Tag Archives: Bay area

Break Out of the Outbreak

Though separated by a malfunctioning Zoom dashboard, I could see the passion radiating from youth nonprofit Break the Outbreak when I met the team for the first time. “How can we contribute to our society? How do we make a difference?”, asked Sky Yang, founder and Chief Executive Officer of the group. “It is our responsibility as members of the community to stop the COVID-19 outbreak from spreading and endangering more people.”

More than fifteen teenagers from across the country were constituents of this virtual board meeting, where the team discussed their recent impact on the community, sources of funding, and plans for the future. I found myself nodding with silent pride for my generation. Despite the onslaught of Advanced Placement testing, final exams, and pre-college drudgery, so many students have dedicated their time and tears towards addressing the outbreak — an effort that was thoroughly refreshing to watch. Over the past three months, a handful of teenagers established ten chapters across three states, received thousands of dollars in donations, and collectively distributed more than five hundred masks to local communities. Impressed and slightly intimidated by this nonprofit’s meteoric rise, I decided to chat with the teenagers who made it happen. 

Sky Yang, Founder and CEO of Break the Outbreak

 How did Break The Outbreak begin? Were there any obstacles you faced during the initial stages of founding the organization?

In the beginning, I realized that people don’t have a centralized platform to post about COVID-19 necessities and assistance. Instead, I found hundreds of posts on platforms like Facebook, NextDoor, Reddit, and Instagram. Inspired, I spent three straight days and nights to construct our website — https://breaktheoutbreak.org/.

This was just the beginning. At the time, I still had a few months of school left and managed to recruit four like-minded students from the city. Once I formed a small team, we were on the move — buying supplies, editing the website, and trying to figure out what places needed our help. Eventually, we decided to direct our attention to different stages of the food industry, from farmer’s markets to grocery stores to restaurants.

In April, we partnered with a local Rigatoni’s, and Break the Outbreak took off from there. It was difficult at first. Our operations were small at the time, and we had to finance them on our own. Without a relationship with local establishments, we faced initial rejections from many restaurants. But we persevered and forged a student network with San Ramon. After gaining traction among local farmers’ markets, we expanded in cities like Fremont, Pleasanton, Roseville, Salt Lake City, Chillicothe, Los Angeles, and San Jose. 

 

For our readers who may not be familiar with your cause, could you describe what “Break The Outbreak” does? 

Break The Outbreak is a non-profit organization that is dedicated to donating masks, face shields, and money to local businesses in order to keep them afloat during the current times of global pandemic as well as when the pandemic is eradicated. The meaning behind the title “Break The Outbreak” simply means: breaking out of the current outbreak of pandemic and rising from the rubble it has created. 

Lizzie Davies, Director of Livermore Chapter

Tell us a little more about your group’s experience in making masks? What kind of technology is required? How do you maintain safety and sanitary standards? 

Making masks was actually quite difficult at first. We had many problems with the quality of the masks not being good enough and having to get rid of them. It took us a while to get a small subsection of individuals that would do a good job and produce high-quality masks. We had to learn how to use a sewing machine as well as be meticulous with our work. We couldn’t settle for something mediocre, so often times masks had to be redone to ensure that they were safe enough. Face shields on the other hand were quite easy to make. To maintain sanitary standards, all of the materials are cleaned beforehand — the cloth is thoroughly washed and all shield materials are wiped down with disinfectant. All materials are then cleaned a second time once it has been assembled.

Adithya Krishnaraj, Director of San Ramon Chapter

Here’s a simple tutorial documenting how Break the Outbreak makes their face shields!

Over the course of your time with “Break the Outbreak”, have there been any notable stories about students you’ve worked with or projects you’ve initiated that you would like to share?  

I remember the first time we ever donated and it was at Rigatoni’s in Dublin. I remember that we were pretty nervous in that donation because none of us had done anything like this before and we really didn’t know how to approach it. We just went in and talked to the staff and they gratefully accepted our donations. It was a great feeling being able to donate to people in need and knowing that these donations will help save lives. It was a great day and kicked off our operation as Break the Outbreak. I think the most positive response we’ve experienced has been from Banana Garden in Dublin. When I talked to the owners Luis and Aldo over the phone, they were very encouraging of our operation and were delighted to see us when we arrived to donate. Though we were social distancing and all wearing masks, I could see the happiness on Aldo’s face when we handed him the box of PPE and he got the whole staff to try our face shields on then and there. Luis was very grateful and offered us tokens of their appreciation as well. It was a nice gesture and an enjoyable experience which made us all happy to be part of Break the Outbreak.

