Tag Archives: Bay area

Maitri Raises over $650K at its Annual Gala

Maitri Board members with Cindy Chavez and Ash Kalra

Maitri celebrated 27 years of empowering South Asian community members suffering from familial violence, human trafficking, elder abuse, and cultural alienation with a glittering and successful gala on March 3, 2018, in Palo Alto, California. The occasion was graced by Silicon Valley CEOs, VCs, community leaders, entrepreneurs, and community members who generously donated over $650K.

The funds will be used for strengthening Maitri’s comprehensive suite of services and programs ranging from a helpline, a transitional house, outreach and prevention, a non-profit boutique, legal advocacy, mental health, and economic empowerment program. Noreen Raza, Maitri Board of Trustees and Gala Co-Chair, says “We exceeded our goal and am so grateful and proud of our community once again stepping up to the challenge of funding critically needed programs and services for South Asian survivors of familial violence and abuse.”

Jeffrey Iqbal. Photo credit: Saurabh Desai

Shamik Mehta, Co-Chair Maitri Board of Trustees and Gala Co-Chair says, “For the first 10-plus years of Maitri’s existence, we were completely dependent on community funding with the result we were able to create many unique and culturally sensitive programs best suited to the needs of our clients. And, as a result, maintaining program agility and fiscal prudence has become a part of our DNA.”

Photo credit: Saurabh Desai

Sonya Pelia, President of Maitri says, “The shift in consciousness around familial violence and abuse in the South Asian community over the last few years has been nothing short of amazing. At the same time, we find that our unique cultural competency and strong leadership has established Maitri in the forefront of mainstream domestic violence agencies in the Bay Area.”

During the evening, Maitri was recognized by Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez and commended by Assemblymember Ash Kalra (D-San Jose) for the agency’s transformative work in empowering survivors of domestic violence and abuse. The evening wrapped up with a dazzling musical performance by the talented Jeffrey Iqbal, a globally recognized singer and musician, and his band.

Maitri is a free, confidential, nonprofit organization based in the San Francisco Bay Area, empowering South Asian survivors of family violence, cultural alienation, human trafficking and elder abuse. In these 27 years, the agency has responded to over 46,000 helpline calls and empowered more than 4,000 survivors with it’s transformational programs and active policy work.

Protesters Demand a Ban on Forced Conversion


On January 28, 120,000 citizens in Seoul and major cities of South Korea, gathered to protest against forced conversion “education” by Christian pastors and to create an establishment of legal framework for punishment of violent behavior in the name of religion.

The Human Rights Association for Forced Conversion (HRAFC) group, a South Korean civil society organization promoting social recognition of human rights violation by religion, held this rally for the punishment of Christian pastors who have “consultation” with money and encourage families to kidnap their members who have different religious orientations. Recently, a 25-year-old woman, Ms. Ji In Gu was kidnapped and confined in a vacation home and found dead after she was suffocated by her parents.

HRAFC claims that the death is a typical case of forced conversion for the following reasons. First, Ms. Gu was out of contact after she told her friends that she would be with her family at a gathering. Second, the vacation home where she was found dead was reserved for three months. Third, physical violence between Ms. Gu and her parents led to her death while the parents stated that she was suffocated while they were “persuading” their daughter.

Back in July 2016, Ms. Gu fell victim to these horrendous attacks for the first time. At that time, she had been taken in to a Catholic monastery for 44 days and forced to have “conversion education” by a pastor.

These religious organizations claim to be helping and creating religious freedom. They have even threatened to come to other countries to employ their illegal activities. When will there be an end to these activities? For churches and those involved in religious freedom here in the United States, it is imperative to make known the dangers surrounding these practices.

As a Christian church here in San Jose and the Bay Area, we must do our best to protect ourselves from these organization and make known their illegal activities.



