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Tom and Jerry Incorporates Indian Culture But Does It Do It Well?

Recently Tom and Jerry: The Movie was released in theaters and HBO!

In this movie, Hollywood gets Bollywood glam! The beloved co-stars of Tom and Jerry attend an Indian wedding and wear Sabyasachi and Anushree Reddy couture.  

A UK-based fashion house, Aashni + Co assisted Warner Bros. crew in sourcing bespoke costumes at an Indian wedding extravaganza. Each outfit was beautifully designed, and had a light, airy feel to it – the color palette had hints of peonies, lavender, and rose bowers.

Aashni + Co Co-Founder, Aashni Anshul Doshi.

Aashni + Co Co-Founder, Aashni Anshul Doshi told India Currents that she borrows inspiration from what she sees around her – from the incredible to the little mundane things. She said, “Even a short but meaningful current affairs conversation gets me going. Believing in the greatness of any idea can be a real inspiration for me.” 

The surreal juxtaposition of Bollywood in a cartoon movie accompanied by unexpected pop-ups of elephants, peacocks, and tigers in the grand ballroom did not compete with the slippery antics of Tom and Jerry. The effect was reminiscent of Aladdin’s entry into Jasmine’s palace! 

Aashni comments, “Being part of Hollywood gave me an opportunity to up the ante. Having dressed up Indian brides, grooms, and families from across the globe, we went with our instincts about grand Indian weddings to curate every look.” And it worked!

I have not shopped at Aashni +Co but I love their glossy website that offers an exclusive shopping experience. They were approached by Tom and Jerry stylists in the summer of 2019.

“The bridal ensembles had to be elegant, rich, and traditional. We worked around this pitch and shortlisted suitable outfits to present for selections. It was great that where typically across the globe, an Indian bride is usually dressed in red, the choice to go with ivory with understated elegance was zeroed in on.”

Choosing something so unconventional and expensive, I wonder about the process and challenge of acclimatizing Hollywood stars and their audience to Indian attire and cultural norms. When India Currents’ asked Aashni + Co to comment on this, we did not receive a response. 

In old Bollywood films, the bride was always dressed in a classic red saree and heavy gold jewelry. In my day, bridal attire was sourced from popular saree stores that carried few versions of bridalwear. Simple and elegant, a look recreated in Mira Nair’s rendition of A Suitable Boy. My mother stitched outfits for us in taffeta, satin, and silk with handspun gold lace. She did not consult a design book. The ideas stemmed from her imagination. My wedding saree was a shimmering red-gold tissue trimmed in broad gold brocade.

In India, people always asked me, where I bought my clothes? My elegant mother was an understated designer! Now, when I pick up a chic garment from an Avante Garde boutique-like Aashni + Co. that reminds me of my mother’s, it always has a $$$$ price tag.

In the last ten years, there has been an explosion of bridal couture in India! Indian diaspora is hypnotized by the glitz and glamor – each outfit is more ornate and ostentatious. Tom and Jerry and other films like it can perpetuate global misconceptions about Indian wedding culture. 

My other issue was that while the human actors wore their glad rags to the hilt, they seemed a bit confused about their own spatial and dialogue relationships with the cartoon protagonist.

If the screenplay and direction were intended to draw parallels between the lives of Kayla (Chloe Grace Moretz) and the cat and mouse duo, it did not. The underhanded gesture at the outset employed by Kayla to nab a position at the prestigious establishment conjured up the gestalt of Jerry but then it frittered away. Ben( Colin Jost) and Preeta (Pallavi Sharda) as a tense interracial couple before their wedding gala did not capitalize on the conflict. My heart warmed up to Michael Pena because he has a great sense of timing but even his humor was stymied. My eyes scanned to glean memorable unexpected moments in the fight sequences between the sworn adversaries, but mayhem and destruction failed to impress! 

There was nothing to make me scream in sheer delight. It was nothing like the ”zombie-high” I felt by watching reruns of short cartoon films created in 1940 by William Hanna and Joseph Barbera. This live-action/computer-animated slapstick comedy would not be my “go-to” movie when I want to share the family couch for some popcorn and laughter.


Monita Soni, MD has one foot in Huntsville, Alabama, the other in her birth home India, and a heart steeped in humanity. Monita has published many poems, essays, and two books, My Light Reflections and Flow Through My Heart. You can hear her commentaries on Sundial Writers Corner WLRH 89.3FM.


 

Letters to the Editor: 3/11/2021

Dear India Currents,

I read the piece written by Dr. Soni of her critique on Netflix’s new video series on over the top Indian weddings “The Big Day“. I wanted to share a few of my thoughts on it. I found the series entertaining, interesting, and funny. Each couple had a unique love story and their weddings were customized for that and to reflect their own individual styles and tastes. Since these couples came from very wealthy families and backgrounds, they could afford such grand extravagant weddings and the planning team to do it.

What bothered me was that The Big Day showed Indian couples that came from families is not even the 1% in India or the Indian American community but the less than 1%! These were people in extremely wealthy and elite circles.  How many of us Indian Americans, even those who are in the upper-middle and upper class of doctors, engineers, CEOs of companies, can afford weddings on such a grand scale?

