Tag Archives: San Jose

Chasing Memories Inside of Santa Clara County’s Desi Grocery Stores

Masala Heroes is a three-part series on Santa Clara County’s South Asian (Desi) grocery stores and their contribution to their community’s health. This first article provides a resource map of all the Desi grocery stores and Desi restaurants of Santa Clara County in 2021.

I’m exhausted after my Kathak dance class but Ma is determined to finish her errands at Kumud Groceries, the Desi store which is now Trinethra on Pearl Avenue. She needs lauki (calabash), karela (bitter gourd), and dhaniya (cilantro) to cook for the week. I try to haggle. “Leave me at home and then go to Safeway. It’s two minutes from our house,” I whine. I’m tired and I don’t want to be seen wearing my Kathak kurtha. Ma tries to bribe me with Falooda and samosas. “You know that I can’t get everything I need at Safeway,” she says. Finally, she promises that I can pick out the Bollywood DVD rental for our family movie night. We strike a deal.

Perched at the intersection of Pearl Avenue and Branham Lane, Trinethra is the quintessential Desi (ethnic) grocery store that emblemizes the sights, sounds, scents, and feelings of South Asia. The bustle inside is reminiscent of the corner bazaar with densely packed vegetables, packets of Kurkure hanging from walls, Parle-G biscuits to pair with chai, and the constant chitter-chatter in some South Asian dialect that, even if you don’t understand, has an intimate warmth. Bay Area immigrants gravitate to their local Desi grocery store to find items essential to their ethnic diet, but they leave with more than just the items in their shopping cart. 

Asha Panday does almost all her shopping online, except for when she makes the long drive to the India Cash and Carry in Sunnyvale. “I go because I want to feel the vegetables, smell the spices, and look at all the stuff. [It] gives me the feeling of being back in India. I used to live in the Santa Cruz mountains and made the 50-mile trip every month. Now I live in San Francisco and still make the 50-mile trip.”

Touching the methi (fenugreek leaves), smelling fragrant MTR spice blends, spotting the familiar Desi face on the Vatika coconut hair-oil bottles — these are the things that provide Panday, and other Desi immigrants, with a sense of solace and belonging, which is invaluable to Desi mental and cultural health.

When Susheela Narayan visits her local Desi grocery store, she’s taken back to the times spent with her father. The combination of fresh Indian vegetables neatly stacked up and the ubiquitous smell of different spices that pervades the store takes me back 50 years to memories of going to the Indian bazaars of my youth with my father. It’s oddly comforting, especially during the pandemic.” 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, a time when South Asian immigrants were separated from their families — some fell ill and many had to grieve in isolation — the 24 Desi grocery stores in Santa Clara County were lifelines to familial memories and home. These Desi grocery stores have continued to serve a population of 1.7 million people, of which 6.6% (112,200) are Indian (2010 census data doesn’t specify other South Asian demographics). Desi grocery stores, small but mighty, are imperative as mediums for diasporic cultural knowledge and diet, for a heterogeneous and robust Desi culture, and for the proliferation of other Desi businesses. Time and time again, we see cultural dilution as a consequence of assimilation. The variety and the sheer number of Desi grocery stores in Santa Clara County are unique, recent, and fragile. These stores are the heroes of the South Bay Desi community, actualizing the very identities that define the people accessing them. South Asians and others alike must sustain these businesses as a means for cultural preservation. 

After the 1924 Asian Exclusion Act was reversed and the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 was passed, South Asians on H1B visas moved into the hills of Silicon Valley. As a new immigrant base in California, they were subjected to inequitable access to ethnic food and an undercurrent of American xenophobia. Many assimilated and ethnic foods were replaced by food seen as “western”, thus more acceptable. Restrictive immigration policies only allowed for those with ‘highly specialized knowledge and a ‘college degree’ to enter and work in the U.S. under the H1B visa. Devoid of recognizable language, family, and culture, Desi immigrants sought comfort and belonging. It was this desire to grasp at the cultural ties from which the nascent Desi food culture was born. Food was the vehicle to keep a part of their culture in a  foreign land and the Desi grocery store was a means to that end.     