Top 5 Desi Netflix Movies to Watch

Top 5 Desi Netflix Movies to Watch

Since its founding in 1997, Bay Area’s Netflix has come a long way.  From pioneering the DVD-by-mail model, the fast-growing company expanded into streaming on demand.  With a global presence, the firm now has 94 million global subscribers, which include 49 million subscriptions in the U.S.  The only places Netflix is not available is mainland China, North Korea, Syria and Crimea. While the pie-in-the sky goal of finger-tip entertainment on demand—virtually being able to watch any movie at any time— is still on the horizon, Netflix, along with competitors Amazon, Hulu and other streaming services, are rushing towards that future.  Even though Netflix’s online content at times appears alarmingly heavy with Netflix-produced entries, the company is a force to reckon with.  In Netflix’s expanding offerings from India, here are some noteworthy movies worth catching up to. Full disclosure: During Netflix’s infancy, I freelanced to write online movie reviews.

Umrika (2015, 96 mins., Hindi with English sub-titles)

Umrika, Sundance Film Festival
A rare Indian entry to premier at the Sundance Film Festival, Prashant Nair’s critically acclaimed dark comedy Umrika is an astute and surprisingly insightful virtual mirror of how some non-Americans, in this case impressionable villagers in a remote Indian hamlet, view America.   Nair’s movie takes cues from a series of letters—veritable postcards—written by a villager who has gone to America to his family back home. It’s when the letters stop mysteriously that things get a little haywire.  Featuring Suraj Sharma (Life of Pi), as the youth who sets out in search of his America-bound older brother (Prateek Babbar), there is also a great best-friend role, played by Tony Revolori (The Grand Budapest Hotel).  Set in the 1980s, the concise story-telling taps everything from Indira Gandhi’s funeral and the Challenger explosion to the Indian villagers’ hilariously spot-on takes on American cultural touchstones such as Halloween and Thanksgiving.

Parched (2015, 118 mins., Hindi with English sub-titles)Parched Movie
Directed by Leena Yadav and produced by Ajay Devgan, Parched is a jolting, non-squeamish and beautifully bittersweet calibration of the lives of four women in a rustic, ethnically vibrant and often harsh Rajasthan setting. Oppressed, victimized and mostly written off as no-good bystanders against the stone wall of male hegemony in their neo-feudal universe, the women struggle—often by a mere thread—to keep their humanity intact. The brilliant and bawdy script—an amalgam of western Hindi and Gujarati—empowers budding, even behind-closed-doors, exploration of both their sexuality and contemplation of the possible demise of their victimhood.   Lead by Tannishtha Chatterjee, who spearheads as Lajjo, a young struggling widow, Radhika Apte as Lajjo’s friend with an abusive husband, Surveen Chawla as their friend who wears her firebrand village whore rep like a lapel pin and Lehar Khan as the teen-age bride of Lajjo’s teen-age son, Parched quenches on so many levels.

Sairat (2016, 174 mins., Marathi with English sub-titles) Noted Marathi filmmaker Nagraj Manjule’s Sairat (loosely meaning “wild”) became a runaway hit and the all-time highest grossing Marathi language movie.  Nearly three hours long yet never boring, it starts out harmlessly by serving up a college romance between Prashant/Parshya (Akash Thosar), he from the fish-monger family, and Archana/Archi (Rinku Rajguru), she from the upper-crust landed gentry. Unable to bridge the gaping socio-economic divide between their backgrounds, Parshya and Archi elope, incurring the wrath of Archi’s politically-connected father (Suresh Vishwakarma).  Told mostly as a romance and action adventure of their lives on the run, this could easily be a run of the mill re-dressing of the Raj Kapoor hit Bobby (1973). By going just one step further, however, Tinku Rajguru), she from the upper-crust landed gentry. Unable to bridge the gaping socio-economic divide between their backgrounds, Parshya and Archi elope, incurring the wrath of Archi’s politically-connected father (Suresh Vishwakarma).  Told mostly as a romance and action adventure of their lives on the run, this could easily be a run of the mill re-dressing of the Raj Kapoor hit Bobby (1973). By going just one step further, however, Sairat becomes a solemn reflection of sweeping themes from contemporary rural Indian sociology that includes the clash between Old India and New India. Karan Johar has already acquired rights for the Hindi remake.