Let us take Nikhita and Mukund. Nikhita said in the trailer “I wanna make this wedding everything I ever dreamed of.”  Well, considering that she and her husband were around 24-25 at the time of their nuptials, can someone that young pay for a wedding that cost upwards of tens of millions of dollars? Her father Subrah Iyer is a Silicon Valley tech CEO worth several hundred million dollars ($750 million).  Of course, the majority of parents want to pay for their kid’s weddings but how many Indian American kids have parents who can afford to pay for a weeklong over-the-top wedding in India in the tens upon tens of millions of dollars? The Iyers are in less than 1%, and Nikhita and Mukund’s wedding story is a very far removed reality!

Again, these couples and their families are extremely wealthy and have every right to have these types of weddings. It is just that this is not the reality for most of us. I wish the wedding series was called ‘The Big Day for Indians in the 1%’.

Warm Regards,

Laavanya Pasupuleti


If you would like your opinion or perspective expressed at India Currents, do not hesitate to contact editor@indiacurrents.com with a submission or note. 

The Legend of Hanuman: India Currents’ Exclusive Review

I light the lamp and pray to Hanuman,” Aur devta chit na dhariye. Hanumat se hi san sukh kariye.”

The phone rings. My grandson is on FaceTime. We are thousands of miles away but through the Legend of Hanuman series, we transcend the space-time continuum and are sitting side by side on a crescent moon, eating mangoes and taking turns gleaning takeaway points from each episode. 

The Legend of Hanuman is a 3D animated fantasy streaming television series based on the Hindu Epic Ramayana, created by Sharad Devarajan, Jeevan J. Kang, and Charuvi Agrawal for Disney’s Hotstar, under the banner of Graphic India. The series premiered globally on January 29, 2021, in seven Indian languages. The storyline narrated by Sharad Kelkar showcases the life of Hanuman and his metamorphosis from a mighty warrior to a legendary omnipresent powerhouse of good over evil. 

The artistic color scheme does not afford a sharp contrast but affords a vintage look akin to Amar Chitra Katha and Phantom comics. However, the animation is not as fluent as some Hollywood 2D animations like Donald Duck and Micky Mouse. Sugriv’s laughter is quixotic and Angad’s possessed evil eyes are quaint!

Everyone’s a critic in India. I think that comparisons to prior versions of Ramayana are not justifiable because Ramanand Sagar’s 1987 Ramayana was a Television phenomenon of the century. No wonder it was the most popular show during the pandemic because it conjures hope in distress. I remember life came to a standstill in the 80s, all over Inia, at 10 AM when the epic was aired. It was like an hour of holy pilgrimage. The portrayal was authentic even though the battle scenes were archaic! Legend of Hanuman is an attempt to appeal to wider global audiences who are familiar with the Avengers.

Vedic aphorisms between old Jambavan and Hanuman borrow conversation style from Kungfu Panda, Lion King, and Jungle Book. I watched it in Hindi and discussed the story with my grandson in India who calls it the “Leeegend” phonetically. The episodes that generated a lot of discussions were: “Indra’s Curse”The Mango and the Sun” and “Forgotten Truths”.

There are many easy to remember sayings:

The path of life changed in a moment.

Sometimes the egos overpower the soft relations of siblings.

Everyone shoulders their own responsibilities.

I am responsible for my own actions – Marne wale se bachane wala bada hota hai.  

Monita’s drawing of Hanuman eating a mango for her grandson.

The discussion makes it more meaningful. Although my grandchild is fluent in the Hanuman Chalisa and wears a Hanuman pendant under his SpiderMan Pajamas, the only stories he remembers are the ones where we incorporate incidents from the Avengers and relate them to our own life experiences. He confidently repeats the fables to his friends and lifts their cloud of unknowing: Hanumanji uprooted the entire mountain because his dadi had not taught him how to recognize Sanjeevani booti

My life flashes by me in a vignette. My mother chanted Hanuman Chailisa and went to the temple every Tuesday. When I was five years old, I frequented the  Durgiyana Mandir in Amritsar with my great-grandmother. When I was ten, we prayed at the Sri Hanuman temple in Jalandhar, and at fifteen, the Hanuman temple on Sion Trombay Road in Chembur was our refuge. Married at twenty and in Jaipur, I found Khole Ke Hanumanji. In my thirties, I started frequenting the Jagruteshwar temple in Vashi Gaon and the 33 feet  Bhakt Anjaneya temple in Nerul similar to the one in Thiruvananthapuram where they offer garlands of udad daal vadas as prasadam. At forty, when my mother came to visit me in the US, she dreamt of a standing Hanuman deity in Alabama. Sure enough, we found him in Birmingham Hindu Temple  When I was fifty, we found Flying Hanumanji at the Neem Karoli Ashram, in Taos, New Mexico on Hanuman Jayanti. In my sixth decade, I painted a kalamkari painting of Hanuman so that I can share the story with my grandson and ask him if the sun really tastes like a ripe mango? In my home temple, I have a small Panchmukha Hanuman idol. 

So as you can see, I did not write this review on a whim, I have spent several lifetimes preparing for this.