Ansh Tripathi, Associate Founder

5) There are millions of adults working ‘round the clock to promote safety and awareness. Why do you think it’s important for young people to contribute to these efforts as well? 

I’ve seen people die due to the virus. I’ve seen people lose jobs due to the virus. I’ve seen companies shut down due to the virus. I want the world to return to normalcy when people aren’t skeptical of each other, when we can sit in classrooms for school, and when everyone isn’t afraid of a global pandemic. Since most young people are quarantined at home doing nothing during these hard times, I think it is important to contribute to society. We can do our part and help slow the spread of COVID-19.

Sam Zhou, Director of Roseville Chapter

What advice can you give other young teenagers who want to make a difference during these nebulous circumstances?  

When people try to tell you that your plan isn’t going to work, you’re too young to make a difference, or your voice is unimportant in a world full of powerful adults, you cannot let their words stop you from moving forward. There will always be people that will try to tell you that you’re either not good enough or you won’t succeed, but if you believe that you will succeed, then you will. Letting people’s harsh words pollute your conscious won’t allow progress to be made. 

Lizzie Davies, Director of Livermore Chapter

Break the Outbreak is a powerful reminder of how initiative sprouts from adversity. It’s the kind of sprawling endeavor that requires a medley of both courage and compassion from its members. It’s evidence that young people want to make a difference, and will.

For more information, follow BTOB on their social media platforms:

Make the movement work! Be sure to contribute to their Gofundme page: https://www.gofundme.com/f/we-break-the-outbreak

Kanchan Naik is a rising senior at The Quarry Lane School in Dublin, California. Aside from being the Youth Editor at India Currents, she is the 2019-2020 Teen Poet Laureate of Pleasanton, editor-in-chief of her school news magazine The Roar and the Director of Media Outreach for nonprofit Break the Outbreak. Find Kanchan on Instagram (@kanchan_naik_)

Indian Led Bay Area Nonprofits Respond

The world as we knew it a few weeks ago has been turned on its head by the invasion of the alien virus we call COVID-19.  Normal activity has ceased over much of our globe; for a very large majority, being told to stay in place where they are and off the streets is tantamount to taking away their livelihood – it’s a sentence to starve. Many of our elderly need help to obtain food, medicine, and other essentials. The emotional impact has spared no one.  Mother Earth, it seems, has stopped processing, stopped spinning, and stopped orbiting; she is free-falling through space, trying to escape the bonds of gravity.

In any crisis, our humanity and community spirit take over. People jump in to help in any way they can.  Inventing new and creative solutions. Checking on each other. Making masks. Generating optimism and goodwill. Showing gratitude by banging pots and pans and cheering on the frontline medical workers as they put their own lives on the line to try and save others. Three Bay Area nonprofits exemplify this spirit. 

Sukham is an all-volunteer organization that advocates for healthy aging, living well and being prepared for life’s transitions in the Bay Area.  Under the leadership of one of its members Saroj Pathak, Sukham is pairing seniors with a younger volunteer living in the same area who could assist in shopping for groceries, picking up medicines or run other essential errands on a mutually agreed-upon schedule. They can also be that friendly voice that calls up to check in and say hello. If you or someon you know could use this service, inform Sukham or send them an email to sukhaminfo@gmail.com. Provide the name, address and phone number of the senior citizen needing assistance.

The Hindu Community Institute (HCI)  is a service-learning organization dedicated to serving the community by integrating contemporary knowledge, technologies and Hindu wisdom and traditions. Under the banner “Community for Immunity,” HCI – led by Board member Gaurav Rastogi – is now offering free daily online sessions for yoga and meditation via Zoom.  If social distancing is getting you down, or you are struggling to deal with self-isolation, do try out these sessions led by seasoned practitioners. Register at https://www.hinduci.org/online-yoga.  Special yoga sessions catering to seniors and kids are also available.

On a more somber note, HCI has prepared a Hindu last rites process checklist to assist those dealing with a death in the family to handle all the formalities in the current COVID-19 environment. They also offer families the option of talking to knowledgeable individuals who can offer guidance and counsel in their time of loss.  The checklist, as well as contact information for counselors, can be found at  https://www.hinduci.org/last-rites.

