishna Gubili was born in 1970 in Hyderabad, India. He lives in Easton, Pennsylvania with his wife and daughter. He is passionate about history, travel, movies and cricket. He is an alumnus of JNTU College of Engineering, Hyderabad and Indian Institute of Management, Lucknow.

     

     

     

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