As far as my grandson is concerned, one day he will recognize my spin in the narrative but I hope he will comprehend that it was all in an effort to make him a devotee of Hanumanji! For this weighty reason, I give The Legend of Hanuman and A for effort!  I will certainly watch Season 2 with my family when the terrible battle ensues between Ravan, the King of darkness, and Rama, the Mahapurush.

Jai Sri Ram Jai Bajrangbali Hanuman!


Monita Soni, MD has one foot in Huntsville, Alabama, the other in her birth home India, and a heart steeped in humanity. Monita has published many poems, essays, and two books, My Light Reflections and Flow Through My Heart. You can hear her commentaries on Sundial Writers Corner WLRH 89.3FM.

The Boy Who Loved Vasant Panchami

The year was 1940. It was Magha in the Hindu lunar calendar. The Sun God was in Uttarayana. The Devas were offering their morning prayers. The portal to Heaven was open. On planet Earth, the mortals were stirring to welcome Vasant Panchami. A harvest festival flushed with food, flavors, fragrance, and fun. A fiesta of kites was coloring the skies. Bharat was in the clutches of the mercenary British empire. Bushels of gold, silver, diamonds, rubies, emeralds, and black gold(pepper) were flowing into the pipes of the Raj.

He was eleven years old. Everyone knew him in the Krishna Nagar Mohalla, Lahore. The sweet water of the Five Rivers “Punjab” flowed in his veins. His feet were a few feet above the fertile land. He was born a Sufi. A Dervish. His family called him Kaka. His sisters Rama, Sunita, Santosh, and Tripta called him Pahjii (older brother). To cousins he was Pah. His Jhaiji (ma) and Maji (grandma) called him Nikka, as they stood on the street corner at dusk, watching out for his lanky frame on a bicycle. Curly dark locks flying in the wind. He was a force to be reckoned with. His birthplace shared a wall with a Krishna temple. Bhakti of the Blue God was imbued in his soul like the Raag Basant Bahar. Always eager to help everyone. Ever ready to share stories, and always immersed in poetry. Solving riddles of life with a flick of his fingers.  He knew which neighborhood aunty made the best ladoos. Which house received bushels of guavas. Who saved a tall glass of thandai for him. Which uncle played chess and which aunty loved shahtoots (mulberries). Friends of all ages called him Vatta out of affection. He had charisma. He was carefree. Fearless.

To him, every day was a festival. Vasant Panchami was his favorite day of all. Perhaps because he was born close to Vasant. Spring was in the air. He was up at the crack of dawn. After procuring a fistful of annas (coins) from Maji, he woke up his sister Tripta. They were off like the wind on his trusty bike. They rode along Nisbet road to Gawalmandi to purchase kites. The shops were decorated with multicolored guddis, paris, and magnificent patangs. Delightful with colorful crepe paper streamers. There was enough money to buy a dozen kites, dor  (sturdy string coated with crushed glass), and wooden charkhis.

Tripta was good at striking a bargain without even trying. Melting at her enchanting smile, shopkeepers gave them five percent extra merchandise or chunga. Moreover, the merchants held their gentle father Lala Gyan Chand Kapur in high regard. The halwais of Gawalmandi were setting up shop with big kadhais of hot milk, mounds of kalakand, jalebi, and chhole-puri. Women dressed in floral pink and yellow sarees and phulkari dupattas were going to the temple for Saraswati Puja, melodious bhajans reverberated in the city center. The brother and sister stopped to get breakfast. They bought two donas of kadah – his all-time favorite – made with equal parts of cream of wheat, butter, and sugar. Tripta always got more kadah or halwa in her dona but she exchanged her dona with her brother’s. Their love soared like a yellow kite in a blue sky. Fearless.

The year is 2021. I am a grandmother now. My grandson will soon be eleven. I never knew dad at that age but in many ways, he never grew up. I wish I could have accompanied him on the streets of Lahore but he never went back after the partition of India in 1947.

Last night, I dreamt that our home in Mumbai was decorated with garlands of mango leaves and orange marigolds. Mom looked angelic in her rose pink sari and dad’s shirt was tinted in buttercream. The Krishna idol was resplendent in yellow pitambar and a fresh vyjayantimala graced his neck. Koels were singing on the mango tree, mom had planted in the courtyard. The black golden retriever was beside himself in joy. The house was bustling with festivities. Trays of fragrant saffron basmati rice, flavorful yellow pumpkin sabzi, halwa, puffed puris, dahi bhallas, sweet and tangy chutneys were being placed on the breakfast table.

Dad was sitting with his grandchildren sharing their candy and reciting his school assembly poem to them Lab Pe Aati Hai Dua (Urdu: لب پہ آتی ہے دعا بن کے تمنا میری‎), authored by Muhammad Iqbal in 1902. He regaled the children with stories about Vasant Panchami the “Shah of all Seasons”. He painted word pictures of children playing tag in billowing mustard fields. He told them about Maharaja Ranjit Singh, the founder of the Sikh Empire, who encouraged the celebration of Vasant Panchami in temples and in Gurdwaras. The good king and his beautiful queen distributed food for forty days leading to the Spring festival of Holi. Ranjit Singh organized Vasant melas and sponsored kite flying. The people of Punjab loved this boisterous activity. The sound of – Woh kata! Guddi looto! – jubilance echoed in the maidans.