1,000 Rupee Note: Ek Hazarchi Note (2014, 89 mins., Marathi with English sub-titles)

1,000 Rupee Note (Ek Hazarchi Note)
In Shrihari Sathe’s 1,000 Rupee Note nothing much appears to be happening and yet there is so much going on. An elderly single woman, whose name is Parvati (Usha Naik) who goes by Budhi (“old”) in her Maharastra village, lives by herself, is impoverished and makes ends meet by scrubbing floors. Budhi’s daily joy is making a steaming cup of chai, which she invites her benevolent neighbor Sudama (Sandeep Pathak) to share. At a political rally, Budhi unwittingly ends up in a line where the politician is handing out money to the attendees—an outright bribe just outside the reach of rolling cameras—and walks away with several 1,000 rupee notes. Perplexed and also excited by the unexpected windfall, and with her kindly neighbor Sudama in tow, Budhi goes on a shopping spree. Sathe’s staging of village street scenes often bring to mind Shyam Benegal’s agrarian dramas from the 1970s. For Budhi, the life lesson that follows is a poignant morality tale outlined simply and with lasting impression.

Amal (2007, 103 mins., Hindi and English with English sub-titles)
Amal, MovieIndian-Canadian filmmaker Richie Mehta’s well-received film debut was a superb reflection on the heart and soul of Amal (Rupinder Nagra), a Delhi rickshaw driver, who unknowingly becomes the focus of a city wide figurative man-hunt. Both the good guys—Naseedurin Shah’s cranky reclusive billionaire with a fortune to bequeath —and bad guys—thieves and murderers—are after Amal when fate leads to his being named the beneficiary of the reclusive billionaire’s vast fortune. Similar in feel to Peter Sellers in Being There, Amal triumphs as a monument to those humans whose humanity screams silently simply because they always speak the truth.  With Seema Biswas in support, Mehta’s movie has retained its ability to draw the viewer into the one-track life of the rickshaw driver.  The poorest of men can indeed live the richest of lives.


Globe trekker, aesthete, photographer, ski bum, film buff, and commentator, Aniruddh Chawda writes from Milwaukee.

Thoughts on the March: “I blame my burnt sugar skin”

          I began to forget myself at birth. I lost sight of my fingers and the aorta in my chest. I forgot my hot beating blood and my nails. I forgot my lips last, my teeth and tongue at the very end. But they were soon gone too. 
          I blame my burnt sugar skin. It murmured to me, told me to minimize my place in the world. I tried to curl my toes, to pluck out my ribs and coil my body into a dot. In the Bay Area, I saw brown with every breath and yet I was still larger than life. 
           I was reborn at 16. The contour of my chin, the hollows beneath my eyes-I began to remember. I force-fed myself feminism and stretched my legs in the luxurious rebellion of existence. While I remembered the shapes of my elbows, my country began to forget. 
          The slaves whose backs were walked on,  the Chinese who built the railroad, the Irish who flirted with death, the Hispanic, the Indian-I do not know who was forgotten first. We elected a man with holes in his brain. America forgot its ancestry.
          “Respect Existence or Expect Resistance.” This was my battle cry as I marched. I painted it on a sign, tattooed it across my forehead, felt the words beat with my blood. Once more, I felt larger than life-I celebrated. I stood with brothers and sisters and mothers and cousins and I screamed. I stood with women and men and I screamed. I stood with my mother and my aunt and I screamed.
            I have used the word empowering before. I used it when I read the words of Kamala Das and when I saw Malala Yousafzhai accept the Nobel Prize. I use it again now to express my experience marching- empowering. For a few hours, I sewed my ears shut to racism, bigotry, sexism and homophobia. I stood, chewing silence between my lips in the moments before we walked, and let the sky swallow me. I heard the screams from above, felt fists thrust into the air, and I thought, just for a second-we are starting to remember. 
Bindhu Swaminathan is a high school senior in Fremont. She took part in the Women’s March last Saturday in San Jose.