Tag Archives: #bayarea

Odes to Bay Area Beauties

Any San Francisco, Bay Area resident can vouch for their fondness and love for living in this area. Being the Silicon Valley of the world and a Technology hub, it draws thousands to its fold every year. People flock to the area for the jobs but stay for the sheer number of outdoor options available within a short drive, offering a distinct lifestyle as compared to any other parts of the country. The miles of beaches by the Pacific Ocean are as easily accessible as the skiing haven of Tahoe. For anyone who loves wilderness and mountains, the allure of Yosemite is an easy draw. And if you are a wine lover, Napa and Sonoma are a must-visit destination.

I was similarly swayed by the pull of the region when I decided to immigrate from India, more than a decade back. Since then, I have spent a considerable amount of time in the Bay Area outdoors exploring its serene beaches, county parks, golf courses, biking trails, hiking trails, mountains, and wilderness within the area’s vicinity, a short drive away.

Over the years, I have been captivated by the abundance of natural beauty in the area and after every jaunt, I have come back rejuvenated. Sometimes, those feelings found utterances in a free verse or poetry – can you expect any better from a creative heart (figuratively speaking)? That said, you will find below a set of three poems inspired by my hikes to Monterey, Yosemite, and Lake Chabot.      

Before we move onto the poetry section, let’s remind ourselves that we are blessed to live in this region of nature’s bounty. The environmental issue of climate change is real and poses enormous threats to the health of the Bay Area and its ecology – perhaps the last year’s raging wildfires were a manifestation of this threat. Conserving and protecting the forests and their habitat is imperative for sustainable development and for the future writers/poets to emerge from this area in the footsteps of John Muir, Jack Kerouac, or Lawrence Ferlinghetti.  

***

Lake Chabot in Oakland, California.

Overlooking Lake Chabot 

The white velvet 

spread across the azure sky,

The gently undulating green slopes

Rolling hills and a deep blue oasis

flowing through the turquoise landscape.

 

The gentle breeze swaying my grown hair,

The feel of cool on my bare skin,

The panorama of the striking beauty

Soothing my tired eyes.

 

The climb across the overlook point,

And the gentle exertion of the legs, 

The calmness of the surroundings 

Radiating the stillness that calms the mind.

 

It’s in these Nature that,

the Zen of mind resides.

It’s in these outdoors that, 

the sense of well-being pervades.

***

Monterey Bay in Monterey, California.

At Monterey 

The setting sun casts

a golden streak

on the azure, transparent water.

The distant horizon

kisses the vast expanse of oceanic water.

 

The green vegetation doting the hillside,

swaying in the cool breeze

hustles sweet nothings in the ears.

The feel of the cool sand

beneath the feet 

pleases every pores.

 

The waves lapping against the shore

rising and falling in a crescendo,

beckons me to its lap.

I plunge forth at their invitation,

wading through knee-deep water.

 

The gentle frothy waves

rhythmically caressing my body

elevates my senses to paradise.

My mind in magical ecstasy;

experiences a cool tranquility.

The evening at Monterey

is a sheer delight.

***

Firefall in Yosemite Valley, California.

At Yosemite: a brush with life itself

Miles of verdant wilderness

The panorama of snow-capped hills

The majestic half-dome rising in splendor

Across the delightful Curry village.

Fluffy, velvety clouds

breezing across,

the cool zephyr

rustling through,

the humming alpine butterflies

wafting in thin air,

a herd of ‘mule deer’

galloping into the distant wood,

majestic waterfall in its vicinity

rushing through in all its grandeur,

the redolent ambience,

the unbridled silence

(except the ‘voices’ of nature)

nestling in the wilderness-

lentissimo drizzle

soaking me wet;

I stand alone

transfixed, mesmerised

experiencing

my inner self;

body in complete harmony

mind in immaculate peace,

spirit in blissful ecstasy;

Rejuvenated

I breathe again,

I can feel

the pulse of life

coursing through my veins.

After days of jejune existence,

I can sense again

the lightness of my being.


Lalit Kumar works in the Technology sector but retains an artist’s heart. He likes to read and write poetry, apart from indulging in outdoor activities & adventure sports. Recently, he started curating famous works of poetry (and occasionally his own).


 

Silicon Valley’s South Asian Theater Weaves Women’s Narratives into Performance

Women in performance art are playing a pivotal role in crafting compelling cultural narratives, whether in the roles of founders, directors, costume designers, set managers, or music directors, they are increasingly helming the process of creation, rather than jumping into something already created.  

This new positive and empowering image of women is what you will see in EnActe Arts’ latest initiative WEFT (Women EnActe for themselves). A brave space for women, it presents writers to exercise their craft under the guidance of qualified mentors. Women may make up 50% of the population, but the representation of women in the Arts hovers between 16% to 20% globally, and EnActe is doing its bit to redress the balance. Launched last year, WEFT is a fellowship program offering female-identifying writers a space in which to work under the guidance of a global, incredibly talented group of mentors to craft their stories, workshop them with professional talent and produce them under the EnActe banner. Mentors for the program include such seasoned artists as Anita Ratnam, Patty Gallagher, Susan McCully and Roberta Katz.

This week Reena Kapoor, EnActe’s first WEFT Fellow, opens a showcase of the four pieces she has written and produced through WEFT. Kapoor was born and raised in mostly urban India. “And while I have been gone from India for over 30 years, growing up there in the 70s and 80s was formative. It is a culture, a way of life, a social metaphysics that is not easily erased. Ironically while India, especially in the metros, has changed and moved on, the Indian diaspora I have encountered here continues to reenact much of what I had hoped was left behind. In fact, in some ways the diaspora holds on even tighter to all that is Indian – good, bad, and ugly,” says Kapoor. 

Her stories are informed by what she saw, and grew up within her own extended family and among friends–even in social circles that professed modernity. Kapoor says her story inspiration came from her “surprise, and often disappointment, at the rigid and less desirable attitudes that the Indian diaspora continues to abide by here. Women are expected to occupy, and often submitting to, prescribed roles, dictated by stricture and double standards that deserve to be rejected; and women repeatedly asked to sublimate their own desires and self-respect in service of meaningless tradition.”