Indians for Collective Action (ICA) is a Bay Area nonprofit founded in 1968  to support sustainable development in India by partnering with dedicated non-government organizations (NGO’s) and individuals.  A core mission of ICA has been to help victims of natural disasters such as earthquakes, floods, and drought. Now, in response to the COVID-19 crisis, ICA has organized the Forum initiative, a webinar and video-conference series that connects and enables nonprofits, partners, and interested individuals in India and the US to exchange ideas and share best practices as they bring help to India during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Forum is moderated by ICA’s Dr. Anju Sahay who can be reached at anjusahay@gmail.com. In the first webinar late last month, Snehalaya shared their approach to mobilize and distribute food and supplies to the needy slum dwellers and their plan to distribute food packages to 45000 people. Other projects being prioritized by ICA are listed on their website: https://icaonline.org/donation-for-covid-19/. The next webinar with other project leaders sharing their approach to fight COVID-19 is on April 17. 

Let’s support each other and do all we can. Together we can – and will – put these dark days behind us!

Mukund Acharya is a co-founder of Sukham, an all-volunteer non-profit organization in the Bay Area established to advocate for healthy aging within the South Asian community. 

My “March” With My Mother’s Life

Self-quarantined in my bedroom in San Jose, I pen down my thoughts about a time that will be forever etched in my memories. It is a journey between India and the US during a time when borders were getting closed, schools were reinventing themselves online, social fabrics were getting challenged, and loved ones were lost to a pandemic.

On Feb 23rd, I got a call from my father that my mother is in an ICU in a hospital in Kolkata. My mother, aged 69, is a Lupus survivor and in recent years, she had her bouts of cardiac and respiratory incidents. I thought she would manage this one also. But by the first weekend of March, her condition seemed to deteriorate and I decided to travel to India. This was also the first weekend that the coronavirus was moving its way into silicon valley. People started to hoard things. I could not find a thermometer and there were long lines and fights for parking places in supermarkets. I did some essential shopping for home, bought a direct United SFO – DEL ticket, imparted a list of instructions to my 12-year-old daughter, bid goodbye to my wife, and boarded the 15 hour flight.

Corona was on the periphery of my thoughts …. I had other things to worry about. I reached Delhi in the wee hours of March 4th. India had not started screening incoming passengers yet –  not for flights coming from the US. I came out of T3 and walked 10 minutes to the newly created T2 to catch an Indigo flight to Kolkata. In the next 2 weeks, my dad and I shuttled daily to the hospital during visiting hours to catch up on my mother’s condition, which was not getting any better. Her sufferings and pains were hard on me emotionally. Corona was slowly coming to Kolkata. Masks were seen everywhere and hospitals were doing a good job of cleaning and providing sanitizers. I started avoiding elevators and used stairs to the 3rd floor ICU. I bought a mask for my father and made him wear it.

My early mornings were spent WhatsApping with my family and friends back in the USA. The changes in the Bay Area started slowly but suddenly picked up by the 2nd week of March – remote working, schools closed, 40 minutes line to check out groceries.  And, then came the “Shelter in Place” order on March 16th – an (almost) lockdown of 6 counties of the Bay Area/Silicon Valley. I was concerned about my family but was also comfortable, as my close groups of friends were supporting them in every way possible.

I lost my mother on March 17th. By then we had moved her to a different hospital and she was on Ventilator life support for the last 5 days. We lost her to a Sepsis Infection (an infection that flows in the bloodstream) caused by a bacteria “Burkholderia Cepacia”. She most likely acquired during the long ICU stay in the first hospital but it was undetected. It was too late by the time we moved her to a different hospital. I did not say the last goodbyes but I wished on her bedside that she is freed from her pains.

After the cremation, we planned for the rituals of “shraddha” on March 26th. And then the arrived on March 19th that India is stopping international flights starting March 22nd. We made the difficult decision to complete all the rituals in the next 24 hours. Surrounded by my extended family in Kolkata, we offered our last pranam to “Maa” and I hopped on the last Air India flight ( KOL – DEL – SFO ) leaving India.

Corona cut short the time I wanted to spend with my father during this difficult time. The ride from the airport to home was eerie as I started assimilating the changes that happened during my absence of 3 weeks. Empty roads, silent parks, supermarkets rationing eggs, bread, and paper products and meeting friends over hangout and zoom. I decided to quarantine myself in one room of my house to protect my dear ones as there is a slight risk of my getting the virus due to my travel in long flights and the transit area of busy airports. It has been 7 days now in my room and 7 more days to go ….