“It felt like home a little bit. It had the same ingredients…the same things you put in your stomach, the same aromas, and you even hear familiar dialects in the background.” Hardeep Setia fondly remembers his visits to Singh’s Video, a grocery store in San Jose that has long since shut down. Setia’s piquant reflection distinctly calls upon the feeling of community, one of many whispered tales that are shelved within the aisles of the ethnic grocery store. A first-generation Punjabi-Gujarati American, Setia has lived in San Jose since he was seven years old and frequents the Desi grocery stores that are sprinkled throughout the South Bay. 

Srishti Prabha outside of Kamal Spice House in South San Jose.

Inside the Desi Grocery Store

“Food becomes the symbol of a people,” says Dr. Lok Siu, a Professor of Ethnic Studies at the University of California Berkeley who studies the correlation between culture and food. The tangential use of misinformed terminology like “curry” and the constant reduction of Indian food to “Chicken Tikka Masala” propagates stereotyping of a multi-lingual, multi-religious, multi-faceted, centuries-old culture. Dr. Siu poignantly reminds us that, “Food becomes a way of articulating distance, othering, and discrimination.”

As recently as August 19, 2021, Gene Weingarten’s Washington Post opinion article disparagingly referred to Indian food as food that “you can’t make me eat,” inaccurately stating that it was an entire cuisine based on one spice (a statement that was later retracted) — an egregious misstep he wouldn’t have made had he entered a Desi grocery store even once.  

Even before setting foot in Kamal Spice House in San Jose, images of a variety of DEEP’s products, frozen samosas, pickles, and spices, decorate the windows. The DEEP overplayed commercial catchphrase — “Khao to jaano” (only if you eat, you’ll know) — comes to mind. Crates of Alphonso mangoes, a Desi favorite, and local newspapers (India-West) greet shoppers at the door. 

Once inside, to the right, fresh produce is available in abundance at low prices. It’s common to see shoppers feel the rough, green bhindi (okra), placing those deemed suitably supple, in their carts. The keen Desi eye scans for vegetables and fruits that are elusive in non-Desi supermarkets — baingan (Indian eggplant), parwal (pointed gourd), haree mirch (green chili), moringa (drumstick), nariyal (coconut), sem (green beans), dhaniya (coriander/cilantro), tindora (scarlet gourd), and more. Against the wall, an overwhelming selection of 10-pound bags with brown rice, basmati rice, long-grain rice, and jasmine rice are stacked against the wall. 

For those unsure of what to cook, how to cook, or short on time, frozen goods — parathas, naans, pre-made meals — are in the first aisle for a quick stop shop. Fridges line most of the back perimeter with more pre-made meals, halal meats, paneer, dosa and idli batter, sweets, and other dairy products. 

Sujata Ramaswamy drives with her family from Emeryville to get her groceries in the South Bay. Today, she comes to Kamal Spice House with a list. Her shopping cart is brimming with dals and spices, a methi leaf peeking out between the packets. She could be in and out in 15 minutes, instead, she spends 30 minutes inside, casually strolling through the aisles and looking at all the options. It’s very relatable,” she says, “And more comforting because you can use Hindi. It’s also a little nostalgic because we lived in India for a while. In the beginning, when we came, it felt easier to go to the Indian store. We didn’t know anyone, so it’s that familiarity that helped.” 

One side of an aisle is mainly spices – jeera (cumin), haldi (turmeric), kashmiri mirch, lal mirch (red chili), chaat masalas, mustard seeds, cumin seeds, curry pathas (curry leaf), panch phoran (five spices), and more. Another side of an aisle is for the many dried dals – moong, kabuli chana, masoor, urad – with a combination of Hindi and English packaging.  

The spice aisle at Kamal Spice House in South San Jose.

And jostling for space within the stores are also different types of chai, biscuits, Haldiram bhujia blends/snacks, oils and ghee, pickles, incense, puja items. Shoppers’ eyes dart back and forth trying to decide between all the options. 

An entryway to the left leads to an in-house food stall which emanates with the delicious scents of freshly made pakoras, vadas, and chaat. In classic Desi bazaar fashion, even the space behind the counter is packed with items like oils, shampoos, and other Patanjali products. Desi goods are in every nook and cranny at Kamal Spice House, it’s almost hard to believe you aren’t in India.

San Jose resident Narasimhan Kasthuri puts it best, “​​The kind of food we eat is available only in our [Desi grocery] stores. Though Costco is selling some of them, our needs are still unmet.” Though big conglomerate supermarkets are convenient and carry some overpriced ethnic goods, they don’t have the imagery, the language, the known embedded in their very blueprint. Kamal Spice House and other Desi grocery stores in Santa Clara County archive memories, generational dietary knowledge, dialect, and cultural practice. Ethnic grocery stores function as thresholds to organic introductions of a cultural minority to neighborhoods. 

