On 2nd September, the California Cricket Academy sponsored an event where they displayed the trophy that will be the cynosure of all eyes during the International Cricket Council (ICC) sponsored Cricket World Cup matches to be held in England in 2019.
ICC sends the trophy around the world for display in 27 countries to generate interest in the game and to increase popularity towards the sport. In America, the game of cricket is not very popular, but thanks to a large South Asian population the game is growing in popularity. In fact, Cupertino runs a well-established cricket academy – California Cricket Academy – which is recognized by ICC. This distinction was made possible through the efforts of Hemant and Kinjal Buch, founders of California Cricket Academy.
This academy has grown in strength over the past 15 years, and it has attracted coaching talent drawn from present and past players from India and Pakistan. Ajit Tendulkar (brother of Sachin Tendulkar) is a regular visitor and coach at CCA.
When the Cricket World Cup tour started, Hemant Buch approached ICC through USA Cricket Association board member Suraj Vishwanathan of San Jose and requested ICC to send the trophy here for public display.
The ICC obliged and the trophy was brought here by ICC representatives for the purposes of public display on 2nd September. It was a public function attended by a large gathering of cricket lovers, along with past and present Mayors of Cupertino, Mahesh Nihalani,CCA advisory Board member, other members of the academy and officials of ICC. Event attendees were thrilled to see the actual trophy and enjoyed getting photographs taken. Cricket enthsuiasts used this opportunity to reminiscence about past World Cup Cricket matches that they had witnessed. India’s name is inscribed twice as winners on the trophy – 1983 and 2011 when Kapil Dev and M.S.Dhoni led India to victory.
A memorable event indeed!
High school is rough. For freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors, every school year presents new struggles and threats to the state of our mental and physical health. The American school system, to very loosely quote my favorite Prince Ea video, is incredibly archaic. Cars and phones from 150 years ago have been completely revolutionized in the 21st century. While society and it’s needs have changed so much over the past 150 years to cause cars and phones to be completely different, do our schools still look the same? That doesn’t sound right.
Before you actually enter high school, you hear a lot about how it is really hard for many students, but at the time, it always felt like some distant, far-off concept.
Fast-forward to junior year in which I get 4-6 hours of sleep per night, little to no physical exercise, where my days consist of either school or homework for school; breaks in between consist of time spent commuting to school and back. Add to this mix standardized tests and their implications for the future; worrying about AP tests, studying for the ACT all the while wondering about when I’can take my SAT subject tests. Now I’m not saying that’s all there is in my life––of course I spend time with friends, participate in extracurricular activities, and do community service when I can. But lately, it doesn’t feel like any of that stuff matters. It feels like I always have something school-related on my mind.
I’m not alone in this. Contrary to popular belief, this struggle is very damaging and all-too common for high school students. Pressure from peers and the Silicon Valley mentality of always achieving excellence is a huge influence on high stress levels for students.
You hear a lot about the dreaded “junior year,” how it’s the worst and hardest year of high school, and it also happens to be the year where grades are especially important. We always just take it as it is, and just accept that 11th grade is inevitably going to be tough, that it’s the cross you have to bear to eventually do well in the future. But why should we have to do that? Why do we have to accept that when you’re 14-18 years old, high school will be so tough on you that it will negatively impact your mental health, physical health, and overall happiness? Isn’t that the exact opposite of the purpose for education? Shouldn’t we be taught in school that our own wellbeing needs to come first and that, despite the importance of pursuing excellence in education, that nothing should be more valuable than us?
My point is, I shouldn’t have to tell you, that if you’re staying up late for homework and start to get sleepy, that eating a snack will keep you up for a few more hours. I shouldn’t have to tell you, that too much caffeine is bad but it can also do wonders to keep you awake throughout the week. I shouldn’t have to tell you that it’s easier to cram for a test in the morning than while you’re sleep deprived at night. I shouldn’t have to tell you all this, because you shouldn’t be in a position where you actually need this advice. But we are.
I do recognize that this is not always the case. I understand that while they are in the minority, there are some students who are (somehow) able to manage a full load of AP classes, standardized tests, and extracurriculars all in one school year. But they are, I repeat, the minority. The vast minority.