The image which is still stuck with me is related to the most prized commodity of this new world – ventilators. It is still pumping oxygen in the still body of my mother ….


Featured Image by Bharatahs and license can be found here.

Think Globally, Act Locally

“These are unprecedented times…” is probably the beginning of every email that you’ve written, received, or been forwarded over the course of the last month. While our lives have surely been changed, our day-to-day schedule in quarantine largely looks, well, pretty precedented. If you’re anything like me or my family, you’ve probably tried your hand at the internet’s favorite Dalgona coffee, baked banana bread out of boredom, or co-starred in your younger family members’ TikToks (reader, please explain to me why I’m now obsessed with the Skechers song!). In the world of social distancing, we often believe that we are at a loss to do anything other than propping ourselves up with these mundane pleasures. After all, many of us aren’t epidemiology researchers, state legislators, or doctors (as much as my parents would have hoped differently). But the truth is, there’s more we can do to help our community than we might currently think. 

The Indian-American community is one of the most successful ethnic minorities in America, with the highest average income of minority groups in this country. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey is receiving praise for his commitment to donate $1 billion (28% of his net worth) to the COVID-19 crisis, but leaders in the Indian-American community have not pledged nearly the same. Several Indian-led nonprofits have stepped in to help in ways they can. Our community has seen over 40 deaths in America. While saddening, these figures pale in comparison to the health disparities in black and LatinX communities, which shows that we have more of an obligation than ever to contribute. There’s a variety of ways for people to get involved in local efforts, donations, and advocacy, and it’s important to keep these opportunities on our radar as we brace for several more weeks of isolation. 

Donating Time:

While not everyone can be in a place to be able to financially support local charity work, there’s plenty that can contribute with their time. In today’s climate, vulnerable populations often see their challenges exacerbated, with social-isolation, medical bills, and job losses plaguing our country. Victims of domestic violence are quarantined with their abusers, high-risk senior citizens are spending days alone, and the impact on migrant and refugee communities is terrifying. For many of the non-profits seeking to provide resources to these communities, what they need most is an increase in volunteers to reflect their increased needs at this time. Here are a few ways you might be able to get involved: 

  • You can help with contactless driving for Meals on Wheels, a nonprofit that helps provide food and check-ins for senior citizens. 
  • You can get trained to be a domestic violence crisis counselor from your couch  
  • You can even be a decoder for Amnesty International
  • Got extra cloth? Help sew masks for your local health professionals. 
  • Looking for a more comprehensive list of volunteer opportunities? Look no further.
Madhavi Prabha sewing masks for local hospitals.

Donating Money

While some of us might be able to donate extra hours, if someone’s quarantine-buddies are immunocompromised, or if the hectic pace of our lives has not calmed down, donating money might be an easier avenue for them. Mutual Aid collectives, which organize under the philosophy of “solidarity, not charity,” help mobilize a community’s financial resources for those who are in need. Mutual aid groups have been used in several universities and municipalities, and this locator helps a user see the aid efforts nearest to them. There are several well-known non-profits and locators that families can use to donate to at this time:

Think Globally, Act Locally

While the saying might be trite, the most impact that we can make is within our own communities. Whether it’s buying gift cards to your favorite small businesses, dropping off groceries for a neighbor, or caring for the children of medical professionals, there’s a lot we can do by simply keeping ourselves aware. You can subscribe to the email list-servs of your local political representatives, who often can provide constituents with information about neighborhood efforts. Charity navigator is also a great resource that can help you identify what organizations are doing great work in your community. If you’re from the Bay Area, Silicon Valley strong is a wonderful place to start with your efforts. The possibilities are endless, and the genuine good in the hearts of everyday people is incredible. If there’s a silver lining to all of this, it’s this: we are stronger together.

Swathi is a junior at Duke University studying Public Policy and Computer Science. She hopes to continue to learn through the lens of her Indian-American heritage.

Youth Assemble for Grassroots Education During Quarantine

In the light of school closures due to the Coronavirus, two high school seniors, Uditha Velidandla and Sarika Sriram, set up a free online program for elementary and middle schoolers through the Almaden South Asian Women’s Association

After learning about the 3-week school shutdown on Friday, March 13, Velidandla and Sriram put in more than 24 hours over the course of two days preparing lesson plans and the technology needed to go live on Monday, March 16th, the first day of the shutdown. Their main goal?