The first play she wrote from this vantage is Art Of The Possible and is a somewhat humorous look at a situation where a young woman decides she can no longer sustain a marriage with her “perfect” husband and worse she cannot come up with a “good” enough reason why. What is she to do? 

Bollywood Rules: For Women is a rather tongue-in-cheek rap song about the inherent patriarchy in Indian films, starring a host of aspiring Bay Area talent – from professional actors to Arts Council members. Highlighting the “double standards for women that Bollywood films have long embraced. I do not wholly blame Bollywood; in my view, it reflects and yes, perhaps amplifies, what we hold dear. But we can protest, and powerfully mock it and hopefully, as a result, dismiss its focus and amplification,” adds Kapoor.

Art Of The Possible, a 45-minute play, explores the beautiful relationship between a nervous mother and a determined daughter as she plans to walk away from a marriage, not because there is anything wrong with either partner, but because she wants other things out of life. The play stars Anita Ratnam from Chennai, Shubhangi Kuchbhotla from Baltimore, Sreejith Nair from LA, and Anususya Rao from Bay Area.

Burned is a deeply resilient response by the victim of an acid attack, addressed to her attacker, in which she finds the courage to live to the fullest the life he has attempted to rob her of. Starring Yeshaswini Channaiah from Bangalore. 

Oasis is an epistolary piece that traces the thoughts and memories of a child abandoned by an abusive father as she navigates through childhood and adolescence and reaches precarious adulthood.

The narrative that weaves through all of Kapoor’s work is that of urgency. “My character is a woman of Indian origin who finds herself in a situation that was visited upon her and in which she suffers. But she doesn’t succumb to a narrative of victimhood and instead reclaims her voice and life. Her savior is not out there but within. She suffers — and yet SHE rises!” 

While WEFT is a dedicated space for the feminine lens, other EnActe initiatives explore female relationships too. As physical interaction shuts down in the new reality of the pandemic, the world has moved to virtual communication, opening up avenues of global collaboration amongst artists not possible before. In a bid to capture this COVID-dictated reality, and to provide a platform for artists to stay engaged and collaborate internationally, EnActe Arts, USA and Rage Productions, India launched a Festival of New Plays by accomplished and aspiring playwrights on the subject of love, life, and family in the pandemic-altered reality of today.

The second play in this series How It Happens, opening April 30th, explores the shifts in the relationship between two former high school friends connected by a dark past. Set against lockdown despair of the raging pandemic, a positivity influencer accuses an essayist of adolescent bullying, a story that burns through social media, destroying the fragile trust between COVID infected friends. Written by the Bangalore-based playwright Deepika Arwind and played by Bay Area’s Roshni Dutt and Sonia Balsara. 

More Info About WEFT:

WEFT(Women EnActe for Themselves)  is a program designed to support women writers writing on women’s issues to take their nascent stories to completion, and work with a sisterhood of creatives to bring those stories to life as a performative art, first presented by EnActe.

In this program women writers research, create and write stories that are pertinent to women, and bring these stories to life in theatrical performances that can reach audiences in meaningful, resonant, and entertaining ways.

The program works as follows: 

Phase 1: Ideation & Research

Phase 2: Story/scriptwriting through workshops

Phase 3: Script/story development as a performance piece

Phase 4: preparation of the piece(s) as a live presentation workshop

Phase 5: Event creation & rehearsals

Phase 6: Premiere Performance

Bollywood Rules For Women & Art of The Possible

Sat, Apr 10

5:00 pm PST, 8 pm EST, 5.30 am (Apr 11th) IST

Pay What you Can Tickets: $0-$25

Burned & Oasis

Sun, April 25

10:00 am PST, 1 pm EST, 10.30 pm IST

Pay What you Can Tickets: $0-$25

How It Happens by Deepika Arwind

Fri, April 30, 8 pm PST  

Sat, May 1, 5 pm PST

Sun, May 2, 4 pm  PST

Tickets: $15 – $100

Pay-it-Forward All-Access Pass for the entire 2021 Season:

https://enacte.org/seasonpass/


Mona Shah is a multi-platform storyteller with expertise in digital communications, social media strategy, and content curation for Twitter and LinkedIn for C-suite executives. A journalist and editor, her experience spans television, cable news, and magazines. An avid traveler and foodie, she loves artisan food and finding hidden gems: restaurants, recipes, destinations. She can be reached at: mona@indiacurrents.com


 

Bhageera Premieres at Poppy Jasper International Film Festival

The Poppy Jasper International Film Festival (PJIFF ) brings local flavor to the South Bay, broadcasting more than 170 films from 38 countries. From feature-length to short films, the festival will be virtually streamed from April 7-April 22. One of the unique aspects about Poppy Jasper is that it has remained a strongly community-based festival since it was founded in 2003, connecting movie buffs to filmmakers and directors. 

Mattie Scariot, the director of the PJIFF explains, “Our mission as a film festival is to change the way people see each other through film and to bridge that gap in Hollywood with women and minorities,” as various panels at this year’s festival discuss how to empower women filmmakers and herald diversity of gender and cultures into the process of filmmaking. “When we show films from around the world, that changes the dynamic and the way we see each other,” adds Scariot.

The complete PJIFF line-up includes features from across the globe including Bagheera from India, a film that draws on true events, interpreted with intense film noir style. Shot in Hindi this impactful, 20-minute short film, LOGLINE Bagheera, tells the story of a bright young leader of a Girl Scout troop in India, who is abducted by a brutal assailant. The skills that have earned her many achievement badges provide the key to her escape and scorching retribution.

Director Christopher R. Watson wanted to tell a powerful story about a modern woman which would uplift audiences. The plot centers on the sexual abuse of women, which is the most common unreported and unpunished crime in the world. So, he decided to celebrate the human spirit, by demonstrating the value of common sense, resourcefulness, and courage in the face of danger. Preeti Choudhury, the star of the movie, brought a girl-next-door naturalism to the character. When she turns out to be tough and capable, it’s not only a magnificent surprise, it’s believable. Nailing the visuals was vital and the locale–a disused shipyard on the outskirts of Mumbai and a tract of vacant land nearby—adds a deeper dimension, instrumental in expanding the script with a magnificent myriad of detail.