High school students are constantly being told that despite the fact that we are merely students, we have the ability to spark positive change in our world.
Well here it is. Here is me, asking you, to look up and pay attention to the high school experience that my peers and I have to face in the name of education.
Isha Trivedi is a high school junior at Notre Dame high school in San Jose, and she interned with India Currents over the summer.
This essay was first published in December 2017.
Sep 1, 2018 - Sep 30, 2018
10:00 am - 6:00 pm
The 90 Year Journey
Rinconada Library, Palo Alto CA
Sep 27, 2018
Internetting with Amanda Hess and the New York Times
Toni Rembe Rock Auditorium, San Francisco CA
Sep 27, 2018
6:30 pm - 8:30 pm
Menlo Park Main Library, Menlo Park CA
Sep 28, 2018 - Sep 29, 2018
2:00 pm - 8:00 pm
De Anza Visual Performing Arts Center, Cupertino California
By Ethnic Media Services, San Francisco.
Candidate Donald Trump rode his anti-immigrant rhetoric straight to the White House. Since then, he’s banned people from heavily Muslim-populated countries, taken children from their parents upon arrival at the Mexico border, is attempting to make citizenship status a question on the 2020 Census, and one hot day in late July, blocked a fourth-generation American mom from buying her kids tacos at her local swimming pool in Roeland Park, Kansas.
Jessica Salazar Collins, a Bank of America customer for nearly 20 years, called Bank of America to ask why her debit card had been declined. Eventually, she learned that her account had been frozen because her husband had not responded to a bank postcard inquiring about his citizenship status. Josh Collins was born in Wichita.
Neither of the Collinses has ever left the United States except for a first-anniversary, belated honeymoon trip to Mexico in 2005. They had been Bank of America customers before that.
In time not as quickly as promised, and not in time to buy movie tickets for the family the next day the couple regained access to their earnings. But by early August, they’d taken their banking to a local credit union. “This happened to the wrong people,” Jessica Collins told Ethnic Media Services.
Bank of America isn’t alone in asking customers their citizenship status. Checking account applications from Chase, Citi, Wells Fargo, US Bank and even the credit union where the Collinses now do their banking – Mainstreet, all ask about it, and so do San Francisco’s Fire and Golden1 credit unions.
Bank of America declined to say why it targeted Josh Collins but not his wife, how often it performs such “routine updates” of client accounts, or how many postcards it sent out like the one the Collinses ultimately threw away in fear it was actually a scam, or how many more people experienced the bank’s “last resort,” as spokesman Christopher Feeney described it, of having their accounts frozen for failing to respond.
Banks and American Bankers Association spokeswoman Blair Bernstein generally explain the citizenship question as being a part of their effort to combat money-laundering and terrorism funding, but in every case, the decision to ask customers about their citizenship status is the bank’s own choice. Federal rules do not require it.
“We have many customers who aren’t U.S. citizens,” Feeney told Ethnic Media Services. He also said the citizenship question is nothing new for them and probably has been in place at least a decade. The Collinses, he said, just got caught up in one of the bank’s periodic updates of client information.
Treasury Department regulations require that banks know customers’ names, date of birth, Social Security numbers and addresses.
“Banks may be tightening up their due diligence,” said lawyer Alma Angotti, who specializes in money laundering and terror funding enforcement for the consulting firm Navigant in Washington, D.C. She previously worked at the Securities and Exchange Commission and Treasury Department.
“The current political climate has cast doubt on why financial institutions are doing this. There are lots of things banks will ask you that aren’t required,” she said.
Bank of America spokesman Feeney described the government’s various sanctions against other countries as the root of an array of regulations that led the bank to ask about citizenship. Knowledge of a customer’s dual citizenship, for instance, Angotti said, might keep a bank from questioning why a customer is sending money out of the country.
The more information a bank has up front, the fewer questions it will have as it routinely monitors customers’ accounts and transactions.
But for those without citizenship status, immigrant advocates say, any requirement that they divulge their circumstances is going to deter them from doing business with that bank.
