On April 7th, 2011, Los Angeles-based writer and filmmaker, Ghalib Shiraz Dhalla was the distinguished guest and subject of the Yale Master’s Tea at Berkeley College.  The event was sponsored by several organizations including Yale’s South Asian Film Society, Prism, and the Asian American Students Alliance.  The Yale Master’s Tea are intimate gatherings during which students have the chance to meet with a notable personality from the world of academia, entertainment, politics.  Previous guests of the Tea include Meryl Streep, Denzel Washington, Alec Baldwin and Christiane Amanpour.

Dhalla discussed his groundbreaking debut novel, Ode to Lata, which was hailed by the LA Times as “an achievement” and turned into the major motion picture, The Ode, as well as his eagerly anticipated follow-up novel, The Two Krishnas (Magnus Books, September 2011).  The novel is being released by HarperCollins India as The Exiles (June 2011) and is already garnering significant critical praise from authors including Chitra Divakaruni, who calls is “complex and heart wrenching”

In addition, Dhalla shared his expertise on scriptwriting and directing, having just completed the film Embrace starring Rebecca Hazlewood (Outsourced), Ajay Mehta (Too Big to Fail) and Randy Ryan (Public Enemy).  Embrace is the very first narrative dramatization of the Mumbai 2008 attacks.  “Sadly, in today’s world, we run the risk of growing jaded and such heinous events get reduced to sound bites on newscasts,” explained Dhalla.  “By focusing on an intimate love story that becomes a casualty of the attack, I wanted to reduce the scale and bring a more human element to the tragedy.  It was also my way of honoring the innocent souls that lost their lives in this senseless tragedy.”

Dhalla also discussed the intersection of Asian American and LGBT cultures, drawing from his experience as an American immigrant of South Asian decent who was born in Kenya.  As the co-founder of vital organizations like the South Asian program for APAIT (Asian Pacific Aids Intervention Team) and SATRANG (a support group for questioning and out South Asian LGBT in Southern California), he was able to give valuable insight on the always-difficult process of “coming out” and making a societal change.  “There’s this balance between being persistent and being measured when you want to send your message out,” he said.  “One morsel at a time.  You can’t shove your lifestyle on others.  Sometimes, you have to be as understanding about the feelings of your loved ones as you expect them to be about yours.  Your best strategy for ending the silence is in your day-to-day life, in intimate conversations with your friends and the people you encounter.  But don’t be in a rush to come out if you are still dependent on your families for your education and support, and feel they won’t be supportive.  There will be plenty of time once you’ve equipped yourself and are independent.  Then, stop making excuses.”

Dhalla’s debut novel, Ode to Lata, has just been reissued as an exclusive “Author’s Edition” on Kindle and Nook and includes a bonus short story.  More on the author at www.ghalibdhalla.com

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