A wonderful way to spend the advent of spring check out The Poppy Jasper International Film Festival, as they highlight original content with different points of view, a wonderful outlet for artistic and cultural expression.

Tickets for Bagheera: https://pjiff.eventive.org/films/60132175a9fa880069fdce01

Tickets for the festival and entire line up at Poppy Jasper International Film Festival: https://pjiff.org


Mona Shah is a multi-platform storyteller with expertise in digital communications, social media strategy, and content curation for Twitter and LinkedIn for C-suite executives. A journalist and editor, her experience spans television, cable news, and magazines. An avid traveler and foodie, she loves artisan food and finding hidden gems: restaurants, recipes, destinations. She can be reached at mona@indiacurrents.com


 

Treasure the Environment with Family-Fun Activities In the Bay Area

Any day is a good day to learn about protecting the environment, but this month, especially so. Earth Day takes place on April 22 every year and in “normal” times we would participate in a myriad of activities and events to help protect, preserve, and improve the planet we all share. This year has been a bit dystopian, but as we spring forward our hope is that slowly we will get back to normal and enjoy all that the Bay Area has to offer. So, whether you are looking for something to do with the family or by yourself, something quiet, or an outdoor adventure, we’ve got you covered! 

Wildlife

The Marine Mammal Center, Sausalito

The center offers daily guided and audio tours, a great way to raise awareness of environmental issues. There are also many interesting exhibits and on clear days, you’re rewarded with stunning vistas of the city.

Getting there: The Marine Mammal Center is located at 2000 Bunker Road, Fort Cronkhite, Sausalito, CA 94965.

Monterey Bay Aquarium, Monterey

From jellies to penguins to sea otters and sharks, over 200 exhibits and 80,000 plants and animals that call the Monterey Bay Aquarium home. The first museum to have a living kelp forest, the array of exhibits is sure to enthrall tots, from watching marine mammals swim about in humongous tanks that imitate their natural habitats to watching them being fed.

Member days: May 1-14, Open for all: May 15

Getting there: 886 Cannery Row, Monterey, CA 93940

Curiodessy

A science museum and zoo for children and families where visitors see wild animals up-close and play with kid-friendly science exhibits. CuriOdyssey is home to nearly 100 rescued animals, most native to California, that cannot survive in the wild.

Getting there: 1651 Coyote Point Drive, San Mateo, CA 94401

Gardens

Golden Gate Park

The 55-acre “urban oasis” with more than 9,000 plants from around the world is always beautiful, but, for obvious reasons, is the most magical in the spring when so many flowers begin to bloom. Pack a picnic to enjoy on the grounds or wander through the gardens and visit flora from Australia, Chile, South Africa, and more, all in one afternoon. April is a good time to see magnolias in bloom, but there are always really cool plants to check out no matter when you go.  

Getting there: 501 Stanyan St, San Francisco, CA 94117

Japanese Gardens San Mateo 

This Japanese garden is designed by landscape architect, Nagao Sakurai of the Imperial Palace of Tokyo, and features a granite pagoda, tea house, koi pond and bamboo grove. Visit during spring/summer to feed the koi and catch cherry blossoms in full bloom. There’s also a mini-train that’ll delight kids, tennis courts and many picnic areas.

Getting there: 50 E 5th Ave, San Mateo, CA 94401

Japanese Gardens Hayward

The garden was designed by Kimio Kimura. It follows Japanese garden design principles, using California native stone and plants. No stains were used on the wood constructions. Nails and fasteners are recessed, and all wood was notched, and aged, to simulate the appearance of a traditional Japanese garden.

Getting there: 22373 N 3rd St., Hayward, CA 94541

San Francisco Botanical Garden

Visit this beautiful garden at the peak of its bloom in spring. Situated within Golden Gate Park, the garden showcases over 8,000 species of plants. There are several different collections within the garden, such as Mediterranean and Tropical.  

Getting there: 1199 9th Ave., San Francisco, CA 94122

Boat ride along Stow Lake

Take advantage of spring in full bloom by renting a paddle, electric, or row boat to tour this hidden gem. Situated in the middle of Golden Gate Park, the lake includes a 110-foot artificial waterfall, colorful Chinese pavilion, and a 125-year-old Stone Bridge. During springtime, visitors will also get the chance to see ducklings and goslings hatch! Rentals start at $24/hr.

Getting there: 1 Stanyan St, Unit 2, San Francisco, CA 94118

Places to Visit

Soar to new heights on Golden Gate Park’s SkyStar observation wheel

The giant Ferris wheel in the Music Concourse brought in to celebrate the park’s 150th birthday will stick around for longer than planned because it wasn’t open for most of last year.  

Getting there: Golden Gate Park’s Music Concourse, 1 Bowl Drive

Hiller Aviation Museum

An AvGeek’s Nirvana. Beautifully curated exhibits show the past, present, and future of flight. Aircraft are beautifully restored and displayed with exciting angles and exceptional lighting. The museum has more than 50 aerospace vehicles along with companion descriptive displays concerning the history of flight.

Getting there: 601 Skyway Rd, San Carlos

Immersive Van Gogh

Step into the world of Vincent Van Gogh at this trippy exhibit with over 500,000 cubic-feet of illuminated projections of his work that will make you feel like you’re literally inside of his paintings. The “experiential journey” has been modified for COVID times, but still promises to be one of the most unusual and/or cultural things you’ve done in a very long time. The exhibit runs through the beginning of September.

Getting there: 10 South Van Ness Ave, San Francisco, CA 94103

Mission-Driven Nonprofits

Planterday: The Mission-Driven Mobile Plant Shop

 Dedicated to destigmatizing mental health and promoting mental health resources. As official sponsors of Crisis Support Services of Alameda County, they donate a portion of their monthly proceeds to suicide prevention services in the local community.