“It’s something we’ve been hearing about for a while,” said Paulina Gonzalez of the California Reinvestment Coalition said. “It seems to correlate with … the anti-immigrant stance of the administration.
“That’s what’s so concerning. People are afraid to sign papers,” she said, referring to a 2017 survey done by some of the 300 members of the nonprofit California Reinvestment Coalition. Her 32-year-old organization aims to ensure financial institutions reinvest in their communities and “do no harm,” she said. Some members in the course of their work will try to gather rudimentary information from the people they provide financial counseling and small business support.
“People are afraid to sign even for nonprofits in this political climate,” she said.
In San Francisco, the treasurer and tax collector’s Office of Financial Empowerment reports that from 2011 through 2015, the percentage of “unbanked” city residents dropped from 5.9% to 2.1%.
Although it also notes that 16.5% of city residents continue to rely on payday-loan and check-cashing companies rather than traditional banks, some of its success in getting people bank accounts may be due to its program BankOn San Francisco, which refers citizens to banks that have met its “very specific standards,” program director Sean Kline told Ethnic Media Services. Among those standards is the requirement that they accept non-U.S. identification.
Among its banking partners is the Self-Help Credit Union, formed in 2008. That institution requires knowing a person’s citizenship status for loan applications, but not for checking accounts. Its website includes links to information on such topics as “You Don’t Need to Be a Citizen to Have a US Bank Account” (https://tinyurl.com/noncitizenbanking) and “How undocumented immigrants can get bank accounts” (https://tinyurl.com/whatdocumentswork) as well as testimonials to the reasons why people should use banking to establish credit history, safety in not carrying cash, earn interest and the bill-paying convenience.
It also lists Latino credit unions across the country (https://tinyurl.com/Latinocreditunions). Gonzalez is quoted on the laws protecting customers’ personal information from governmental prying.
Banking, Gonzalez said, “is such a necessity of everyday life. Here we are, creating a situation where they’re not going to have access to this important function, or they’re going to freeze your account or make you feel like you’re not welcome there.”
There’s “a lack of trust in financial institutions,” she said. “To have to answer such a private question in this political climate … there are privacy rules in place. I know the bank can’t turn that information over without a subpoena, but that doesn’t mean that people aren’t afraid that’s going to happen.”
“We need this citizenship information to determine the eligibility and suitability of our products and to comply with the USA PATRIOT Act,” reads Wells Fargo’s online checking account application, in an explainer popup accompanying the online form’s citizenship question. Feeney, also, had cited the 2001 Patriot Act and the 1970 Bank Secrecy Act and Treasury Department regulations, but ultimately could not cite specific requirements that banks collect clients’ citizenship.
Neither could Blair Bernstein, spokeswoman for the American Bankers Association, who cited the 1970 legislation, “Know Your Customer” standards, and “strict regulatory requirements steadily expanded since 9/11,” along with regulators’ routine examinations of banks for compliance.
Sandip Roy’s article first appeared on Firstpost.
This article was curated by Culture and Media Editor Geetika Pathania Jain.
Cover photo credit: Creative Commons Image by Vinayak Das
From Our Sponsors
Drive East is a vibrant, explorative and immersive festival which stages classical forms of Indian music and dance. The festival is presented by Navatman, founded and curated by Sahasra Sambamoorthi and Sridhar Shanmugam. This year it brings artists together as a ‘Guldasta’ (bouquet) of creative expression in New York City and San Francisco with 40+ artists, 13 concerts over 5 days.
The festival has seen its sixth season in New York City and this week Navatman premieres Drive East in San Francisco with a Carnatic music choir (NMC), a Bharatanatyam ensemble, (Abhinaya Dance Company, Navatman Dance), Odissi (Arushi Mudgal), Hindustani vocal (Pt. Rattan Mohan Sharma), Santoor (Vinay Desai), Ghazal gayaki (Vishal Vaid), and the soul stirring Sarode of Maihar Gharana, (Alam Khan).
The India Currents Heritage Arts Initiative team had an opportunity to speak to Navatman West Coast Manager Nadhi Thekkek. Here are some excerpts:
’’ Drive East creates an intimate studio experience for an up close and personal connection with a range of artistic disciplines; Carnatic music, Hindustani music, ghazals, Bharatanatyam, Odissi, Kathak, Kuchipudi and even rarely seen art forms, like Sattriya (Assam) and Kathakali (Kerala).