“To give parents enough time to find an adequate replacement for formalized education”

Over three days, their volunteer-run program grew from 6 students per grade to more than 50 students in each grade. In the second week now, the program includes over 400 students and 90 volunteer tutors. 

All classes are run on Zoom, an online video conferencing platform. “By using Zoom”, Sarika explained, “the social aspect of class is still present. The students and the teachers can see each other, and lessons are more interactive.”

For elementary schoolers, the program consists of lessons taught by high school student volunteers from 9 am to 3 pm. The curriculum is based on various sources, including textbooks used in local elementary schools, and state standards. “We wanted to ensure that we were keeping the kids engaged while helping them refresh concepts learned in school earlier in the year. We know from experience how easy it is to forget material over an extended break.”

The successful first week included classes such as mathematics, reading comprehension, creative writing, and also STEM-based experiments and activities, Hindustani and Carnatic music lessons, and an arts class.

Udyat building a spaghetti tower for science class.

They announced this week that they have expanded their program to include a middle school.

“There was a high level of demand for a middle school program. We are fortunate to have enough volunteers who are willing to teach the middle classes.” says Uditha. “None of this would have been possible without the help of our dedicated volunteers- they have spent countless hours with us along the way, from planning the curriculum to teaching classes and responding to questions on our behalf. Both Sarika and I are very grateful for all of our volunteers.”

They are also trying to work with the San Jose Unified School District to make their lesson plans available to children in San Jose who are unable to access e-learning.

“It is heartwarming that we have been able to contribute to the community that has given us so much. We hope to be of similar assistance to communities that do not have easy access to e-learning infrastructure. We are proud of the fact that we hit the ground running and that the program has continued into its second week”, they say. 

They have received positive feedback from parents, receiving messages and emails that are similar to this one parent’s experience: 

I’m amazed how all the kids and tutors have progressed so well, to get comfortable with the online learning concept, with order and respect, in just 4 days of classes. Today WhatsApp has been very quiet, which is awesome! Congratulations to all tutors, organizers, and students. And I must say my kid is quite eager to attend classes and loves ‘seeing’ his friends and future middle-school friends in the e-world. Thank you all.”

It has not been all smooth sailing for the two founders. They continue to spend 12 to 15 hour days bringing this service to the community. “In addition to adapting our communication styles, we have had to iron out technical issues and assist tutors in managing online classroom behavior. We have taken the help of parent volunteers to ensure that the classroom is a welcome learning environment for everyone.”  

If you are interested in learning more about the program or donating to their cause, Sriram and Velidandla encourage you to send an email to info@asawa.net, and to explore the ASAWA website.

Suchitra Patri is the founder and president of the Almaden South Asian Women’s Association. She is an accountant by profession and enjoys reading and spending time with her family in her free time. 

Local Teen Fundraises to 3D Print Face Shields

Aditya Indla is a Sophomore at Bellarmine College Preparatory in San Jose, CA. After realizing that healthcare workers are facing a severe shortage of protective equipment as they deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, he decided something needed to be done.

In collaboration with a researcher at UC Berkeley and Maker Nexus, he is planning to print hospital approved face shields and deliver them to the hospitals in need. He has created a gofundme page to help with the costs of creating the face shields.

Face shields are used by healthcare professionals to protect them when working with patients. Hospital supplies are running low. While they prefer to use commercially manufactured ones, during this emergency, they are looking for alternative sources.

The face shields cost $10 each to manufacture and his goal is to raise $3,000 to purchase the supplies to make 300 masks.

Please help support the healthcare professionals at the forefront of the COVID-19 fight by donating to his gofundme page!

What Are Bay Area Residents Doing Behind Closed Doors?

Toilet Paper Na Milega Dobara,” writes Sheetal Gokhale as a rehashed title to a Bollywood film. Then quickly types “Doh Toilet Paper Bahrah Hanth”. On a Saturday morning the Saratoga dentist is playing a game of adding toilet paper to names of Bollywood films. Her WhatsApp group is in giggles. Nina Daruwalla, the realtor who has been collecting shoe covers to donate to Santa Clara nurses and staff, joins in, “Gumnam Toilet Paper”.

The entries come in fast and furious: Mein Toilet Paper Tere Angan Ke; Dilwale Toilet Paper Le Jayenge; Kagaz Ke Toilet Paper; Maine Toilet Paper Se Pyaar Kiya; Hum Toilet Paper De Chuke Sanam; Jis Desh Main Toilet Paper Bhathi Hai; Pati Patni Aur Toilet Paper.