In my dream, the children sat around their Nanaji( grandpa) their eyes as wide as patangs in amazement. After feasting on stories, they polished off the nutritious home-cooked meal, squabbling over the last puri. Later, Dad took them to the terrace to fly kites. There was a gentle sea breeze. The sky was colored with kites like a multicolored Matisse collage. The kaka from Lahore was having the time of his life! My son was holding his charkhi. My daughter and my nieces were spinning. I was helping Mom in the kitchen. It was a perfect morning dream. I woke up all smiles, beguiled by dad’s playfulness. Tender, mellifluous notes of Raag Basant Bahar played on my heartstrings.

I retold my lucid dream to my grandson in India, who listened to me by candlelight. We laughed. Dad had incarnated the fearless essence of Vasant. He lived his life in accordance with Iqbal’s timeless words.

 Lab pe aati hai dua ban ke Tamanna meri 

Zindagi shama ki surat ho khudaya meri

(The longing of my heart alights my lips

May my life be lit like a candle of wisdom…)

And, it was. It most certainly was. Fearless.


Monita Soni, MD has one foot in Huntsville, Alabama, the other in her birth home India and a heart steeped in humanity. Monita has published many poems, essays, and two books, My Light Reflections and Flow Through My Heart. You can hear her commentaries on Sundial Writers Corner WLRH 89.3FM.

The Reunited States: South Asians Take the Lead

The Reunited States is a powerful documentary about the rampant division in America with a difference. It offers solutions. It tracks Black Lives Matter and Susan Bro’s mission for social justice from the anniversary of the Charlottesville Unite the Right rally up until her breakthrough with Congress to pass the bipartisan Khalid Jabara-Heather Heyer NO HATE Act. The documentary is inspired by the book The Reunited States Of America: How to Bridge The Partisan Divide by Mark Gerzon, who served as a consulting producer and also appears in the film. It is directed by an Indian American Ben Rekhi and produced by Raj Krishna. It features Steven Olikara, of the Millennial Action Project; Greg Orman, an independent politician who ran for Governor of Kansas in 2018; and David and Erin Leaverton, who took a road trip to all fifty states with their three kids in an RV in an effort to understand why our nation was hurting.

The Reunited States is produced by Van Jones and Megan McCain. The film was well-received at the Cinequest Film Festival and also at the Atlanta DocuFest and the United Nations Association Film Festival. Dark Star media owns the domestic distribution rights and it will release on-demand on the 9th of February 2021′ you can view it on Amazon and iTunes platforms!

Six years leading to the current election have illustrated that we are far from united. Fractured by politics, region, race, gender, religion, education, and socioeconomic equity, our country almost came to the verge of a lost democracy on January 6, 2021. This documentary offers solutions to bridge the chasm by recruiting all citizens of the country and encouraging them to really listen to why others are hurting?

The film is easy to follow and touches on the lives of many disenfranchised Americans. The narrative empowers us to address critical issues at hand in a more coherent way. Democracy is not easy.

Division is a human problem. For a democracy to survive, we have to recognize our rights and work through differences. The Reunited States forces us to do the work. We have to acknowledge our shared dark history regarding Native Americans and African slaves. After that, we can lay our current problems on the table: racial and gender inequality; crumbling education systems; inadequate healthcare; failing education; unemployment; regional differences; crumbling infrastructure; climate change, and misinformation.

Production still from Reunited States of America.

Once everyone has their skin in the game, it may be possible to navigate difficult conversations, break psychological barriers and understand the meaning of peaceful coexistence. The film addresses that it may not be too late to realize that the “two party” political system might be misusing American dollars to keep themselves in power rather caring for the voters. Misunderstanding and othering spurs hate.

Hate is not only caustic to the person who hates but it also disseminates fear. We cannot remain United by being out of rhythm with our neighbours and trying to protect ourselves with our guns. We have to care for our injured veterans, our elderly, our sick and make sure no one feels that they have “a boot” on their neck. It will not be an easy road, but if we take one deliberate step at a time we will be able to stomp out conspiracies and make an authentic Reunited States, where  “good”, “inclusive”, “courageous” words matter.  What promises hold.

If we wear the mantle to reunite our country and save the United States, we can hope to secure a better future of our progeny. To quote Megan McCain “there is a path forward, together!”

A must watch to save our United States! I strongly recommend all South Asian Americans to get involved in this dialogue to save our democracy. If we don’t have our skin in the game, we will be sidelined.

The Reunited States team had South Asians take the lead: Ben Rekhi, Raj Krishna, and Nisha Anand. In an exclusive Q&A session with India Currents, Co-Producer Raj Krishna, a second generation Indian American, said he was unsettled about the future of the United States in the wake of troubling racist events of 2016. His involvement with this project depicting the hope and unity among everyday Americans was cathartic to his personal mounting anxiety. Raj emphasized that it’s crucial for the South Asian community to show solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement and present a cohesive front with them. Raj believes that we can draw “important lessons against social discrimination by revisiting the problems created by Indian caste system”. We can lessen the divide by realizing that “we all need one another”.