‘’Besides being a platform for the South Asian classical arts, Drive East is becoming a way to promote local artists, giving them paid opportunities to develop professionally. In this year’s festival we have 12 acts, and even more individual artists, who are from North America. Many of those who are based on the west coast. The other 20 or so acts, span the globe. Aside from the US, artists this year hail from India, Singapore, and France. Both Sridhar and Sahi have a remarkable ability to choose artists with a diverse range of styles, identities, themes, and ages. They have been emerging, mid-career, and experienced professionals. All have the power to inspire. All must be given professional opportunities like these to continue to develop and grow their artistry’’.
Nadhi elaborated with her passionate love for the performative arts of India and went on to tell us how she has spent the last year traveling and attending performances in London, Vancouver, Chennai, San Jose, San Francisco, DC, Austin and New York. ‘’I have found myself utterly taken by performances in all of these cities. And Drive East brings many of these artists all in one city and to one venue!’’
Undoubtedly, the festival is a catalyst for excellence. The New York Times, the New Yorker, the San Francisco Chronicle, The Hindu, and regional media channels have reviewed Drive East as a “must attend” festival. Check it out for yourself!
August 22 – 26, 2018, Joe Goode Annexe, 401 Alabama St, San Francisco, CA. https://www.driveeastnyc.org.
Full Line Up: http://www.driveeastnyc.org/sf-schedule.html
Artist Videos: http://www.driveeastnyc.org/artist-videos.html
Navatman youtube channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/navatman1
Festival at a glance:
Wed. August 22:
7-8:15 pm Alam Khan (Sarode)
8:30-10 pm Arushi Mudgal (Odissi)
Thurs, August 23:
7-8:15 pm Navatman Music Collective (Carnatic vocal choir)
8:30-10 pm Shijith and Parvathy Nambiar (Bharatanatyam duo)
Fri. August 24:
7:15-8:15 pm Locally Sourced: Manasa Suresh/NCS Ravali (Carnatic Vocal)
8:30-10 pm Bhavana Reddy (Kuchipudi)
Sat. August 25:
3:15-4:45 Dualities in Dance: Gender Roles in Bharatanatyam Performances by Sujit Vaidya, Kiran Rajagopalan, followed by discussion 6-7 pm Navatman Dance (Bharatanatyam)
7:15-8:15 pm Prabal Gupta (Kathakali)
8:30-10 pm Nirmala Rajashekar (Carnatic Saraswati Veena)
Sun. August 26:
2-3 pm Abhinaya Dance Company of San Jose (Bharatanatyam)
4-5 pm Raga Revelry, A Film Screening
5-6 pm Flute Raman Trio (Carnatic flute)
The Heritage Arts Initiative, India Currents, is delighted to be a Drive East champion. Over the few days, we shall bring you updates, creative bites and profiles. https://indiacurrents.com/category/heritage-arts/
As I stood there, and watched him walk those last steps of high school, time just froze and our journey together flashed in front of my eyes. It was a bittersweet moment as he proudly walked up to receive his high school diploma. He was a little less than three, full of curiosity and a twinkle in his eye when I landed on the shores of America 15 years ago, expecting nothing, but hoping for everything.
He was my partner as we discovered this land together. We started our journey with inhibitions but with hope in our hearts. He must have missed the attention and love he got from those that surrounded him when he had been in India. I, on the other hand, missed the chance to have any kind of adult social contact. Absolutely lonely, with no work visa, I had suddenly transformed from a busy working woman in India to being a full-time mother in America deprived of all adult interaction till my husband returned home at the end of each work day.
From discovering how a dishwasher was operated to the marvel of tasting sweet yogurt, he was my confidant and partner. We squatted on the kitchen floor to create figurines made of play dough and we squealed in delight as we created buildings with all kinds of blocks. His passion for cars came alive in that 2-bedroom small apartment, which overlooked green well-kept gardens, with not a soul as far as our eyes could go. We walked to the balcony each morning, clapping whenever we saw someone walk by. We created daily routines around one another, since we had no friends or family for company. We started to unravel the mysteries of America slowly through the lens of a mother and son.