Toilet Paper Hunting, Toilet Paper Wars, the gaffes continue. It is like a valve has been released and the overstressed brain has come up for air.

Masks made by Bay Area women. Image courtesy Hema Raja.

The nurses of Santa Clara have requested for some supplies. The ladies used to receiving wishlists from teachers at the start of every school year are now pooling resources to meet this request. Tailoring of masks is starting in earnest. Patterns and sewing instructions are exchanged, sewing machines borrowed and the ladies are off to a running start. All hands on deck. It is when stress creates a yoyo of emotions and whatsapp messages roller coaster through the phones that equanimity is most desired.

Salil Jain, a Cupertino resident unrolls his mat. He has been doing yoga at home with his own private yoga teacher out of India. myYogaTeacher, a Silicon Valley based fitness startup, offers its customers private 1-on-1 yoga sessions online. “For a fixed sum I can do unlimited hours. I plan to do two hour sessions three times a week,” says Salil as he shutters himself in his office. He is signing up for a session by selecting a teacher from their profile and their introduction videos.

Rajiv brews his fourth cup of tea for the day and clicks on the website. In response to the Coronavirus Pandemic, myYogaTeacher has launched live online group classes to help those practicing social distancing. To support our communities and our health these classes are completely free says the CEO Jitendra Gupta.

“For others not so motivated myYogaTeacher not only guides but more importantly will make sure that you are showing up and practicing,” says Rajiv to his wife Ritu. He decides to sign her up. She purrs and pours herself a gin and tonic and heads to the study to join a zoom book club meeting. Reading soothes her nerves.

In homes across the Bay, members of her book club are downloading zoom for the first time. They struggle with getting their audio and videos working and soon their first zoom book club meeting is off to a good start albeit minus two members who couldn’t join in despite their best efforts. As they munch on ideas and thoughts the ladies who usually lunch together discuss Amitav Ghosh’s latest book The Gun Island while sipping their gin and tonics. After all Chloroquine the malaria drug of the colonists is being bandied about as the new cure for Corona.

A Bay Area group comprising of 6 couples has decided to have dinner together via a Facebook meeting on Saturday at 7pm. Everyone will join in virtually for Gupshup and Quaratini or now Chat and Gin-chloroquine.

The Krishna Balram temple has set up a 10 minute chanting call for 6pm ending to end the day on a calm note.

Long walks are becoming part of the new routine. Like students on a silence meditation course the walkers avert their eyes as they pass each other in the park.

Brown yanks at his leash. His routine has not been disrupted by Corona. After finishing his breakfast of poached eggs and dog food he is ready for his walk. With a jaunty step he heads out of the closed door out towards McClellan Park where other dogs are walking their owners. It is business as usual for him. He passes the CEO of myYogaTeacher, a bay area resident and gives him a wag of his tail. No sniffing of the butts in the days of social distancing thinks Brown as he dutifully averts his eyes from his buddy Froddo.

Building mental immunity is as important as building immunity of the body to deal with stress.

Ritu Marwah is washing her hands hourly. She agrees with “Better Saaf than Sorry”. Her husband and dog feel she could do better on the walking and yoga fronts.

Cinequest Film Festival 2020

This year Cinequest celebrates thirty years of elating audiences, artists, and innovators, honoring its legacy of bringing together Silicon Valley’s technologies and spirit of innovation with the arts to empower great creations – Connecting audiences, youth, artists, and innovators with these creations and with each other.

Showcasing premier films, renowned and emerging artists, and breakthrough technology—the festival’s stellar reputation not only hinges on its knack for creating a powerful line-up, but also for securing distribution for many of its honored filmmakers.

With over 200 international movies from 44 countries, the festival will once again bring a world of cinema, fans and moviemakers to downtown San Jose and Redwood City. Cinequest is renowned for its many socials, soirees, and parties, fusing the community of film lovers with film creators, so do plan on attending one or more and meet directors, artists and like-minded enthusiasts.

Here is a sneak peek into films of Indian origin:

The Elder One (Moothon)

An action thriller film features a bilingual narrative in Malayalam and Hindi. The film tells the story of a 14 year old child from Lakshadweep who comes to Mumbai in search of his elder brother.

Ghost of the Golden Groves

Strange incidents occur in the heart of “Shonajhuri” forest in rural Bengal, which develops an ominous character of its own that allures and finally engulfs the protagonists.

