The story of every immigrant is to integrate their roots with the society they currently live in. Every aspect of our lives contains both aspects of our lives, the past, our Indian roots, and the present, our western environment. This weaves its way into our expression of art as well.
The stories in the Indian diaspora are as rich and diverse as the history of Indian art. Art can be used to show the world how the Indian diaspora incorporates its culture of origin with its life outside – how our trials and tribulations are both unique and common. In my art, everything is beautiful and everything deserves to be told.
Because I studied art in the United States, I integrate all the western techniques and employ them to showcase my Indian identity – to tell stories of people like us. My art is colorful because our stories and culture is so colorful. My grandmother always jokes that those who have their origins in the Indian subcontinent cannot wear subdued colors. While I disagree, I do think our culture conditions us to have an affinity of color. That love of color makes its way into my art. After all, what is a celebration of our stories without the color to go along with it?
The thing that has surprised me in my artistic journey is how people see reflections of their childhood, their experiences, and even their bygone family members in my art. I think that’s a reminder that while fine art may not be something most people pursue, it is an evocative medium.
Join me at my FREE workshop, in collaboration with India Currents, on May 26 at 6pm PDT/9pm EDT to celebrate Buddha Purnima! With my guidance, you will use the basics of portraiture to create your own work.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to disproportionately impact our community, AACI’s Health Center remains committed to providing much needed resources during this time.
At AACI’s Story Road location will be providing No-Charge COVID-19 Testing for members of the community. Feel share this resource with your own networks and those in need.
No doctor’s note is required and we will serve everyone regardless of insurance or immigration status. Testing is only available to individuals without symptoms at this community testing event. We recommend that anyone experiencing symptoms see their own doctors.
If someone does not already have a doctor, AACI’s Health Center is accepting new patients. Please call (408) 975-2763 for more information.
From all over the Bay Area, students have stepped up to the plate to aid their communities amid the coronavirus outbreak. Here’s the story of a Mountain View student who decided to help the people he knew best – students. Kanav Mittal, a rising senior at the Saint Francis High School, started Free Virtual Tutoring. True to its name, this youth nonprofit organization provides Zoom classes to students of all ages. Since its humble beginnings, Free Virtual Tutoring has established a clientele of 40 students, with 20 math and computer science classes. We had a chat with Kanav to understand FVT’s unique journey over the past few months.
IC: What prompted you to start FVT? While there are a plethora of tutoring services in our area, few offer free classes. Why (and how) do you teach at no charge?
K: A couple of weeks after schools shut down in response to COVID-19, I read some Nextdoor posts from parents who were frustrated at how the school district was handling their students’ learning. Elementary-schoolers seemed to be the worst affected, as it is quite difficult to transition to online learning at such a young age. Knowing that many elementary schoolers were struggling and falling behind, I wanted to help, so I contacted my friend with an idea for a free virtual tutoring service. Free Virtual Tutoring was born.
We teach at no charge because we want our service to be accessible to everyone during these times of crisis. We want any student struggling with the burden of school closures and catching up in schoolwork to be able to come to us and seek help, and we don’t believe that money should be a barrier to this.
IC: What is your teaching philosophy? How do you structure classes and curriculum?
K: Our teaching philosophy is to build relationships with the students and teach concepts in a fun, engaging, and interactive way that takes advantage of these relationships. Why do we focus so much on relationships? Partly because many students, including us high schoolers but especially elementary schoolers, may be feeling isolated during this time. We hope that through Free Virtual Tutoring, not only can we support students academically but we can also support them emotionally by just being there to help them and by trying to connect with them.
Our classes, which are one hour long, consist of presentations, lots of practice problems, and a fun Kahoot! to wrap it up and review. Throughout our classes, we always try to relate to the students, putting in funny memes or cracking jokes that get students excited about learning. Interactive discussions and practice times during the classes allow us to engage the students more deeply in the concepts.
While creating the curriculum, we look at our old workbooks and consult our younger siblings for advice, some of whom have just finished up elementary school. We can also draw on our own memories – elementary school was not that long ago! Our curriculum is based on reviewing concepts taught in school and introducing more advanced topics to prepare students for the next step in their academic careers.
IC: What challenges did you face in founding FVT? Was it easy to build a consistent clientele?
K: At first, it was quite challenging to figure out a system for how we would offer classes. What times? How would they be structured? How would they be conducted? Nevertheless, these questions were naturally resolved as we went through our first few weeks and became more skilled at running classes.