Nisha Anand, the CEO of Dreamcorps recounted her personal family story of the Indian partition. At the time of 1947 division, it was the people around her who chose to honor our shared humanity. Nisha recalls having a Muslim family swear on the Quran that they were not hiding any Hindus (her family). This neighborly act of compassion surmounted religion. What a wonderful lesson of hope! 

Anand accepts the ingrained stigma against dark skin complexions in the Indian psyche. She promotes antiracist sentiment to older South Asian Americans by patiently telling them: “I see it a little differently”. This is a good way to make them acknowledge her point of view without antagonizing them. 

After viewing the film and communicating with the filmmakers, I believe that these young South Asian Americans are using the tools of their multicultural heritage to “build bridges” and to realize the somewhat elusive American Dream! 

They have taken a good first step in the right direction. The film does not convey a biased Left versus Right political view. It just exposes why people are hurting. What disparities communities are facing? We all need to get involved at grass root levels, as students, teachers, parents and engineers, doctors, entrepreneurs and lawyers to advocate for a fair playing field. It does not take a village. In this case, it takes the whole country. Let’s all answer their call to action and walk with them. 


Monita Soni has one foot in Huntsville, Alabama, the other in her birth home India and a heart steeped in humanity. Monita has published many poems, essays, and two books, My Light Reflections and Flow Through My Heart. You can hear her commentaries on Sundial Writers Corner WLRH 89.3FM.

Faltering Speech to Youth Poet Laureate: Words Carried Amanda Gorman

Amanda Gorman’s journey is stellar! Her ability to overcome her slippery speech serves as an excellent example to the multicultural children of America. Bilingual kids often have difficulty enunciating words because they hear their parents, who were brought up in India, pronounce words differently. The pressure to code-switch in order to be understood at home and in school may be challenging. Gorman is an excellent role model for all of us because she makes her words matter and her voice heard. 

Now a beautiful 22-year-old ambassador of poetry, Amanda Gorman, raised in West L.A. by a school teacher, struggled with a speech disability. She had difficulty enunciating her “Rrrrrrs”! She faced her challenges head-on. She used the power of the written word to formulate and strengthen her thoughts. She rehearsed with full vigor and powerful poetry gushed out like a wild cataract! She became the Youth Poet Laureate of Los Angeles at 16. At 19, while at Harvard college, she was named the first National Youth Poet Laureate.

FLOTUS, Dr. Jill Biden suggested her name after hearing Amanda Gorman’s spoken word poetry at the Library of  Congress. In late December she was shortlisted to perform at the 2021 Presidential inauguration. “America United” was the theme offered by the then-incoming POTUS, Joseph R. Biden. Our nation was reeling under the COVID pandemic, economic disparity, systemic racism, and misinformation.

This call to action resonated with the heart of the young activist poet. She set to work! Gorman crafted inspirational words not to nullify or erase the harsh truths of our nation’s memory but to encourage the country to come together.  

“When the day comes we ask ourselves, where can we find light in this never-ending shade? The loss we carry, a sea we must wade. We’ve braved the belly of the beast, we’ve learned that quiet isn’t always peace, and the norms and notions of what just is, isn’t always justice. And yet the dawn is ours before we knew it, somehow we do it, somehow we’ve weathered and witnessed a nation that isn’t broken but simply unfinished.”

On the day that Senator Kamala Harris became the first Bi-racial woman to become the Vice President of America, Gorman’s words rang true!

“We, the successors of a country and a time where a skinny black girl descended from slaves and raised by a single mother can dream of becoming president only to find herself reciting for one.” 

On this historic day of January 20th, 2021, her words echoed in the hearts of millions of Americans.

“We will rise from the sunbaked South, we will rebuild, reconcile, and recover in every known nook of our nation in every corner called our country. Our diverse and beautiful will emerge battered and beautiful.“

Gorman  gleaned the spoken and written words that tattooed the news, after the horrendous insurrection of 1/6/21 and edited her poem to cry out immortal words:

“When the day comes we step out of the shade aflame and unafraid, the new dawn blooms as we free it, for there is always light if only we’re brave enough to see it, if only we’re brave enough to be it.” How can we forget this day? How can we forget these words? “But while democracy can periodically be delayed, but it can never be permanently defeated.”

Gorman’s first poetry collection including the inauguration poem “The Hill We Climb”, will be published by Viking Books. She has talent. She has fortitude. She has a personality. She may not be Robert Frost or Maya Angelou but she is just 22! 

Her beautiful words brought a surge of patriotic emotion to my heart, just like when I hear poems like Vande Mataram by Bankim Chandra Chatterjee. I hope she can inspire young writers to walk in her words. It would be an honor to breathe the air she is breathing.


Monita Soni has one foot in Huntsville, Alabama, and the other in her birth home India. Writing is a contemplative practice for her. Monita has published many poems, essays, and two books: My Light Reflections and Flow Through My Heart. You can hear her commentaries on Sundial Writers Corner WLRH 89.3FM.

What I Admire About RBG

Supreme Court justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg succumbed to complications of pancreatic cancer on September 18, 2020 but Justice Ginsburg will be alive in the annals of American law. She paved the way for American women, one case at a time.