As I struggled with the idea of leaving my social structure behind, with my family and home of several years thousands of miles away, he was my hope and my distraction from always wondering about whether things would work out for us in this country. His unbridled sense of curiosity and his ability to start conversations with complete strangers got me acquainted, over time, with many new people. We started to make friends soon, outside our circle of two. He would strike up conversations with people at Walmart and I would soon make new friends. We were good together. Very soon for his first birthday in America, we found ourselves celebrating with several other families. His first mommy and me classes taught me about the value of building communities and taught him his first lessons in sharing, making friends and learning consequences for ill actions. I don’t know when “good job” and “high five” became part of my lingo.
They say that parents teach their children language, life skills, and social norms helping them grow and learn new things, but a lot of that is actually a two-way street. As I look back, he made it so much easier for me to assimilate into this new life. I can’t even imagine how lonely I would have been had it not been for the company of my first born when I first came to this country. We shared not just happy moments but also anger, frustrations and growing pains.
He led the path for us as he took his first journey in his new elementary school. I held his hand as he walked to his first classroom, without mommy. He turned around and I remember his first look of disappointment as he saw me leave him. Those small droplets of tears in his eyes pleaded with me. The teacher’s assurances that he would be okay seemed dishonest. After being with him and only him for many months, this seemed like the hardest thing to do. He had become the friend that I liked sharing big and small things with.
Years later, today as he stands tall with his friends, in a cap and gown, talking with confidence and assurance, he is looking ahead. His journey has just begun and there is a lot to discover, and look forward to. Memories of us starting out together in America will always hold me close to my first born. While those wondrous days will never come back, I hope that I continue to be a small part of the big world he is going to create for himself. They call out his name and he starts to walk up those steps and suddenly, just like that, he turns around, looks at me and smiles. In that small moment I cherish the friend that I discovered years ago. With pride, nostalgia and tears in my eyes, my truest blessings involuntarily go his way, as they invite the Westview High graduating class of 2018.
Veenu Puri Vermani – An Analytics professional, a freelance writer and a full-time mother who lives in San Diego California with her two sons and her husband.
Chabot College in Hayward is a comprehensive community college in the heart of a thriving, diverse community where students of all ages and backgrounds can get a high quality education at an affordable price. The college awards associate degrees and certificates, and...read more
Las Positas College currently enrolls 8,000 students and offers curriculum for students seeking transfer to a four-year college or university, career preparation, or basic skills education. The College provides university transfer classes, retraining classes for those...read more
Cooking is a life skill. You have to do it whether you like it or not. But, if you are a member of the popular Facebook Group Euphoric Delights, you are probably clicking pictures of your freshly cooked meal to post it. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. Even a regular Daal chawal has a place in here. Not only are you flooded with compliments and requests for recipes, but you begin to stir up new friendships. The warmth of a companionship across the glass screens of your computers /phones breezes into your life like the aroma of ghee when you prepare your favorite Indian dessert. It feels like these unknown faces suddenly have a place in your life.
This virtual group discusses everyday cooking, and becomes a wonderful resource to receive tips specially if you have moved out of your home country and are looking for how to make rotis on a glass top stove or how to ferment idli /dosa batter when you live in a place with freezing temperatures. You can also see the work of immensely talented home chefs who post pictures and recipes of beautifully decorated cakes, dishes for parties and a whole lot more.
Started in June 29, 2011 geared to attract those with a love to cook and love to eat, Euphoric Delights is now a virtual home away from home for members. Members not only share meal ideas and kitchen tips but also feel a sense of belonging.
To learn more about the evolution of this Facebook group, join me in conversation with Shalini Ramachandran, founder of Euphoric Delights.
Q) What inspired you to start Euphoric delights?
I am an unabashed foodie! I love to cook, and I love to eat. But you get bored with your own food very soon. The desire to connect over food, make new friends and mingle over food was the reason that prompted me to start the group.
Q) What’s been the best part of starting this group?