Another major challenge that we faced was outreach. As our team is just high school students, many times people do not take us seriously. To compound this, when it’s free, people often don’t believe in the quality. Therefore, it has been difficult to conduct successful outreach efforts and tell more students about our service. However, after receiving excellent testimonials from parents, and after parents have told their friends about our service, we have received many more signups!
Speaking of outreach, it was not easy to build a consistent clientele at all! Again, people would often not take us seriously. However, through our unflagging dedication to students’ learning and wellbeing, we have been able to build a group of students who consistently come. Since we see these students every weekend, we have basically become friends with them!
IC: Your group teaches students from different age groups and learning capacities. How do navigate this kind of diversity, and make the material accessible for all?
K: In each class, we have a minimum of two tutors, so while one tutor is presenting, another tutor is available to answer any questions via Zoom chat from the students. If a student is having a hard time on a concept, they can chat with our other tutor, who can work with them individually. On the other hand, if a student finds a concept too easy, our tutors can provide them with challenge problems to keep their minds stimulated.
Our individual drop-in help time is a great time when any student of any age group in K-8 or any learning capacity can come in to seek help. Just like during meetings, we not only can help students who have trouble understanding concepts but also help students who are looking for more challenging work.
We also share all our materials with the parents afterward so that they can work on it with their children. We create worksheets that have dozens of problems with varying difficulty so that students of different age groups and learning capacities can all practice their skills.
IC: According to your website, your tutors primarily focus on subjects such as computer science and mathematics. Are you planning on branching out into more fields? If so, which subjects can we expect to see offered at FVT?
K: Yes! We are planning on branching out into more fields. We soon plan to begin advanced math classes (problem solving i.e. competition math) and advanced CS classes (Python). Perhaps in the future, we are looking into adding world language classes (Spanish and Chinese) and public speaking classes. The world language classes would focus on conversational skills to prepare students for middle-school and high-school level world language. Finally, we are very open to suggestions for new classes from parents and students.
We also offer individual drop-in help time, when we can help in almost any subject. These subjects have ranged from Spanish and writing lessons to learning how to play the game Roblox!
IC: With the coming academic year, schools are considering many possibilities in terms of teaching styles, attendance, etc. What are your thoughts on another year of distance learning? Should schools in the Bay Area open their doors?
K: Obviously, distance learning has its disadvantages. From personal experience, I preferred in-person learning much more than distance learning. In-person learning allows for a deeper understanding of concepts through the face-to-face interaction students have with teachers – something that is difficult to replicate in distance learning.
Nevertheless, I feel that distance learning can improve. Most of the systems put in place by school systems from March onwards are likely going to be improved during the summer, as officials discuss how to best structure another potential year of distance/hybrid learning.
Schools in the Bay Area should only open their doors if it is safe to do so, whether through a fully in-person or hybrid model. We must prioritize the health of everyone during the COVID-19 pandemic.
IC: Do you have any advice for students who are trying to adjust to a virtual learning system?
K: It is essential to stay organized. If your school does not have a designated schedule for classes, make one yourself, and do your work in the assigned time slots for each subject.
One of the best things about in-person learning is the relationships you build with friends and classmates, so keep that going in a virtual learning system! Email or text them, or video call them to work on a project. It’s super important to stay in touch with your friends during virtual learning.
Finally, don’t be afraid to seek help. We’re living in crazy times, and virtual learning is no exception. So, if you need any assistance in your schoolwork or in life in general, don’t hesitate to ask your teacher or parent, or you can come to us by signing up at freevirtualtutoring.org!
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 Director of Media Outreach for youth nonprofit Break the Outbreak, the editor-in-chief of her school newspaper The Roar, and the 2019-2020 Teen Poet Laureate for the City of Pleasanton.
Sahana Narayanan will take the stage on August 25 to present her Carnatic Vocal Arangetram. For the last 15 years, Sahana has studied under Srimathi Jayashree Varadarajan, Founder and Artistic Director of Sri Rama Lalitha Kala Mandir School of Fine Art. During the course of her training Sahana participated in numerous music school productions around the country often a part of award winning team efforts. Some of her performance highlights include participating in a critically acclaimed SRLKM school concert on Purandara Dasa at the Cleveland Thyagaraja Aradhana and singing in a television performance of Narayana Teerta compositions.
