Tag Archives: Companionship

Lovesick in San Jose

Check out this movie for yourself on Saturday Oct 20, 2018 in San Jose! Details here: https://indiacurrents.com/events/film-show-lovesick/

I watched Lovesick at the Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles, which comes with the usual homey discord of diasporic film festivals. The people behind me were passing tupperware filled with aloo gobhi. The harangued IFFLA staff member was pleading people to lower their voices as he introduced the filmmakers. I was at once amused — as a film student, I’m usually surrounded by a much more reverential crowd — and admittedly irked — I would like to hear the filmmakers’ introductions and nobody passed me any aloo gobhi. Under the wafting smell of aloo gobhi, I feel at home and alien. It was under these classically clashing circumstances that I watched Lovesick, which also seemed to be trying to navigate pleasing two worlds and settling neither here nor there.

The directors of Lovesick, Ann S. Kim and Priya Giri Desai, were both working at PBS when they came across an article about Dr. Suniti Solomon, the first person to find HIV in India. In the film, we learn that Dr. Solomon is more aptly described as the first person to even look for HIV in India, which she found widespread in sex workers. She then left what she described as “her prestigious academic job” to found a clinic for people with HIV.

Here’s where it begins to get wacky. Through founding the clinic, Dr. Solomon somewhat organically created a matchmaking service to help HIV positive people find partners, a practice which the directors claim is now common in Indian HIV clinics. Ann and Priya decided Dr. Solomon’s story was too big for a throwaway article, and through a mutual connection decided to meet her in person. Eight years later, they birthed Lovesick, a longitudinal documentary on Dr. Solomon’s life and the story of a successful couple she matched.

The film is humorous, poignant and tender. Dr. Solomon matches couples because she too was madly in love for many decades. Her late husband was Christian and she is Hindu, yet, in a tale as old as time, love conquered all. I’m a sucker for a sappy love story, so I was moved when I saw Dr. Solomon read out passionate letters her husband wrote to her, which she now keeps sealed in a ziplock bag. Later, she waters the purple orchids surrounding her husband’s picture. “His favorite flower,” she remarks, standing next to a shelf of Christian and Hindu paraphernalia. We begin to understand why Dr. Solomon is such an advocate for finding love.

Through her matchmaking service, we meet Manu and Karthik, two of her “lovesick” patients. Their faces are not shown for most of the film because HIV is still so taboo in India — best evidenced by a sequence in the film where Manu’s Mother asks if she can say the word “HIV.” Both Manu and Karthik are sweet and lovable, but there is a certain emphasis placed on the fact that neither was “to blame” for contracted HIV. Karthik was given tainted blood and Manu was married to a man who never revealed to her that he was HIV positive.

In fact, the communities Indian society would like to blame for HIV, are curiously absent from the film. For example, Dr. Solomon first found HIV in sex workers, yet not a single sex worker is interviewed in the film. We know HIV to predominantly exist in the gay community, but Dr. Solomon’s matchmaking service seems to only match heterosexual, or seemingly heterosexual, couples.  

As sweet and deserving of love as Manu and Karthik are, the fact that they are able to find it is predicated on his Brahmin caste and her educated background, as Dr. Solomon’s staff giddily relay in the matchmaking process.

By the end of the film, Manu and Karthik decide to allow their faces to be shown. The couple even spoke at the screening in New York and have committed to be the public faces for HIV clinics in India.

The film is an homage to the remarkable Dr. Solomon, who passed away before the film was released. At times, she even even goaded men into coming in to receive treatment by telling them they would only find love if they took care of themselves. She understood the interconnectivity between human wellbeing and love — and all of its accoutrements, like desire and compassion — and her own love for others will always be remembered.

Urvashi Pathania is a film-maker who writes from Los Angeles, where she attends the University of Southern California. You can learn more about her at urvashipathania.com.

This review was originally published by India Currents in April, 2018. It was edited by Culture and Media Editor Geetika Pathania Jain.