Market

In the heart of an Indian market, the captivating portrait of lives of everyday people with everyday stories, not dignified as heroes, but nevertheless people who make the lives of each other better.

Nirmal Anand’s Puppy

An ambitious super-fit Pharma salesman is faced with a major dilemma after being diagnosed with a health condition. Shattered, he is forced to relook at his life’s priorities. He then decides to listen to his heart’s calling and embarks on a new path that he believes will make him happy. But little does he realize that this quirky pursuit of happiness is going to shake up his married life and threaten its very foundation.

Opening Night Screening and Celebration: John Pinette: You Go Now is director Bob Krakower’s loving tribute to the funny man who made us forget our troubles and laugh at our foibles. Famed comedian, Matt Donaher will lead the screening with a ten-minute live set. Tuesday, March 3, 7:15pm, California Theatre

Closing Night Screening and Celebration: The world premiere of Resistance, the powerful retelling of the story of Marcel Marceau and his incredible efforts to save lives during WWII. Sunday, March 15, 6:00pm, California Theatre

Cinequest 2020: March 3 – 15 in San Jose and Redwood City. www.cinequest.org

 

Filoli: A Bay Area Gem

Filoli Historic House & Garden is the magic place to warm your hearts and rejuvenate your spirit in every season. A member of the 27-property National Trust for Historic Preservation, this Northern California treasure is the perfect escape from the high tech-low touch world for people of all ages. 

Stroll the 16-acres of landscape Garden and take a selfie surrounded by beautiful blooms and orchid displays. Explore the 54,000 square foot historic House with an architectural tour. Ponder the lovely handcrafted Filoli products in the Clock Tower shop. 

Enjoy live cultural events in the historic ballroom, including music, dance, and theater. Take a class in art, horticulture, or floral design. For those who love the great outdoors, you can hike for mushrooms and explore the greenhouses in the 654-acre Estate. 

Even if you’d like to simply enjoy each other’s company in a bucolic setting, you’ll find Filoli is equally suitable for families, singles or couples.

Located in Woodside on the Peninsula, Filoli is closer than you think. People who discover Filoli for the first time tend to return to experience the seasonal blooms, events and themes. Many become members.

 

Open everyday of the week, 10:00 am – 5:00 pm, rain or shine.

Give us a try!

For tickets and information: https://filoli.org/visit/ 

Use code CURRENTS for $2 off admission. Restrictions apply.

Facebook: #filoli

Instagram: _filoli

Twitter: @_filoli

 

Small But Mighty: Desi Comedy Fest Returns

DCF co-founder Samson Koletkar (aka Mahatma Moses) says this all started nearly ten years ago in the aftermath of the coordinated series of terrorist attacks across Mumbai in 2008. Koletkar, who grew up in Mumbai felt helpless about the mistrust, anger and ill-will. Wanting to do something, he used his comedic genius to stage a couple of shows. “The least I can do is get Indians and Pakistanis in the same room and make them laugh.”  Thus, was born the Desi Comedy Fest, a showcase for South Asian talent, that he started with fellow comic, Bengaluru born, Abhay Nadkarni.

It started small, but over the years it grew steadily in terms of audience size and a diverse roster of talent onstage. Featuring a revolving cast of more than 30 performers from across the United States, the DCF featured comics with roots in countries far beyond its focus on India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Over the year’s comics and stand-up artists from Iranian, Syrian-Mexican, Libyan, Japanese and Filipino backgrounds joined the line-up.

This year the majority of the comics participating in the festival are American-born, and all reside in the United States. Nadkarni and Koletkar make it clear that’s due to the one-two punch of the Trump Administration’s travel ban focused on several Muslim-majority countries, and the increasing hassle and expense of obtaining visas.

Desi Comedy Fest 2020: http://www.desicomedyfest.com

JAN 22, 2020, 8:00 p.m.– 9:30 p.m. Marine’s Memorial Theater, 609 Sutter St, San Francisco, CA 94102

JAN 26, 2020, 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. India Community Center (ICC), 525 Los Coches St, Milpitas, CA 95035

This year’s lineup includes:

Asif Ali

Asif Ali is a handpicked favorite from some of the top comedy bookers working today. From his standup in the U.S. and internationally, to many outstanding theatrical roles, he is one of the fastest rising entertainers in the business over the past 7 years in the making. When he is not on stage or touring with his improv group, you can catch him on hit shows such as ABC Modern Family, Netflix Arrested Development, Marvel Agents of Shield, and on Comedy Central. Currently, he is the star on the new hit TV show NBC Mr. Robinson with Craig Robinson.