The Bay Area Ecology Center

A list of Bay Area environmental/sustainability-related classes, workshops, exhibits, tours, films, and other events. Events posted are directly related to Ecology Center’s main topic areas and located mostly in the East Bay. 

350 Bay Area

Building a grassroots climate movement in the Bay Area and beyond to eliminate carbon pollution and achieve a clean energy future with racial, economic, and environmental justice. San Francisco Bay Area residents building a grassroots movement for deep CO2 emission reductions.

They have local groups in most every county. They have hundreds of volunteers, supported by a small but mighty staff, working since 2012 to:

Raise awareness & urgency for the climate crisis; Mobilize to demand action at the speed & scale required to protect us all from the worst impacts; Support the voices of young people calling for a livable planet; Dig into policy options to get real emissions reductions actions passed

Stop and smell the wildflowers! Spring is when the landscape is alive with carpets of colorful wildflowers. Check out some of the best wildflower displays on the Peninsula and in the South Bay. 

Hikes

Arastradero Creek Loop (Pearson Arastradero Preserve)

3.7 miles Flowers peak: Late-March- Mid-April

The rolling hills in this preserve create a range of habitat types offering refuge for a great diversity of wildflowers. You’ll find the biggest patches of wildflowers along the sunny, southern-facing slopes.

Getting there: 1530 Arastradero Road, 1/4 mile north of Page Mill Road.

Bald Hills Loop (Calero County Park)

8.5 miles  Flowers peak: Late-March- Mid-April

Enjoy a large outcropping of serpentine soil, offering big, showy HALF displays of native wildflowers. You’ll also enjoy views of the southern Santa Cruz Mountains and nearby Diablo Range.

Getting there: 23205 McKean Rd San Jose, CA 95141

Año Nuevo Point Trail (Año Nuevo State Park)

1.5 miles Flowers peak: April

Best known as the destination to see 5,000-pound elephant seals, Año Nuevo is also home to a spectacular display of spring wildflowers. This easy, gentle trail is good for all ages and abilities. 

Getting there: 1 New Year’s Creek Rd, Pescadero, CA 94060

River Trail (Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park)

2 miles Flowers peak: April

Giant redwoods tower over the cool waters of the San Lorenzo River in this park. It contains one of the largest stands of old-growth redwoods in the Santa Cruz Mountains, and an abundance of spring flowers add to the beauty of this landscape.

Getting there: River Trail (Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park)

Arrowhead Loop (Coyote Valley Open Space Preserve)

4 miles Flowers peak: Late-March- Mid-April

Just a short drive from downtown San Jose, this preserve offers phenomenal views of Coyote Valley, the Diablo Mountain Range, and a plethora of spring flowers. You don’t have to

complete the full loop to get your fill of spectacular flowers.

Getting there: From Highway 101, take Bailey Avenue west, Turn left on Santa Teresa Boulevard, Turn right on Palm Avenue. The preserve is at the end of Palm Avenue.


Mona Shah is a multi-platform storyteller with expertise in digital communications, social media strategy, and content curation for Twitter and LinkedIn for C-suite executives. A journalist and editor, her experience spans television, cable news, and magazines. An avid traveler and foodie, she loves artisan food and finding hidden gems: restaurants, recipes, destinations. She can be reached at: mona@indiacurrents.com


 

Fremont-Based Choreographer’s BollyHeels is Challenging Heteronormativity in Dance

South Asian Americans are redefining traditionally heteronormative notions of gender and sexuality. Although the culture is still well on its way towards acceptance of LGBTQ+ identities, Fremont choreographer Amit Patel is bringing Desis — and the dance community as a whole — in the direction of progress. 

Patel, who began learning Bollywood dance when was just 10 years old, is a professional choreographer for the Bliss Dance and Mona Khan companies. From performing at national events like the Indiaspora Inaugural Ball in Washington D.C to bagging a spot among the top 48 of America’s Got Talent out of 70,000 acts, Patel has played a major role in the representation of Desi dance on global platforms. His Youtube channel, where he regularly uploads choreography videos for both English and Hindi songs, boasts a whopping 184,000 subscribers. He was a part of Lilly Singh’s historic A Little Late With Lilly Singh’s premiere and a pioneer of Eastern Contemporary, a genre of Patel’s own making where he fuses South Asian and Western styles of dance. He has been featured in KQED’s series If Cities Could Dance.

Patel has been opening doors and bridging barriers for what seems like his whole career, and his latest “Bollywood Heels” projects, where he dances in heels to challenge heteronormative stereotypes, are opening up the dance space for LGBTQ+ community. In an interview with India Currents, Patel chronicles both his journey as a dancer and as a gay Indian American man. 

Image from If Cities Could Dance (Courtesy of KQED)

“There are so many different ways to create social change, from working in politics to working in media,” Patel says. “So for me, when I finally decided to pursue [dance] full-time, what interested me the most was artwork..that helped push the conversation.”  

A Fremont native, he reflected on his upbringing in a ‘tech’ family — one of the many South Asians attempting to reach their version of the American Dream in the Silicon Valley. Bollywood gave Patel the freedom to both connect with his culture as well as a liberating, cathartic mode of self-expression. His love for dance began with the Mona Khan Dance Company, when he joined Khan’s classes held in Milpitas’s India Community Center at eleven years old. 

“Everyone has a different origin story,” says Patel. “There is a huge conversation about identity and what makes “you” you, and what Mona provided [in] her dance company was this opportunity to explore our roots without having to give up the daily things that made us American.” 

It was with Khan’s dance company that Patel learned to fuse Indian music with contemporary techniques, creating the medleys that lie at the heart of the Eastern Contemporary genre. With Eastern Contemporary, Patel helped create that ‘happy’, welcoming space for cultural diffusion in dance. With “Bollywood Heels”, his blend of Kathak and Jazz, he aspires to do the same — this time, for dancers of all genders and sexualities. Patel was inspired to initiate change after coming to terms with Bollywood’s internalized heteronormativity. 

