Tag Archives: @artforumsf

Are Indian Americans Gold Diggers?

The jingle of our mother’s gold bangles sprinkled gold stories into our ears with every rhythmic thump on our infant backs. Sanjena Sathian, a 2019 graduate of the Iowa Writers Workshop, in her book Gold Diggers taps into that part of the Indian American psyche. Being considered for a series to be produced by Mindy Kaling, the fiction has won many awards as the author’s first novel.

The story starts with an Indian American high schooler, Neil Neeraj Narayan, growing up in suburban Atlanta. Neil, his sister Prachi and their friends are pursuing dreams in a world their Indian-immigrant parents are “ad-justing in.

The parents from the land where the gold-laden Sindhu river flowed, have crossed many oceans to raise their children in a country that Christopher Columbus mistakenly thought was India (sone ki chidiya). Now the gold spinners are chasing the American dream.

The parent’s and children’s ambitions, which like the gold deer that Lord Ram chased, are to be achieved with any magic potion they can drum up in the basements. A magic potion was brewed out of gold, not the turmeric latte kind but the real glint in the ear gold by the Dayal mother and daughter duo, Neil’s neighbors. This lemonade stirred up latent ambitions in the consumers. It helped them steal victories from the owners of the gold ornaments.

“Brewing the perfect lemonade was a matter of taking luck and specific talents from another person and drinking them down.” 

Neil, Anita, and her mother are the alchemists of the brew.

“Anita wants to go to Harvard too,” I said. That briefly silenced Wendi Zhao….

“Wendi.,” I said. “What’s after Harvard? 

“What do you mean?’”

“Just that. You get there. To Harvard. What happens next?” 

She looked at me like she had something sour on her tongue.

“Whatever the fuck I want.”

The magic gold lemonade that stirs up ambitions and confidence to aim for Harvard seems to not help them adjust in their homeland, America. It deserts them in social situations. It doesn’t fight white girls “see, because white girls, they don’t even wear gold, white girls they prefer”-hiccup-”they prefer pearls,” says Anita who is attracted to a classmate Sam. “He’d never date me in public,” she says.

Fast forward a decade and, in the second half of the novel, as the highschoolers head to the next stage of their lives the author quotes H.W.Brands from “The Age of Gold: The California Gold Rush and the New American Dream,Had the immigrant known what a task the gold hunting would be, their spirits might have failed.”

The protagonist Neil enters the Golden State. California is where the next phase of their lives plays out. Under the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, Neil delves into the aftermath of the gold rush, studying history “in the land of utopian technofuturists”.

This next phase of their lives reveals the new ambition of their parents.

“They (parents) had accrued additional expectations, ones I did not discover until Prachi (Neil’s sister) fulfilled them. Shaadi-shaadi-shaadi!”

“There had been a few years, in college, when I’d believed in life’s ever-unfolding variety. But now, as my compatriots entered the promotion and canine-adoption and splitting-the-rent and wedding seasons of their lives, reality had narrowed again, with little warning,” says Neil.

Future-oriented South Asian professionals must now use any means necessary to fulfill this desire for marriage. “Believe it or not, they’re-we’re-willing to pay more in the marriage space than any other group,” says Keya, who has launched Dil Day, a matchmaking app for South Asian professionals but is herself “an analog spinster in the era of digital soul mates” Caught as she is in a conundrum of “she can’t be seen using her competitor’s app and can’t really use her own.”

The Santa Clara Convention Center hosts a bridal expo to help those who have succeeded in crossing this Lakshman rekha of marriage. Dazzling gold jewels and Manish lehenga skirts await them. Neil and Anita are hellbent on stealing some of the joy-laden gold jewels from the expo to distill some happiness into their lives when a chase ensues, shots are fired and the gold-laden lehengha skirt disappears into a Honda as the thief Neil absconds.

The novel has all the color of the Indian American immigrant experience and the quintessential wedding also makes an appearance. I can see Mindy Kaling having a lot of fun distilling the tale into a fun-filled movie or digital drama.

Chaitali Sen will be in conversation with Sanjena Sathian on September 23 at 8:30 pm PST. organized by Art Forum SF the event will be hosted by Virtually SALA. It can be seen on youtube.

Ritu Marwah was a 2020 California reporting and engagement fellow at USC Annenberg’s Center for Health Journalism.