 

 

Lovesick: A West Coast Premiere

After discovering the first cases of HIV in India in 1986, Dr. Suniti Solomon left a prestigious academic job to build her own clinic focusing on treating HIV/AIDS patients. Several decades and breakthroughs in treatment later, her clinic is one of the highest regarded in the country and her patients are living longer lives. While surviving, some of

HIV infected Tcell

her patients are not thriving. Being Indian, they feel immense societal and personal pressure to marry, but simultaneously face a stigma of being HIV-positive. Now in the twilight of her impressive career, Dr. Solomon takes the next step in her treatment by creating a matchmaking service for those seeking marriage. Through the service we meet Manu and Karthik, two of her patients who want to share their lives with someone but are fearful they never will. Shot over eight years and told with compassion and care, filmmakers Ann S. Kim and Priya Giri Desai give us a surprising and hopeful story about the universal healing ability of companionship and love.

Priya Giri Desai’s work in print and broadcast media spans two decades and includes work for outlets such as LIFE magazine, PBS and independent film projects. Desai is a graduate of Duke University and a founding board member of The India Center Foundation, a cultural non-profit organization in New York dedicated to the study of the Indian subcontinent, the promotion of its cultural life, and the unique relationship between India and the United States. Ann S. Kim is an independent filmmaker who has reported on a range of science global health issues for public television and radio. From 2016-2017, Kim served as the first Chief Design Officer for the U.S. Surgeon General, bringing design thinking into government and urgent public health issues of addiction, opioids, and social isolation.

Lovesick had its world premiere at DOC NYC in November 2017. It will screen on April 14 at the Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles and again on April 29 at the International Film Festival Boston.

More info at lovesickthefilm.com

Saratoga Resident Recognized with Daily Point of Light Award

Nishka Ayyar was named Daily Point of Light Award Number 6213 by Points of Light, the world’s largest organization dedicated to volunteer service. Nishka Ayyar received this recognition for her ongoing commitment to working with elderly seniors and promoting inter-generational connections between youth and seniors in her community.

Music Buddies is a student run volunteer initiative founded by Nishka Ayyar of Saratoga, CA. Inspired by the relationship she shared with her own grandparents and their positive influence in her life, Nishka started Music Buddies to bring companionship and joy in the lives of elderly people who live alone or in senior communities, separated from their families. Her organization enlists student performers from middle and high schools across the Bay Area and puts together fun weekend entertainment programs for the senior citizens. The program typically runs for about an hour and includes music, dance, stand- up comedy etc.

“I am delighted to receive this award and honor. I feel very fortunate to live in a community where volunteerism and service are highly valued and many parents and kids participate enthusiastically. The Music Buddies experience reinforces my belief that by bringing our oldest and youngest citizens together, we can mitigate many social isolation issues of both the seniors and the youth alike, and build healthy and happy communities everywhere.”

Daily Point of Light Awards are given five days a week in the United States and the United Kingdom to honor individuals and groups creating meaningful change to meet community needs; efforts which often lead to long-term solutions and impact social problems in their local communities. President George H. W. Bush was the first president in American history to institute a daily presidential recognition program from the White House, conferring 1,020 Daily Point of Light Awards on citizens and organizations making a big difference in other people’s lives and solving community problems. Points of Light continues the recognition and honorees receive a signed certificate from President Bush. The 5000th award was presented at a special ceremony at the White House with President Barack Obama and President George H. W. Bush co-presenting. The nonpartisan award was adopted by former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom David Cameron in 2014, and the tradition has continued with his successor Theresa May. More than 6,500 Daily Point of Light Award recipients have been recognized in the United States and the United Kingdom.

“The Daily Point of Light Award recognizes exceptional individuals who are using their time, talent, voice and treasure to improve the lives of others,” said Jaqueline Innocent, Vice President, Recognition Programs of Points of Light. “These points of light, like Nishka Ayyar, make an impact on individuals while also helping build resilient communities.”

“We have a lot of requests from senior centers all over the San Francisco Bay Area and we are constantly looking for student performers to join us. We invite student performers from all over the Bay Area who are interested in participating, to join and help us celebrate our senior citizens and bring joy in their lives through these interactions and performances. Interested performers can join by submitting the student performers form on the website.”

To learn more about Nishka Ayyar’s work, visit www.musicbuddies.org or write to contact@musicbuddies.org.

About Points of Light

Points of Light, the world’s largest organization dedicated to volunteer service, mobilizes millions of people to take action that is changing the world. Through affiliates in 250 cities and partnerships with thousands of nonprofits and corporations, Points of Light engages four million volunteers in 30 million hours of service each year. We bring the power of people where it’s needed most. For more information, visit www.pointsoflight.org