Raj Sivaraman

Raj Sivaraman is a writer, comedian, and unfunded research scientist. He has been featured in the New York Times, Huffington Post, and hosts the monthly show Monotony!, where comedians talk about their weird, trivial obsessions. Raj has performed in comedy festivals around the country and presented his research at just as many science conferences around the world. He has also written for Comedy Central, and was one of the main writers and performers for Boston News Net. His 2012 sketch album “In Case of Emergency” is available in several boxes under his bed.

Isha Patnaik

Isha was recently featured in HBO’s Women in Comedy Festival and runs Affirmative Reaction, Boston’s only stand up show dedicated to Asian and Asian American voices. She was also a runner up in ImprovBoston’s Stand Up Throwdown and performed at PIT’s Femme Fest. Isha is also an accomplished improviser and sketch comedian. When she’s not doing comedy, Isha likes to attend Moana themed spin classes and work as a user experience researcher.

Kasha Patel

Kasha Patel was listed on Thrillist magazine’s “Best Undiscovered Comedians in the US”. She primarily focuses her jokes on her life as an Indian-American and science, producing one of the only science-themed comedy shows in the nation. Kasha presented a TEDx talk called “Sneaking Science into Stand-Up” where she shares a series of surprising revelations pulled from her analysis of more than 500 of her stand-up jokes. In 2016, she hosted an award-winning mini-series for NASA TV highlighting Earth science fieldwork.

Richard Sarvate

Richard quit tech to do stand-up… oops! He started performing in San Francisco and is now based in Los Angeles. He talks about his experience as a first generation Indian immigrant, mental illness, and why he left Silicon Valley. He has a Half Hour Special “Missed the Window” on Dry Bar Comedy and was featured on NDTV’s “Stars of Comedy”. His albums “Live in San Francisco” and “Live at The Setup” available on Spotify. He headlined opening week at Doug Stanhope’s club Chuckleheads in Bisbee, AZ.

Gibran Saleem

Gibran Saleem was born in North Carolina and raised in Virginia in a Pakistani household. While studying Psychology at New York University he was handpicked as an MVP nominee on the national TBS Rooftop Comedy College Competition and was a 2-time recipient of the UCB diversity scholarship. Gibran is the only comedian to ever be selected, as a finalist for both the Stand-Up NBC and NBC’s Late Night program. Gibran has been featured on MTV, TV Land, Popcorn Flix, PBS, CUNY TV, VOA, Elite Daily, and Cosmopolitan and performed his stand-up television debut on Gotham Comedy Live for AXS TV. He was the focus of an international documentary on NHK TV called Asian Dreamers: Brown is Funny and has been featured in festivals nationally across the states as well as winning 1st place in the Hoboken comedy festival.

Badar Tareen is a civil rights lawyer by day and a stand up comedian by night. Born and raised in a Pakistani-Muslim family in North Dakota, Badar won first place at last year’s Think Your Pretty Funny stand-up comedy competition in Washington DC. He has become a crowd favorite at venues like DC Improv, Busboys and Poets, Wonderland Ballroom, West Side Comedy Club, the New York Comedy Club, and the Greenwich Comedy Cellar.

Abhay Nadkarni

Abhay is a comedian/writer/producer that moved from South-India to South Central Los Angeles for grad school. Dodging bullets en-route to grad school armed him with plenty of stories and stand up was his only catharsis for combating culture shock. His act is an eclectic mix of his experience as an immigrant in the US. He’s appeared on CBS, Audible’s “America from Abroad with Rob Delaney”, been featured in The Huffington Post, SF Chronicle. He is also the co-creator of “The Setup”, a weekly comedy show featured as one of the best underground comedy shows in San Francisco by Thrillist and Timeout.

Samson Koletkar

Samson Koletkar was born in Mumbai and raised Jewish. Growing up in the world’s most crowded city, he spent most of his childhood years burning the midnight candles for earning a Master’s Degree in Computer Software, thereby fulfilling his parent’s dreams. He was named “10 Best Indian-Origin Comedians of the Last Decade” by BookMyShow and “10 Indian Comedians Who Found Success in the U.S.” by Silicon India, and SF Chronicle published a cover article on him “India-born stand-up builds comedy utopia in Oakland”.