The Visual Artists in the #SALA 2019 Festival

Lucky S.F. Bay area denizens of the high-brow variety, you have yet another event to look forward to that is sure to amplify your festive Dussera season this year. If you are scurrying off to the many poojas, family gatherings and Golus (display of dolls), be sure to add this event to your calendar!  

Starting Sunday, October 6th from 12pm – 5pm, the beautiful environs of Villa Montalvo is home to the South Asian Literature & Arts Festival – SALA 2019. This event, the first of its kind in the US, runs from October 6th – 13th, showcasing a grand variety of visual arts, performing arts, poetry, book readings and panel discussions. 

Visual Arts @ SALA 2019:

Rekha Roddwittiya

Visual arts enthusiasts have special treats that thrill and educate. This event presents a great opportunity to meet with award-winning luminaries like India’s leading contemporary artist Rekha Rodwittiya whose work with distinctly feminist narratives has received critical acclaim. In a discussion titled Rekha @ 60: Transient Worlds of Belonging, Dr. Prajit Dutta of Aicon Gallery, NY will be speaking with Ms. Rodwittiya. 

Priyanka Mathew, Principal Partner of Sunderlande New York – an art advisory with a focus on South Asian art, presents an exemplary exhibition titled ‘Revelations: The Evolution of Modern and Contemporary Indian Art’. The show highlights works by Jamini Roy, Sanjay Bhattacharya, Krishen Khanna, Anjolie Ela Menon, Shobha Broota and G.R Iranna to name a few.

Also featured is a conversation with Dipti Mathur, a local bay area philanthropist and well known collector of modern and contemporary South Asian art. She has served on the board of trustees of several museums and is a founding member of the Asian Contemporary Art Consortium, SF.  

Deepti Naval

One of the highlights of the program is well known actor, painter and poet, Deepti Naval. U.C Berkeley professor Harsha Ram, will moderate a program titled “An Elaborate Encounter with Deepti Naval”, as part of the Confluences – Cinema, Poetry and Art segment. 

Cinema @ SALA 2019: 

Vikram Chandra

Indian cinema has a great representation at SALA 2019! The festival offers up a chance to interact with the men behind the popular Netflix original series ‘Sacred Games’, in two separate programs.

The trio of Varun Grover, Vikramaditya Motwane and Vikram Chandra will be interviewed by Tipu Purkayastha on Oct 6th as part of the opening day of the festival in a program titled ‘From the Sacred to the Profane’

A special event on Friday, Oct 18th tilted ‘From Text to Screen’ will feature Tipu Purkayastha . In conversation with him is noted director, writer, and producer, Anurag Kashyap. This program offers us an interesting perspective into their creative minds!

Literature @ SALA 2019: 

The literary world boasts of several names from the South Asian diaspora who decorate the local, national and international stage. SALA 2019 proudly presents writers and poets like Vikram Chandra, Minal Hajratwala, Shanthi Sekaran, Nayomi Munaweera, Raghu Karnad, Athena Kashya and Tanuja Wakefield to name a few, who will share their work in readings and discussions. 

Also being represented at the festival is the emerging Children and Young Adult genre of writers. Curated by Kitaab World, Mitali Perkins and Naheed Senzai in a program titled The Subcontinent’s Children. 


Montalvo Arts Center and Art Forum SF, in collaboration with UC Berkeley Institute of South Asian Studies are jointly bringing to us one of the largest collections of contemporary South Asian writers, artists, poets, and personalities from theater and cinema. 

The opening day features various programs like art exhibits, panel discussions with internationally renowned writers and filmmakers, hands-on art activities, henna artists and dance performances. There are food stations offering up the many flavors of South Asia. This family-friendly event includes book readings, storytelling and hands on crafts for children. Visitors can also avail themselves of an art and literature marketplace displaying Bay Area artists and Books Inc. book sellers.  

The festival, the largest of its kind in the US is brought to us by Art Forum SF, a non profit that strives to promote emerging  visual, literary and performing art forms from South Asia.

Montalvo Art Center is well known for its mission in advancing cultural and cross-cultural perspectives, nurturing artists by helping them explore their artistic pursuits on their historic premises.

Free shuttle buses are available from West Valley College to aid festival goers.

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.

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

India Currents is a media partner for SALA 2019.