“As a kid watching Bollywood, I didn’t necessarily question Bollywood,” Patel told KQED Arts, reflecting on his childhood experiences. “All those traditional gender roles and expectations of a male dancer, that I would also be placed in. I didn’t necessarily resonate with that.” 

Bollywood Heels seeks to remove these expectations in dance, allowing artists to unabashedly express who they are. 

“I just intended to create a space where any queer person that wants to come can explore this movement without judgement,” Patel mentions in the same interview with KQED Arts. “And, also tie that in with culture, because in our South Asian community, that never existed.”

To learn more about Amit Patel, follow his Instagram and subscribe to his Youtube channel


Kanchan Naik is a senior at the Quarry Lane School in Dublin, California. She is the 2019-2020 Teen Poet Laureate for the City of Pleasanton, as well as the Director of Media Outreach for youth nonprofit Break the Outbreak. She is the founder and editor-in-chief of her school newspaper, The Roar. Her work appears in the Apprentice Writer, Polyphony Lit, Brown Girl Magazine, Parallax Literary Magazine, among many others. 

Mosaic Silicon Valley’s ‘Femina’: Find the Divine in India, Cambodia, & China

Making The Mosaic – A column that dips into the disparate, diverse palette of our communities to paint inclusively on the vast canvas of the Bay Area by utilizing Heritage Arts. 

Nine different (sub) cultural histories and traditions from around the world were co-presented by Mosaic Silicon Valley and Guru Shradha, in a program called Femina. It was a call for the world to step out of their cultural silos and experience the vibrancy of the Bay Area, the dynamism of the feminine, and the unifying power of the Arts to build a gender-balanced world.

As the program director, it was fascinating for me to delve into the compositions and choreographies and see the astounding common threads emerge, golden and self-evident. We’ll explore these findings through the first act of the program called Divine | Awaken featuring Indian, Cambodian, and Chinese art forms. Femina’s Divine | Awaken was an ode to the celestial and mythological – It was a call for all of us to find our divine and enlightened selves.

Guru Shradha’s Niharika Mohanty urged us to make room for, submit, and surrender to the divine feminine energies of Durga. Along with her Odissi students, Mohanty beautifully re-incarnated the superb sculptures from Indian temples, the forms manifesting god-like in the blue-light of the stage. One journeyed back in time – and saw the sculptors drawing upon their spiritual energies to carve the goddesses in stone. Art is a journey, one realizes, to an inner destination – familiar or invented, real, unreal, or fantastical. One cannot connect to the outside world without having connected within and art accelerates these connections.

Cambodian Classical Dancer, Charya Burt, emulates Cambodian Gods.

The Goddess was visited again by master choreographer and dancer, Charya Burt in the Cambodian Robam Chun Por or The Wishing Dance. It is typically in an opening ceremony, Devada Srey, that is used to convey blessings to the audience through flower petals. I was fascinated by the obvious Indian influences – Deva in Sanskrit is God, for starters. The Cambodian temple, Angkor Wat, is dedicated to the Hindu God Vishnu; indeed, there exists a version of Ramayana in Cambodia. Contrastingly though, while Indian classical dance uses movement, percussion, and melody to impress the divine upon us on Earth, Cambodian dance is designed to transport us to the heavens; the movements are soft and un-creature-like – Burt seemed to glide, buffeted by centuries of mysticism.

A dancer of the Hai Yan Jackson Compnay recreates art from the Dunhuang Caves.

The Chinese arts reclaimed history, thus solidifying the connection between the Divine and the Human. The Hai Yan Jackson Company presented “Flying Apsaras from Dunhuang.” This dance and its costumes were inspired by the discoveries at Dunhuang Caves which were believed to have been walled up in the 11th century and contain some of the finest examples of Buddhist art. Dunhuang was established as a frontier garrison outpost by the Han Dynasty and became an important gateway to the West, a center of commerce along the Silk Road, as well as a meeting place of various people and religions such as Buddhism. My “Indian” radar picked up on the Silk Route and Buddhism. I could feel the palimpsest of time and geography reveal itself in layers. The age-old apsaras appeared before us and the choreography was faithful to the celestial aura.

In Femina, the Mosaic team was able to create a feminine continuum between realms, time, spaces, cultures, and generations, through beautiful art. Happy Women’s History Month to all of you, dear readers! 

The wonderful thing about programming for Mosaic is that it blurs the lines. The narrative may begin as Art imitating Life but then one quickly discovers that it is Life imitating Art. Stories of life – its past, current, and future – are presented on the canvas of culture of, by, for the people in a specific place. Join us and learn more about the Mosaic movement as we catalyze Inclusion and cultivate Belonging in America! 


Priya Das is a writer, dancer, and co-founder of Mosaic Silicon Valley. She is fascinated by the intersections between history, culture, convention, traditions, and time.

San Jose’s Virtual Cinequest 2021 Features Indian Origin Films

Every year around this time, the community of film lovers mingles with film creators, directors, and artists at the Cinequest Film Festival in San Jose downtown’s many theaters. Giving film artists and film lovers a rare opportunity to connect at nightly soirees, the fun part about attending the film festival is a chance to talk to other people about the experience.

However, Covid times call for a pivot, and though there won’t be any in-person screenings, Cinequest is coming back with a virtual edition. Cinejoy, as the online edition is being called, will run March 20-30, with more than 150 U.S. and world premiere movies featured in the Showcase lineup and several high-profile movies in the Spotlight portion. The Showcase films can be viewed anytime by passholders but the 12 Spotlight movies will be shown at specific times.

Zoom parties can never really replicate the magic of the nightly parties, where you converse with like-minded film lovers, filmmakers, and performers, but Cinejoy is attempting to create a sense of community with Zoom-hosted “screening parties.” Ticketholders can host one or join in someone else’s.

Here is a sneak peek into films of Indian origin:

Thaen  

A glorious love story about transformation and giving in to the things we want most. While on her journey to fetch medicine to treat her sick father, a woman falls in love, gets married, and hopes to lead the life she wanted. But, even the Gods of Nature disapprove. A journey that explores the unexplored and challenges what we view as “normal.”