Ginsberg co-founded the Women’s Right Law Reporter, a pioneering law journal at Rutgers where she taught. She advocated as a volunteer attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union’s Women’s Rights Union. In the mid 1970s she argued half a dozen gender discrimination cases before the high court winning all but one. Ginsberg was appointed as a judge in the U.S. Court of Appeals for District of Columbia by President Jimmy Carter in 1980. Her appointment as the second woman on the US Supreme court in 1993 (guided by Hilary Clinton) was one of the best undertakings by President Bill Clinton.  

The Supreme Court justice who gave an unbiased ear to every argument had a famous quote: Every now and then it helps to be a little deaf!

From the vast ocean of evidence, she created her life. She is a beacon of hope for every woman and is a true American hero. She changed history through her landmark cases and built precedence by methodically arguing for gender equality based on the Fourteenth Amendment. 

And now, every woman can claim equal access to education, equal pay, equal military allowance, access contraception, take maternity leave, cut a man’s hair, buy a drink, administer an estate, serve on the jury, and get equal social security benefits. The list is formidable and speaks of her equally intimidating stance on these issues! She wiped close to 200 laws that discriminated against women off the books. She believed that “women would have achieved true equality when men share with them the responsibility of bringing up the next generation.”

The personality traits I admire of hers:

  • A brilliant mind always at work
  • A rational minimalist
  • Her slow deliberate speech 
  • Measured sentences spoken with thought
  • Total dedication to work 
  • Her commitment to get the law right
  • Steel trap of a memory and ability to recall every word
  • Profound personal dignity 
  • An innate sense of justice
  • Her “ cool” connection with the Millenials as the “notorious” RBG”
  • Her crusade on gender equality
  • Her sense of humor “Ginsburned”!
  • Her warmth towards her staff, colleagues, friends
  • Her determination to remain healthy despite  multiple cancers
  • She showed up to work every day and handled her full load
  • She was a crusader for gender equality 
  • Her zeal to work with her trainer

When I look upon the black and white photo of Ruth Bader Ginsburg as a two-year-old, I can tell that she will be one of the most influential women of this century. I think the best costume for girls this Halloween and for years to come will be RGB in her black robes and white beaded collar!

The death of Justice Ginsburg at this tumultuous time is a phenomenal loss to America. There never will be another like her. Her death leaves a great political void. Chief Justice John Roberts no longer holds the controlling vote in cases cleaved right in the middle of liberal-conservative lines. RGB ruminated on this and her last fervent wish was, “not be replaced until a new president is installed.”

It behooves the people of the United States to make their views heard before the election and uphold her wish! There are too many transformative cases like Obamacare that lay precariously in the hands of the new Supreme Court. Our “notorious” RBG was curious, laborious, and glorious in her life. Let’s work hard to honor this courageous Supreme Court Judge.


Monita Soni grew up in Mumbai, India, and works as a pathologist in Decatur Alabama. She is well known for her creative nonfiction and poetry pieces inspired by family, faith, food, home, and art. She has written two books: My Light Reflections and Flow through my Heart. She is a regular contributor to NPR’s Sundial Writers Corner.

IC Interviews Abhishek Bachchan on New Prime Show

As a prelease to Breathe: Into the Shadows on Amazon Prime, India Currents’ writer, Monita Soni, had the privilege of exclusively interviewing Abhishek Bachchan via Media House. The actor shared his personal insights about the series:

Monita Soni: Hi Abhishek, we are all eagerly awaiting your digital debut in Breathe: Into the Shadows. The trailer looks stunning and very edgy! Please tell us a little about this series?

Abhishek Bachchan: Thank you! Well, we are about to release an Amazon Prime original series which drops later tonight in India! It is the story of my character, Avinash Sabharwal, his wife Abha, and their young six-year-old daughter who sadly gets kidnapped. And the kidnapper, instead of money for ransom, asks and makes Avinash commit murder in order to save his daughter. So the basic theme is how far are you willing to go for your family and for your loved ones. It’s a wonderful, emotional story. Although it has been built as a psychological thriller, I like to think of it as a family drama. I really enjoyed playing this fantastic complex and nuanced role. I’m very anxious to know what people are going to think about it. 

MK: Tell me one thing, how did you prepare for this particular role, it is a very challenging role. You have to commit a murder to save your daughter’s life. How did you get into the skin of your character?

AB: Well, there was an extensive prep that went into this role. Because, what was really nice, Monitaji, is that as compared to film, in which we get 2-3 hours to tell our story and justify it, over here we get almost 12 hours (because there are 12 episodes). So you get that much more material that you get to work on and that is very exciting for me. This is the first time you have been given the liberty of time (as an actor).

MK: Did you have to change your physical look for the role?

AB: No, thankfully I didn’t. I had to get rid of my famous beard look that I have had. 

MK: Well that suits you! Do you think playing this role has changed you emotionally, or do you look at life a little differently now?

AB: Well, you know, like I told you, the basic theme of the show is such that it does beg you to ask certain questions of yourself. For example, how far would you go for your loved ones? It’s a very nice question to ask on face value, but it is very difficult to put in practice, that’s when the problem starts seeping in.

MK: I think the kind of bonds we share in India with our family/children are special and (this role) would put a lot of emphasis on that aspect when we see this streaming. I think it’s our roots and love which make us think in a particular manner.