Sahana steadfastly maintained her commitment to this art form even after she moved to New York City to pursue undergraduate degree at Columbia where she is a rising senior, majoring in Comparative Literature and minoring in Jazz. As part of the Louis Armstrong Jazz Performance Program, she regularly performs at venues in New York. Sahana is also an accomplished western classical violinist and continues to study under Professor Li Lin at The Julliard School. Prior to college, Sahana attended The Harker School, where she fronted the jazz band as the lead singer, won numerous individual prizes for jazz, musical theater, poetry and creative writing, and was awarded a humanities grant to conduct original research on jazz.
Sahana will present a traditional Carnatic vocal concert which will features songs rendered in numerous languages from a variety of composers and will highlight her improvisational skills Sahana’s delightful Carnatic vocal renditions are a result of the rigorous training steeped in tradition from her Guru. At the same time, Sahana possesses a lovely fluid voice and a musical and lyrical sensibility that is informed by her exposure to Sanskrit and her expertise in a wide variety of musical genres. She will be accompanied by Sahana Srinivasan on violin and Amit Ranganathan on Mridangam.
Title of Event: “Carnatic Vocal Debut Concert by Sahana Narayanan”
School: “Sri Rama Lalitha Kala Mandir School of Fine Arts”
Guru: “Smt. Jayashree Varadarajan”
Date: August 25, 2019
Place: “Heritage Theatre, 1 West Campbell Avenue, Campbell, CA 95008”
Time traveling back to the water balloon exploding streets of childhood: Every Holi I would turn into a general, training my own army in water balloon strategy. Every spring my sons and their friends would be taken to a different local Holi celebration in the Bay Area – Sunnyvale temple, Fremont temple, Asha, RANA.
Strategic use of color ensure a prolonged victory. As the day progresses only traces of color remain in the little plastic pouches in the hand. Wily teenagers “borrow” color from little ones who clutch, rather than use their color stash. While adults strategize on conquering the food line, my boys and I unroll our holi war strategy. Hapless individuals who could be gheraoed and smothered with color are targeted. Spotless entrants into the field of war are the most fun to color. Using the victim’s powder to color them is a flag signaling ultimate victory.
One year a teenage girl approached a 4-year-old lieutenant, “Can I have some color?” she asked while her friends looked on hopefully. “Sure,” said my warrior, “Here you go!” as a cloud of red green and yellow rose around her. He made me proud.
Compare this to Holi in India: deserted streets, girls cowering inside, and children on a nearby balcony with a tub full of water balloons waiting in vain for a hapless victim. Bay Area holi celebrations promise an explosive street party with blasts of music, color-intoxicated dancers, food, and laughter. Twenty years ago as we left the Holi grounds and rolled into the nearest Burger King quizzical stares from customers followed us. Now when they see green, yellow, red and blue faces framed in car windows, the other cars on the road roll down their windows and shout “Holi !!” and nod their heads excitedly..
South India Fine Arts (SIFA), is the premier organization in San Francisco Bay Area dedicated to the promotion, preservation, and presentation of South Indian fine arts. SIFA is proud to present its Spring 2018 Season artists.
We started off the Spring 2018 Seasion in February by celebrating Saint Thyagaraja’s Aradhana. A lot of talented local Bay Area artists and Bay Area Music/Dance Schools presented their tribute by presenting various Kritis of Saint Thyagaraja. Check out our Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/carnaticmusicbayarea/ for photos/videos from this program.
We kick off April with a concert by the dynamic duo – Dr. Krishnakumar and Smt. Binni Krishnakumar, followed by amellifluous Flute concert by Shri. Shashank Subramanyam.
In May, we have a blockbuster Vocal concert by one of the giants in Carnatic Music — the great Shri T. V. Sankaranarayan, followed by a scintillating performance by the dynamic duo – Shri Ganesh and Shri Kumaresh on the Violin.
In June, we present a grand Vocal concert by Shri Palghat Ramprasad, the grandson of the legendary Mridangam player Palghat Mani Iyer.
In July, we have a divine Harikatha / Music Discourse by Harikatha exponent, Shri. Dushyanth Sridhar. We have also planned for an enchanting evening with a Vocal concert by Kum. Pragathi Guruprasad, who was the runner-up in the third season of the reality-based singing competition Airtel Super Singer Junior.
SIFA is super excited to present the above line up of artists and hopes that all rasikas would attend and enjoy the above concerts. We also would like to remind that SIFA sponsors get FREE admission to most concerts.
Please signup for Sponsorship here: https://care.way.com/#/public/13492
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.”
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.”
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.