Horse Tail 

An alcoholic bank employee from Chennai has to solve a strange mystery: why did he wake up one morning with a horse’s tail?

Ghastly Fowl 

A stark, beautifully animated short story that sheds light on what human destruction is doing to our beautiful planet.


Mona Shah is a multi-platform storyteller with expertise in digital communications, social media strategy, and content curation for Twitter and LinkedIn for C-suite executives. A journalist and editor, her experience spans television, cable news, and magazines. An avid traveler and foodie, she loves artisan food and finding hidden gems: restaurants, recipes, destinations. She can be reached at: mona@indiacurrents.com

Bay Area Burmese Americans Protest the Military Coup

In response to the recent military takeover in Myanmar (Burma), the Free Burma Action Committee (FBAC)–a coalition of the San Francisco Bay Area-based Burmese American activists–will stage a peaceful protest on Saturday, February 13, from 1 PM to 3 PM at the UN Plaza in San Francisco.

Ko Ko Lay, a member of the Free Burma Action Committee (FBAC) and a former student leader, said, “We’ve just heard that in Naypyidaw, the police shot into the protesting crowd with live ammunition. As a result, one protester is now fighting for her life in the hospital. The news is of great concern to us. We condemn the Myanmar military’s use of deadly force.”

This protest, led by FBAC, is part of a growing movement among the overseas Burmese Americans and their supporters. FBAC members join the UN Security Council in calling for the immediate release of Myanmar’s State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, President Win Myint, and other detainees.

They also demand that the Myanmar military:

  • respect the people’s right to peaceful assembly and protest
  • recognize the outcomes of the 2020 General Election
  • restore civilian rule in Myanmar, led by the people’s elected representatives

Ordinary Myanmar citizens and civil servants have been lighting candles, refusing to go to work in mass protests, and noisily beating their kitchen utensils nightly in defiance of the unwelcomed military rule. In response, the Myanmar military has begun using force—water cannon and rubber bullets, among others.

With this protest, we aim to reinforce and highlight our loved ones’ civil disobedience campaigns from overseas; and restore democracy in our homeland.

About FBAC

On February 1, 2021, FBAC is formed with Burmese Americans living in the San Francisco Bay Area and Sacramento region to respond to the current political crisis in Burma.

The committee

  • condemns the Myanmar military’s recent coup in the strongest of terms
  • demands that the outcome of the 2020 November election in Myanmar be recognized
  • calls for the releases of all civilian and political leaders detained in the coup
  • supports the actions of the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (CRPH) in Myanmar
  • urges UN Security Council to take stronger actions to restore democracy in Myanmar

We applaud and stand with the people of Myanmar in their civil disobedience movement and other nonviolent movements to express themselves peacefully. We are committed to protecting and restoring democracy in Burma. We will work with the overseas Burmese communities around the world to end the military rule in Myanmar.

We believe that a single action can make a difference in the community, and collective action can create positive changes.


 

Davis California Rallies to Reinstate Vandalized Gandhi Statue

On January 26, 2021, someone vandalized the Mahatma Gandhi statue in the City of Davis, California USA. The statue in Davis’ Central Park of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, the independence leader and father of India, was found vandalized on the grass next to its plinth. It was a tragic act to destroy the Gandhi statue in Davis. Gandhi stands for love and nonviolence and justice for all. The world needs Gandhi’s message now more than ever with wars raging in so many parts of the world.

A large number of peace-loving community members choose peace over violence, love over hatred, and rallied at Central Park at City of Davis California on Sunday, Jan 31st, 2021 in support of Reinstating the Gandhi Statue & condemning the hatred. This car rally and peace vigil was co-hosted by Gandhi Statue for Peace Committee Davis, India Association of Davis (IAD), Indian Association of Sacramento (IAS) & the peace-loving community at large. Hundreds of people urged the City of Davis Administration to find the culprits and bring them to justice and call upon the entire world to rise as one entity and destroy the nefarious designs of these hate mongers. They also urged the City of Davis Administration to reinstate the statue at the earliest and provide adequate protection in the future.

The Government of India and the City of Davis have both denounced the vandalism of the Mahatma Gandhi statue. A statement released by the Indian government’s Ministry of External Affairs said “it strongly condemns this malicious and despicable act against a universally respected icon of peace and justice” and has called upon the U.S. Department of State to investigate the incident.

The White House condemns the recent vandalism of a Mahatma Gandhi statue in California’s Davis, said Press Secretary Jen Psaki on Monday. “We would certainly have concerns about the desecration of monuments of (Mahatma) Gandhi. We would condemn the desecration and watch it closely,” Psaki said during a briefing on Monday.

Davis mayor Gloria Partida attended the Gandhi Statue vigil along with vice-mayor Lucas Frerichs and city council members Dan Carson and Will Arnold. The City of Davis issued a statement on the matter that “The City of Davis condemns the vandalism that destroyed the statue of Mahatma Gandhi in Central Park. We do not support any actions that include the destruction of property. We sympathize with those who are grieving the destruction of the statue and promise a thorough investigation and full accountability for those who committed this crime.”

If we have learned nothing from the tragic events of recent weeks it is that senseless acts of hatred and violence are never the answer, which Gandhi and my father affirmed through fasting and their lifetimes of struggle. The statue that was desecrated in Davis symbolizes the truth Gandhi expressed: “You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is like an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.” Let us reject this act of intolerance and vandalism, said Paul F. Chavez, President, Cesar Chavez Foundation & Son of Cesar Chavez.

“In California, Davis is a mega college-town dominated by bright students and scholars. Such sudden insurrection and the vandalizing statue of national importance is quite disturbing, highly unacceptable, especially during these unprecedented times. We want perpetrators of this criminal act to be brought to justice”, said Vikram Rao, President of Student Association at UC Davis.