AB: Yes. Very possible! And I will agree with you on that.

We have admired his talent in numerous Bollywood hits for the last 20 years and we get to see him once more in a very different role. I am partial to his light-hearted roles with his own unique, heart-warming, comedic timing. But after talking to him, I could not wait to binge-watch this series and see him perform in this distinctive genre.

The trailer of Breathe: Into the Shadows, has a Quentin Tarantino like feel and the series delivers cyclic, edgy, cinematography. There is a fragile backstory about family bonds and the meaning of love and nurture is emphasized. After binging, I have replayed the interview in my mind, and now am even more impressed by Abhishek’s deep interpretation of a complex and flawed character. I can see why having more time in filming this series helped with character development which can be seen through his facial expressions and mannerisms. Abhishek admitted to reading a lot of plays at a young age and this series pulls from theater as a nod to Hamlet’s revenge.

The script tackles a myriad of awkward human behaviors linked to developmental psychology. And as a physician, I like the interplay between characters and their unscripted awkwardness. Nithya Menen’s performance as a young mother whose child has been kidnapped for several months is heart-wrenching and Amit Sadh’s performance as a poker-faced police officer, Kabir Sawant, is noteworthy. I also liked Hrishikesh Joshi’s character, as Kamble with a ”b”! 

The last episode promises that the story is to be continued…To take slight liberty as a fan, I misquote: “Breathe is like money and I can’t wait to spend it!

Wishing Abhishek Bachchan a quick recovery from COVID and the entire team of Breathe: Into the Shadows a resounding success.

Monita Soni grew up in Mumbai, India, and works as a pathologist in Decatur Alabama. She is well known for her creative nonfiction and poetry pieces inspired by family, faith, food, home, and art. She has written two books: My Light Reflections and Flow through my Heart. She is a regular contributor to NPR’s Sundial Writers Corner.

A Father Sees the Sugar Cube Moments

On the first of January 2016, our girls party drove up to the Gateway of India and entered the heritage Taj hotel for a quick immersion in the grandeur of a bygone era. 

“Let’s do high tea, it’s tradition!” I told my daughter and niece. 

We sprinted through the lush corridors of the hotel and floated up the cascading carpeted staircase. We caught a glimpse of ourselves in the long mirrors. To our chagrin, we were not dressed in our Sunday best. But we “ragamuffin trio” shrugged our elegant shoulders because the sparkle in our eyes more than made up for our casual attire.

The hostess of the Sea lounge looked at us and asked if we had a reservation. “

“No,” I said, “but I used to frequent the Sea lounge with my dad when I was a teenager.” 

“Surely,” said the well-trained employee, without blinking an eye and took us to a window seat in the restaurant. 

We sat down. I gazed out at the glimmer of sea. The silver waters stretched over the teeming heads of a madding crowd of Mumbaikers and their guests on the street below. In the seventies of my childhood, Mumbai was not so crowded!

I studied the scene in front of me like viewing a painting in a gallery. The boat with ochre and emerald trim and a hint of red. White billowing sails competing to mingle with fluffy cloud gestures in the western sky. The barely perceptible boats far away on the horizon, bobbing peacefully on the waves invoked tranquility.

With a great difficulty of a child leaving the sight of her companion, I turned my gaze inside. I looked around me. I was alone at the table. From the snowy white linen, my eyes jumped to a Blue China sugar bowl heaped with perfect cubes of crystallized sugar. 

Transported to my childhood, I took a cube and let it sit on my tongue. As it melted, I remembered how I would gingerly advance my fingers towards the sugar bowl as a child. At the same time, cleverly gauging how many I could stuff into my fist without catching the eyes of either parent in one go. Dad would be sipping his tea and mom would be pouring her cup. In that busy moment, when the spoon was turning, I would plan my sugar swoop.

Me and my younger sister with sugar cubes in our mouth.

I would manage to pilfer two or three of these extraordinary sweets with great ease. I would surreptitiously stuff them into my mouth and then try to conjure an expression of innocence. Alas, the two sharp bulges in my, then smaller cheeks, would give me away! My sister would take pleasure in my failure.

As I tried to assimilate the cubes, I was amazed at how much time they took to dissolve in my mouth in those days. My countenance would melt in embarrassment and I would beg for mercy at my mothers’ rebuking gaze. My mother prided herself in instructing us on good behavior. The tension would break as my dad would chuckle and say, “trying to avoid the horse’s eye, eh?”

I never understood that expression because there was no horse in this gathering! But I always obliged him to be at the butt of his joke. Then I would hide my face in my hands, but not for long because he would smile his dazzling smile and we would all be hypnotized by his presence. His lips would form his sweet singing signature moue that I have never been able to emulate and he would sing:  “Rum jhum rum jhum, (2) Chhupo na Chhupo na, oh pyari sajaniya, sajan se Chhupo na…

I brush a tear and listen to the sounds of the ocean. I can hear dad’s laughter rise and fall on the waves.  I catch myself singing the same song…

The waiter appears at my elbow, discreetly ignoring my faux pas of pilfering sugar cubes, “Would you like some champagne, miss?”