The best part has been connecting with people. Moreover, when I moved to the United States in the year 2001, Facebook was non-existent. It was not this easy to connect virtually. It was hard to make friends in a new country. Facebook opened this window for me and I welcomed it with open arms. Now the group has grown tremendously in size and my husband Mahesh Venugopala is also an admin as I need help managing it.
Q) Do you have formal culinary training?
No, I do not have any formal training. I have been trained by life. I am like a mad scientist in the kitchen. I would’ve never made it to culinary school.
Q) What are the challenges you have faced as the moderator/admin of this group?
This group is now huge, and it is an effort to maintain it. My husband is closely involved in monitoring the group and the content posted in it. However, there are many challenges that we face on a regular basis. The biggest challenge is that if a member’s post gets deleted, they take it personally. But I am a part of the power admin groups on Facebook where we discuss problems /glitches and work on solutions to deal with them. Another challenge relates to keeping the content of the group clean. For instance, I need to maintain resources that I can tap into and have volunteers who work in all earnest to regulate/block the members who post inappropriate /profane content.
Q) Tell us a little about ED Anonymous.
We have a special section in our group where abused women share their grievances. Sometimes it is just that they need someone to talk to. Sometimes their issues are serious. The identities of troubled women are kept anonymous and their posts are deleted soon to protect their identity. However, we do not offer any legal /medical advice. We only offer emotional support and reassurance.
Q) The engagement on your page has been excellent. What do you feel about it? Does it overwhelm you sometimes?
Absolutely! I had no idea that it would grow this big. But I believe that the engagement on the page is because the community wants it. People want to help each other out with cooking tips, easy methods of cooking a seemingly difficult recipe and so on. I owe the popularity of this group to the members, and the volunteers in the admin. team who are always working hard to keep this a clean, safe group.
Q) When you try a new recipe and it does not turn out well, what do you do?
Not every recipe is perfect. If a recipe fails, I will try something different next time.
Q) Do you plan to do something new/different in the group? For example, going live or asking the members to go live?
No, I am happy with the way things are going now. I am happy that I have been able to build a strong community through Facebook, a venture I started in order to connect with other foodies like me.
You do not necessarily have to be as talented as someone on the TV show – to be a part of this group. Euphoric Delights is the perfect place to be if you are looking for a quick fix recipe, a question on how to organize your fridge, where to buy a specific Indian vegetable or just about anything else that concerns cooking good food. Even if you do not want to post anything, there is always something that you can learn by just being a part of it. So, if you use Facebook, take a peep into this group and you’ll always be surprised to see what’s cooking!
Surabhi Kaushik is an Indian writer, based in Charlotte North Carolina.
Her works of fiction, non-fiction, poetry and parenting essays have been published in various websites such as yourstoryclub, halfbakedbeans, writer’scafe, perfection pending, herviewfromhome and India Currents. She is part of various writing groups and is closely associated with “Write Like You Mean It”, a writer’s group in Main library, Charlotte. She also leads a monthly Fiction Writing workshop and conducts writing workshops at various libraries across Charlotte, North Carolina.
I have to confess that I became familiar with Chetan Bhagat only after seeing the movie Three Idiots in 2009, although his first novel Five Point Someone had been published in 2004. After watching the movie, I proceeded to read many of his books on my trips to India because many family members read his books regularly.
Though Chetan Bhagat was present at the 2018 Jaipur Literary Festival which I attended, I could not meet him there. When I came to know that he was coming to Atlanta, Georgia, I packed my bags and drove for five hours to hear him speak there. To my delight, I heard him twice, once in Alpharetta, at an event organized by the non-profit organization Pratham, and in the evening again at the Infinite Energy Center in Duluth at a Heart Notes concert featuring the legendary singer Pandit Jasraj, where he delivered the keynote address.
Chetan has an engaging conversational style. He grew up in Dhaula Kuan, Delhi and studied at the Army Public School there.