It is shocking and disappointing to read of the vandalization of the statue of Mahatma Gandhi by unknown assailants in Davis, California. Gandhi was a man of peace and goodwill who inspired millions of people around the world — including Martin Luther King Jr. — to practice nonviolence. For a gifted monument to his memory to be violently debased and destroyed is a cowardly act of ignorant people. It is a shameful mark against the good name of the community of Davis and the perpetrators should be found and punished. The Mahatma was cut down by a violent man in 1948, and now once more he suffers the ignominy of a mindless and irresponsible attack, noted Professor Robert Sellers, former Chair of World Parliament of Religions (the same organization that was addressed by Swami Vivekananda in 1893).

“I am shocked and deeply saddened to hear about the desecration of the statue of Mahatma Gandhi in Davis, California. Gandhiji is universally known and revered as one of the great icons of peace and harmony, and the fine statue erected with the help of the Government of India and the city of Davis was a civic reminder of his timeless importance and relevance. It is not just the Indian community in the USA and the world who feel violated by this senseless act of hate and of violence. All lovers of peace and civic order have also been attacked. It is my fervent hope and prayer, as a longtime student and admirer of Gandhi, that the perpetrators of this crime will be apprehended and brought to justice. But beyond that, I hope that this vandalism will serve as an occasion for making his universal message of peace and love better known. As he himself famously said: ‘When I despair, I remember that all through history, the ways of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time they can seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall’ ”, said Joseph Prabhu Professor of Philosophy (Emeritus) at California State University, also Los Angeles Trustee Emeritus – Parliament of the World’s Religions.

At the peaceful rally and vigil in Davis.

Sham Goyal, a retired UC Davis professor who has lived in Davis for 52 years, is the man behind the installation of the Gandhi statue. At the vigil event, several aggressive young members appeared arguing with 70 plus-year-old Goyal. A police complaint has been logged with Davis Police Department, citing an aggressor from the opposing group for behaving inappropriately with event organizers.

The 6-foot-tall, 950-pound bronze Gandhi’s statue was gifted in 2016 to the City of Davis by the Government of India. After a public comment period, the Davis City Council voted 3-2 to move ahead and install the statue. “It’s a symbol of peace,” Councilwoman Rochelle Swanson said at that time. An unveiling ceremony was held on Oct. 2, 2016, Gandhi’s birthday, which is commemorated each year as an International Day of Nonviolence. Since then, the statue has been a target of repeated protests and vandalism.

Many local volunteers and supporters have helped in conducting Gandhi’s Statue Reinstatement Rally & Vigil event successfully at Davis. Organizers thank all who have come to rally and visit for reinstating Gandhi Statue rally and vigil. Organizers appreciated the participants for maintaining peace, calmness & professionalism despite aggression by violent forces.

Gandhi is our national figure, world figure. He was for peace, he was for non-violence, and he is the father figure for India. We ask for the denouncement of the vandalism against our Patriarch.


IAS started a petition denouncing the Gandhi Statue vandalism and urged Davis City Council, Davis Police Department, and FBI to take action. IAS encourage readers to check out and sign the petition here: http://chng.it/BQFKW9HfwT or https://tinyurl.com/GandhiPetitionIAS

Sewa International’s Volunteers Walk for Health

With the aim of promoting an active lifestyle and physical and emotional wellbeing, Sewa International volunteers in Atlanta, Houston, and the Bay Area in California welcomed the new year by walking five miles and resolving to stay fit and healthy.

Organized as part of Sewa’s “Know Your Healthy Self” initiative, this event encouraged participants to walk, run, or practice Yoga wherever they were with no restriction on time or location. Over 150 people took part in the event on Saturday, January 2.

Encouraging Sewa families to embrace a positive attitude and work continuously for their and others’ health by motivating each other to exercise, Sewa International President Arun Kankani sought to draw the curtain on 2020 — a year that was challenging and stressful.

Four Elements of SELF

Participating in the walkathon in a park near Sewa’s office in Houston, Kankani emphasized the four elements of Sewa’s SELF program – SleepExerciseLiving in the present, and Food and diet. About 50 people participated in the event at the venue and 20 people joined it virtually.

In the Bay Area, the walk went virtual given the COVID-19 situation and 50 people participated. They walked in their neighborhoods over two weekends and reported their status online. Sewa Bay Area Chapter coordinator Guruprasad said the first 50 registrants of the event would get Sewa T-shirts in the mail.

In the Atlanta program held at Rock Mill Park, Alpharetta, GA, Dr. Prasad Garimella, a Pulmonary and Critical Care expert explained how Sleep, Exercise, Living in the Present, and Food (S.E.L.F) help fine-tune our body and mind for longevity. Through a “car and brake” analogy, he explained how these elements are the four pillars of a healthy lifestyle. 

More than 50 people took part in the Atlanta event which started with Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutations), a popular set of yoga postures that provide well-rounded exercise to the body. Later they all enjoyed a five-mile walk on a sunny afternoon.  

Sewa International’s Atlanta chapter started the SELF program in November last year by organizing a webinar titled “Find your newSELF: The Transformative Power of Exercise” by the Triathlon Coach and Clinical Psychologist Dr. Harvey Gayer.


Sewa International, a leading Hindu faith-based, Indian American nonprofit organization, has extensive experience in disaster rescue, relief, and rehabilitation operations having responded to 24 disasters in the US and abroad. In 2017, after Hurricane Harvey struck the Houston area, Sewa volunteers helped in the rescue of nearly 700 people, and have served thousands of affected families since then through their case management service. Sewa raised over $3 million for Hurricane Harvey recovery, Sewa continues to rebuild houses and greenhouses that serve as a means of livelihood. Sewa International has also rendered relief in the wake of Hurricane Maria in 2018 and Hurricane Imelda in 2019. Sewa teams in the San Francisco Bay Area continue to build and donate tiny homes for those rendered homeless in the California Camp Fire of November 2018. 

Among its other accolades, Sewa International has been recognized by Charity Navigator – the premier nonprofit rating agency – as the number five among the “10 Highly Rated Charities Relying on Private Contributions.” Sewa has for the last three years continuously scored the topmost-rated 4-star from Charity Navigator and has earned perfect scores for its Financial Health and Accountability & Transparency

For more information on Sewa International and its activities, please visit http://www.sewausa.org. For more information on Sewa International’s efforts to support communities nationwide during the COVID-19 crisis, please visit https://sewausa.org/covid-19.