Nikita, who didn’t want us to include her last name, finds that shopping at Kamal Spice House bridges the 8,200 miles that separate California and India: “Some flavors are linked to childhood memories and comfort. Products from the store allow me to relive that.” 

Around the Desi Grocery Store 

Ali’s Driving School, a room for rent, Shashi’s threading and waxing business are just a few of the flyers that adorn the outer facade of Trinethra in South San Jose. Surrounding Desi businesses in SCC find a space on the walls at the Desi grocery stores. This is a common phenomenon, says Dr. Lok Siu, “[Desi grocery stores] help with the expansion of restaurants and other ethnic businesses.” 

Desi grocery stores in five major cities in Santa Clara County – Cupertino, Mountain View, Sunnyvale, Santa Clara, and San Jose – spurred the evolution of other Desi businesses such as restaurants, temples, wedding service providers, clothing, catering, and publications. 

“India Currents magazine was always in the corner [of the grocery store] and I remember my dad would pick it up,” Ritika Kumar (25) recalls and smiles — a memory meandering between the spice shelves, a dispersing aroma. “I was 10 and I have this very vivid memory of opening an India Currents magazine and they had interviewed the chef of Amber. I remember that butter chicken recipe!” Kumar’s story is evocative, bringing forth the remnants of a physical print version of India Currents (now fully digital) and the content within it, one which elevated Desi restaurants (Amber – one of the first Indian fine dining restaurants in the Bay Area) and their cuisine. 

Creating pipelines for the distribution of South Asian goods and services, Desi grocery stores are the key to burgeoning Desi entrepreneurship and wealth creation. Jasmine Patel, a third-generation Gujarati-American, is part of a household of Desi entrepreneurs. “My grandfather’s brother came in the late 60’s as a student. He and his other brother got jobs as engineers in the U.S. and brought their families. I think at that time non-work-related visas were easier to get. Once family members became citizens, they were able to open businesses. That’s how my family began opening [Indian] warehouses and [Indian] grocery stores in the Bay Area and across the U.S. My aunt was the previous owner of Kumud (now Trinethra in South San Jose) Groceries.” 

Just across the Santa Clara County line, Santa Cruz County has just one Desi grocery store, showing how unevenly ethnic grocery stores are distributed. As a graduate student at UC Santa Cruz, Arindam Sarma attempted to replicate his family’s diet. It proved to be a little harder. He comments that “in Santa Cruz, there is exactly one shop in the entire city. It is this tiny one-room shop that has Indian clothes, Indian music, Indian food. It was the only place in the entire city to get spices at a reasonable price. Although I couldn’t always get all items I needed at this store, it was nice to have somewhere to get Indian ingredients.”

The map below indicates the high density of South Asian grocery stores in Santa Clara County and the restaurants surrounding them. Desi grocery stores facilitate a well-rounded, inclusive understanding of the various diasporic differences within the community, as can be deduced from the origins of the cuisine offered in Santa Clara County – Uttar Pradesh, Chettinad, Chennai, Mysore, Punjab, Gujarat, Pakistan, Bengal, Andhra Pradesh. Within the map find locations of active grocery stores with locations, quotes, and transit lines. 

Future of the Desi Grocery Stores

India Currents conducted a survey on the significance of Desi grocery stores in Santa Clara County. We received 106 responses from a cross-section of society, 86 of which were from people in Santa Clara County. Despite people talking about how meaningful Desi grocery stores were to them, 69% of South Asians who regularly access the Desi grocery stores responded to the question, “Why is coming to this grocery store meaningful to you?”, with “no story”, “unsure”, “nearby”, or that it had “fresh vegetables.” 

Ancestral knowledge of nutrition, health, and cooking practices becomes harder to impart in immigrant communities: partly because of the removal of the individual from a consistent cultural environment where one is inundated with knowledge from aunts, uncles, and neighbors; and partly because of the limited access to ingredients. 95% of people accessing the Desi grocery stores are South Asians in search of traditional vegetables, spices, and snacks. New and old immigrants sustain the ethnic groceries stores with their subconscious cravings for the familiar. However, a glaring discrepancy appears when surveying the Desi grocery stores in SCC — the next generation of Desi Americans appears to be absent. Have the cravings shifted from roti and aloo bhujia to burger and fries?