Monita Soni grew up in Mumbai, India, and works as a pathologist in Decatur Alabama. She is well known for her creative nonfiction and poetry pieces inspired by family, faith, food, home, and art. She has written two books: My Light Reflections and Flow through my Heart. She is a regular contributor to NPR’s Sundial Writers Corner.

Mother Says So…

A mother’s love is that divine gift that enables a child to do their best.  Mother is not a noun but a verb that personifies unselfish love. We are all connected to our mothers through a special bond even after the umbilical cord is cut. Sooner or later we all start emulating our maternal traits, some of us more than others. 

I remember my mother every morning when I wake up. I open my eyes to my palms and recite the morning prayer. During the day the Rudraksh beads of practical wisdom from her rosary guide my actions. At night when my head touches the pillow, it is her voice that calls upon me to surrender myself to the creator: “Om Hari Sharna”.

I am fortunate like many of you to have a very loving, kind, courageous, talented, and devoted mother. How I wish I could be with her on this Mother’s Day but I cannot travel to India because of the COVID pandemic. It breaks my heart but assembling the pieces of my love for her into a collage, I share this writing as an homage to all our mothers. In my conversations with friends and family on the phone, FaceTime, Facebook, Instagram, and zoom, I have gathered stories about mothers all over the world.

One of my friends said that her mother has a rule, “Never leave the house without saying I love you to your brothers and sisters. You don’t know when you would be together again.” She also said, “Contentment is a difficult virtue but not unattainable” What good advice.

Another lady’s mother went by, “Beauty is what beauty does!”

One mother bade her child to stay organized and she obeyed by keeping an immaculate home. 

A lovely southern belle shared her mother’s advice: “Always be polite and well dressed”. Your good manners can take you around the world. 

My aunt advised her daughters not to do everything themselves even if they knew how to do it. Let your children learn for themselves. Excellent advice, I wish I would have heeded this one. Because of her teaching, my friends and cousins have become experts at delegating their chores to others. Very convenient indeed! 

My aunt always had useful culinary advice. This came in handy before instant cooking and googling recipes was a fad. She said, “If you don’t want to spend your time in the kitchen, rolling rotis for your brood, just make them all rice eaters.” Although I love a fresh chapati with ghee on occasions, we generally cook rice to go with our vegetables.

My son admits that I taught him to be polite to everyone. I think somewhere, in all the telling of stories and reciting poems during his childhood, my sweetness might have taken hold in his nature.

My mother told me not to openly voice my opinion about others but I have not followed this advice. In my personal life, I am known to speak my mind, like my dad. My daughter overlooks my stubborn streak most of the time and we enjoy creative activities together. I paint and write and she creates my Instagram and web pages. My daughter is an honest critic. When I really need advice I go to her.

My grandson had some interesting inputs. He said, “My mother has taught me to say thank you, sorry and to cover coughs and sneezes”.  All helpful tips indeed.

I asked him what I had taught him? He said, “To say Hanjee instead of Haan.” I still think that he does not understand that it is meant as a sign of respect to others and not a mere grammatical appendage that he constantly forgets. 

My mother also said that save your money because ultimately it will help you in any dire circumstance. This is so true in the time of the pandemic when so many of us have to rely on our savings for food, shelter, healthcare, and helping the needy.

Mother taught a lot through her actions. She started her day early, in “Brahma Muhurta”. This good habit gave her an early start into bathing, prayers, gardening, cooking, and reading the morning newspaper. By the time other members of the house woke up, breakfast was ready on the table. She knew that a way to everyone’s heart was through their stomachs. We had fresh food every day: parathas and pickles, poori aloo, omelet toast, upama, idli sambar, and seviyan. 

At home, we kids did not have a natural inclination to learn cooking or help her in domestic chores. She never complained working on her on but was most particular about her afternoon siesta. She took a thirty-minute nap every day and no one could disturb that. We kids squirmed and protested but that was a ritual we all had to follow. Mother was very determined but her effect was gentle and angelic. She never laughed or cried loudly. Very ladylike was her expression and perhaps because of that she has a smooth unwrinkled face to this day. She was able to sense my dad’s moods and always cautioned us, kids, to behave accordingly. We had wonderful conversations at the dinner table which are dearly missed but I don’t miss having to gulp down spinach with water.

My mother often said, “Apne Hath Jagannath.”

As I was explaining the meaning of this cryptic phrase to my friends, I realized that my mother literally took my hands and put them to action. She gave me the gift of an industrious life when she presented me with a sketchbook and colors. Wherever we went, we carried our hobby bag with us.

Ever since then, I have tried to create my own world through medicine, art, and writing. Creativity is my life mantra. I gaze upon the elegant visage of my mother as she tries to bless me by touching my forehead through the phone, I feel humbled. There are not enough words, phrases, poems, or songs in this language that would encompass my feelings of deep gratitude for my mother. But I don’t have to…

There is a woman in the house

Her breath rises and falls

She rests her head on my shoulder 

We both read from the same page

Our eyes close

We hold kindness

We are happy…

Monita Soni grew up in Mumbai, India, and works as a pathologist in Decatur Alabama. She is well known for her creative nonfiction and poetry pieces inspired by family, faith, food, home, and art. She has written two books: My Light Reflections and Flow through my Heart. She is a regular contributor to NPR’s Sundial Writers Corner.