Pink and Pollution at 4 O’Clock

I’ve begun applying hot coconut oil on my hair again every Saturday. I search for the little footprints I left back in the streets of India playing football. I seek that warm sun and humidity in Hyderabad on Saturday evenings. I’ve begun reminiscing about the pink and pollution of 4 pm. The kiraane ki dukaan that quenched my thirst with sprite and a 10 rs. Lays packet. I reminisce about the rainy days of playing four corners instead of basketball. I remember the smell of rain hitting concrete. I remember the feeling of melted dairy milk silk on my fingers, the cold glass of mango juice that numbs my fingers on a hot day, the smell of yellow daal tadka, and aloo after coming home from school on Saturday. 

Artwork by Swati Ramaswamy

This nostalgia made me realize: the smell of rain on concrete is not so different in San Francisco. Sprite tastes the same here, just a little (lot) sweeter. The sun at 4 pm yesterday was bright and golden and made me feel like I was in Mumbai. As a kid, I never understood the feeling of belonging to a place, everywhere can be your home if you want it to. But this past year I felt so distant from every place that I had called home. I felt in between things and just slightly offbeat. But these small things, like the smell of concrete and the sun, connected me back to all my homes. It connected me to Sunday morning skies in Japan, which were perfectly blue and sunny. It connected me to the most beautiful view from my balcony in India. It made me realize that pieces of my home, that felt most like it, always carry themselves with me. They repeat, they renew. No matter how much I change or grow, they give me comfort when I need it. The new year felt like that. Like the smell of freshly baked cake in the kitchen. Like finally making the perfectly round and “crisp on the outside soft on the inside” dosa. It feels just happy enough to be happy for no reason and happy enough to be happy when I’m sad. The feeling of jumping into a cold pool on the hottest day. It was like landing. I think home, wherever it is, invokes comfort in its meaning rather than its physicality. This phase of nostalgia made me realize that if I ever feel lost, I’m still always home.

Renewal. It’s a very tedious word. We renew passports, leases, and licenses. It’s a process that we have already achieved, but need to repeat. Renewals are odd and vacant. But the years that repeat are also renewals. The seasons renew too, so the second time it rains you have an umbrella. Situations repeat, and we change how we react to those repetitions, and we grow. This new year won’t be much different, but I hope it ends up being one of familiarity and comfort, even if it is about seeking new things. I hope there is always belonging, there is always that memory of a home that makes you feel permanent, like a cold glass of mango juice on a hot day.


Swati Ramaswamy is a recent graduate from UC Davis and is an aspiring creative writer who loathes speaking in the third person. 

Unlocked: Eight Monologues. One Lockdown

The lockdown has affected us in different ways – introspective, illuminating, irritating, igniting, isolating. Needless to say, we’ll never be the same again. So, why not combine theatre with technology and capture our lives during the lockdown. EnActe Arts attempts to do just that by bringing together India’s finest actors, most talented playwrights, and some of our best-known directors. 

They, through their diverse stories, give us a tongue-in-cheek perspective on how 150 days of solitude shaped their lives. The eight monologues in Hindi and English vary from the hilarious to the heartwarming, from eureka moments to experiential thoughts. From conversations to unseen companions to stream of consciousness bursts of solo thought.

Enjoy the ride and stay for the talkbacks!

THE MONOLOGUES (All times PST)

  • Fri Jan 8 – 5:30 p.m. 8:30 p.m.
    Sat Jan 9 – 5:30 p.m.
    Sun Jan 10 – 5:30 p..m
    Tickets: $15 
  • For Age: 16+
  • Language: English & Hindi
  • Duration: 90 min (with interval)

AAWAZEIN (Hindi)

Written by Purva Naresh; directed by Rajit Kapur; performed by Seema Biswas

A concerned mother tries to reach out to her daughter in a big city. 

BRAND NEW WORLD (English) 

Written by Adhir Bhat; directed by Q; performed by Veronica Gautam

A hospital intern tries to explain the meaning of lockdown to a patient just out of a coma.

CHAMGAADAD KA INTEQAAM (Hindi) 

Written & performed by Raghav Dutt; directed by Sukant Goel

As Lockdown 1.0 begins, forced to stay back in the madarsa, a young, wayward boy finds his own way to battle both, the pandemic and his fear.

HAAN NANDUBHAI (English)

Written by Rahul da Cunha; directed by Gurleen Judge; performed by Aahana Kumra

A young actress, trapped inside her Goregaon flat feels the effects of the lockdown, her lack of starring roles and pangs of loneliness.

HAWALDAR HAWA SINGH HAAZIR HAI! (Hindi) 

Written by Ashok Mishra; directed by Rajit Kapur; performed by Gagan Dev Riar

An exasperated Hawaldar tries hard to convince people to stay at home.

I’M LOBO LOBO, MEN (English)

Written by Rahul da Cunha, directed by Nadir Khan, performed by Joy Fernandes

A satellite cable repair guy visits the home of a very fussy, CoVid- paranoid couple during lockdown, with hilarious consequences.

MIDDLE CLASS (Hindi)

Written & performed by Hussain Dalal; directed by Akarsh Khurana

A Corona warrior shares his experience as a compounder in a quarantine center and the friendships he made there that changed his life. 

RAASHAN (Hindi)

Written by Abhishek Majumdar; directed by Anand Tiwari; performed by Rajit Kapur 

An upper middle-class man visits the slum in his area to borrow alcohol from his friend.  The piece deals with the relative value of hunger, thirst, and poetry.


Mona Shah is a multi-platform storyteller with expertise in digital communications, social media strategy, and content curation for Twitter and LinkedIn for C-suite executives. A journalist and editor, her experience spans television, cable news, and magazines. An avid traveler and foodie, she loves artisan food and finding hidden gems: restaurants, recipes, destinations. She can be reached at: mona@indiacurrents.com