In-depth interviews with 10 Desi-Americans, ages 25-32, living in the Bay Area, reveal that nine of them intellectually understand the existence of Desi grocery stores as cultural hubs. Their memories are graphic and vivid, communicating a universal childhood experience of seeking spicy snacks, DVDs, and music in these spaces. But eight out ten of them say, they don’t frequent these stores, unless they are running errands for their parents. 

Sarma (26), a second-generation Assamese-American, recalls the formative moment in his adult years when he went to Trinethra: “When I was a little older…my mom asked me to go pick up rice. This is the first time I had gone to the store to do a grocery run on my own…So I go to the store and I’m like, rice shouldn’t be too hard to get. In Safeway, there is one area with one type of rice. I go to the [Indian grocery store] and there are walls of rice. Different kinds everywhere. And I think to myself, which rice do I get? There are 50 types. What have I been eating for most of my life?” 

Patel (29) relays a similar experience of “being told to go get something and being very lost – not knowing what it looks like. Something ground in a bag?” 

Fortunately for Sarma and Patel, a quick call to a parent or a chat with the grocery store employee can solve their problem. These stories expose the crucial role of generational knowledge, the bearers of which are either family members, or those working in the store sourcing the ingredients needed for an ethnic diet. Nine out of the 10 respondents relied on their immediate family for ancestral food-related knowledge.

Radhika Swaminarayan (28), a first-generation Gujarati-American, adds more context to her experience after having lived in places like Seaside, Oregon with little to no access to Desi grocery stores: “Growing up, my family moved a lot. Wherever I lived, [my family] was the only Indian family in the area. It wasn’t until I came to San Jose that I embraced being Indian. I had no one to share those experiences with before .” Swaminarayan finds that, in her experience, the higher density of Desi grocery stores promotes tolerance for ethnic diversity. In San Jose, she feels she can be her most authentic self – wearing madailu (symbolic Gujarati jewelry), eating pau bhaji, and drinking Bournvita (Indian milk supplement) every morning. 

All of the first and second-generation Desis said that they would feel a “loss of belonging” if Desi grocery stores were inaccessible. But while the next generation of Desi-Americans intellectualizes the importance of ethnic grocery stores as cultural hubs, they aren’t shopping there. “I do not cook Indian food. I’ll go to the [Desi grocery store] with my mom sometimes but I usually don’t go on my own,” Patel notes. She appreciates how Desi grocery stores are invariably also cultural hubs. 

As children of Desi immigrants and their progeny become further removed from the roots of their heritage, the Desi grocery stores in Santa Clara County serve as consistent lifelines to their identities and lineage.

On a recent COVID grocery run to Trinethra, Dimple Ben, the manager, says to me, “Is bar ma ne bheja?” (This time your mom sent you?) She knows that my brother and I have been alternating grocery shifts for our parents. She recognizes me even behind my mask, I feel special. Once inside, I try to make my grocery run quick but that proves to be difficult. I video call my mom to clarify which dal she wants. What used to feel like a chore, now is enjoyable as I pick out items from the Desi grocery store that my stomach desires. Falooda kulfi ice cream goes into my car. My mouth waters at the thought of bhindi bhujia and so in goes the okra. During the pandemic, ma and I have been exploring recipes together, so I try to find the spices for Paneer 65. As I check out, I find comfort in knowing that I always find Dimple Ben and her no-nonsense demeanor at Trinethra. She has seen it all — from my Kathak kurthas and petulant attitude to my first solo grocery store trip and numerous questions. She hands me my groceries and I come to the realization that she is my Masala Hero. 

This article was produced as a project for the USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism’s 2021 California Fellowship.

Srishti Prabha is the Managing Editor at India Currents and has worked in low-income/affordable housing as an advocate for children, women, and people of color. She is passionate about diversifying spaces, preserving culture, and removing barriers to equity.

This article couldn’t have been written without the help of Editor Kavitha Cardoza.


Left to Right: Artists in 'Rivers of India' video, Amrit Ramnath and Bombay Jayashri. (Image provided by Kanniks Kannikeswaran)

A Musical Tribute to the Rivers of India Features a Bay Area Chorus

Covid has hit India hard. What started in one part of the world last year, ended up in another part of the world this year. It is a challenging period in human history. Collective global health is on top of all our minds. This period in time has unleashed an invisible, yet, mighty virus that has brought our community to its knees. 