Chetan told me that he graduated at the top of his class at IIM Ahmedabad. When I asked him if his management training had helped him launch the successful phenomenon that has since transformed the sale of English books within India. “Phenomenon, what phenomenon?” he asked innocently. “The phenomenon that is Chetan Bhagat, indeed,” I replied with a smile. “No,” he said with deep conviction, “I always had a natural ability to market myself, not all management graduates like marketing.” “So the innate branding ability is in your genes?” I quizzed with a smile. He nodded. He claimed to have not spent a single rupee of his own on marketing his books. And yet, he has almost single-handedly transformed the sale of English language novels penned by Indian authors from a few thousands to several million books in sales every year. That’s quite an achievement!
Chetan drew from his IIT Delhi Engineering background when he illustrated his presentation to the large audience with graphs and Venn diagrams. He held the audience enthralled with anecdotes about his many avatarts – journalist, blogger, motivational speaker and sought after author. His popular novels like Half Girlfriend, One Indian Girl and What Young India Wants, appeal to working millennials in India, who carry his books in their backpacks. That Indians read like they used to read before the invasion of screens is truly a wonderful sight! His popularity is endorsed by his devoted followers online – he has over 12 million followers on Twitter and over 6 million on Facebook. His tweets are read and quoted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his columns in Dainik Bhaskar are followed by rickshaw-pullers. All of this clearly demonstrates the ways in which he has captured the country’s imagination across levels of social strata.
“Mr. Bhagat, you write on diverse topics but tell me did you read a lot as a kid?” I asked him with curiosity. “I did read but I did not think that I would become an author one day. Had I known that, I would have read more as a child,” he quipped. With memories of childhood reading pursuits, his face lit up. That expression of joy immediately won me over, and I could see that this accidental author and more of an authorpreneur as he likes to call himself is indeed a kid at heart, with a great love for words who is actively engaged in his craft, delighting in being in touch with the pulse of his readers.
In his own way, he encourages all Indians to be engaged in their lives and to shun the inertia which has defined us for too long. “Let’s not shrug our shoulders and hide behind the apathetic “chalta hai” attitude or take refuge in hurling blame at others,” he said. “India needs change in terms of meaningful education, real secular beliefs, unification of diverse identities, women’s rights at home and in the workplace.” He feels that there is an urgent need to promote a healthy attitude towards sex. Dating and sex should not be swept under the carpet as taboo subjects within the home, if we want to make the country safe for women of all ages he feels – a theme he addressed in his book – One Indian Girl.
Not becoming complacent or settling for anything at any age is his mantra and he poses this challenge of being willing to adapt to change to his readers. “To settle is to be like the sediment at the bottom of a still lake. If you want to stay alive, be engaged and adapt to change, that comes your way.” As an example to illustrate the importance of being adaptive, he mentioned how obnoxious cockroaches achieved a survival advantage over extinct dinosaurs because of their resilience.
“As a successful novelist, how do you decide which idea is suitable to eventually become a book?” I asked. He liked that line of questioning and responded that if an idea kept coming back to him and if he felt that it could be explored in depth, he eventually worked on fashioning a novel.
I asked him about his favorite leisure activity. Without batting an eyelid he said, “Sleeping.” I liked him – here was an author with an honest, straightforward style of speaking. He did not feign a literary style akin to great English authors like Dickens or Hemingway. I might not read his books over and over again but his books are indeed easy to read and his subject matter is always very relevant to current events.
“Can you speak in Punjabi?” I asked hoping I could share a joke or two in my mother tongue. “No,” he said, “my mother is from Lahore but I grew up in Delhi, I can understand the language, but I can’t speak Punjabi.” “Well I am a Punjabi, born in Chandigarh – I grew up in Bombay but ran away from home after marriage,” I said softly under my breath. He immediately perked up. “What happened?” the curious story teller in him wanted more details. “Oh, that’s a story for another day,” I said thanking him for the interview and placing a copy of my My Light Reflections in his palm.
Monita Soni is a pathologist and diagnoses cancer. Her writing style weaves eastern and western cultures. You can hear her commentaries on WLRH-Sundial Writers corner and on “All Things Considered.”
Panelists: Stacie Shih, District Director for California State Assemblymember Ash Kalra Raj Salwan, Councilmember of Fremont Shao Yang, President of Fremont Unified School District Moderator: Shanti Balaraman – President and CEO, Children’s Innovation Center After...read more