Let us do every bit that we can to help mitigate this suffering. Let us support organizations that are doing the work on the ground. And as we get back to ‘normal’ let us resolve to be mindful – and unite as a kinder, gentler planet.

Rivers of India is a song that evokes exactly this response – it carries a message about ‘water consciousness’ and the consequences of unfettered exploitation of natural resources.

The video tells the story of Indias regard and reverence towards rivers, the growing dependence of an increasing population on rivers, human exploitation of water resources, and its consequences. The video ends with a message of hope and a call to humanity to unite and to work towards protecting our precious water resources.  

Internationally renowned composer, Dr. Kanniks Kannikeswaran released the music video titled Rivers of India on Earthday 2021. Featured in the video are musical celebrities Padmashri Bombay Jayashri, Kaushiki Chakraborty, Amrit Ramnath, Rishith Desikan, and Sai Shravanam (Production) along with a supporting virtual chorus of committed singers from around the world. The video is released by the International Center for Clean Water, IIT Madras with the objective of creating awareness about our precious water bodies. 

The music was composed just prior to the pandemic and the production commenced in September 2020. It was a collaborative process, with the composer sharing ‘Logic Pro’ sessions on Dropbox, and the Chennai music production team compiling the artists’ recordings in the midst of the pandemic.

Kaushiki Chakraborty and her son recorded in Kolkata, while the 50 singers from all over the world including many from the Bay Area, CA, recorded in their respective cities. The tracks were assembled and the soundscape was created and mixed down by Sai Shravanam at Resound India Studios. Video captures from Chennai, Kolkata, and the United States were integrated into the final music video.  

Dr. Kanniks Kannikeswaran in a still from 'Rivers of India' video. (Image provided by Kanniks Kannikeswaran)
Dr. Kanniks Kannikeswaran in a still from ‘Rivers of India’ video. (Image provided by Kanniks Kannikeswaran)

Rivers of India is a tribute to the timeless spirit of India that literally accords a revered status to the life-sustaining water bodies. The music strings together the names of rivers across India and it also includes an iconic line from the Tamil classic, Silappathikaram.  

This music video is the brainchild of Dr. Kannikeswaran. He is a visionary music composer, educator based in the United States and is known for his pioneering work in raga-based choral, orchestral music. All of his productions are consistent with his vision of building bridges across communities, celebrating the message of the interconnectedness of all of life. Kannikeswaran has been described as a renaissance personality who effortlessly traverses diverse disciplines such as music, spirituality, and innovation.

“It is important to call out the rivers by name,” says the composer, “We are inheritors of a legacy that held water resources in the highest regard.”

“The Center for Clean Water hopes that the video will create the much-needed awareness and prompt global audiences to visit our website and figure out how they can be a part of the solution,” says E. Nandakumar, the CEO of the ICCW. The ICCW is an initiative of IIT Madras with a team of water professionals connecting industry with academia. 


Srishti Prabha is the Managing Editor at India Currents and has worked in low-income/affordable housing as an advocate for children, women, and people of color. She is passionate about diversifying spaces, preserving culture, and removing barriers to equity.


San Jose’s Ash Kalra Gets An ‘A’ On Climate Change

San Jose Asemblymember Ash Kalra (CA-27) got an ‘A’ from the California League of Conservation Voters (CLCV), winning a 99% rating as a climate change champion when CLVC released its annual California Environmental Scorecard this year.

Unfortunately, the state of California got a dismal C.

The Scorecard is a comprehensive analysis of where the state’s leaders stand on the environment and climate change.

Kalra was named Nature Defender  by CLVC for championing AB 3030 in the state assembly, to preserve biodiversity and access to nature. He  was recognized as “someone the environmental community can always count on to be the progressive leader and environmental champion that California needs.”

Kalra’s  track record supporting a range of environmental bills on the assembly floor (buffer zoners for oil and gas safety, clean cars, and transparency within the Department of Toxic Substances Control), earned a 100% rating for two consecutive years (2017 and 2018), and a 99% in 2019.

Most recently he co-authored AB 1289, with Assemblymember Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica), to help smaller family farms stay in business by transitioning from animal agriculture to sustainable plant-based agriculture.

Kalra stated that CLCV was his ‘go-to group “ for environmental leadership because they were helping combat the climate crisis with new, innovative proposals designed “to strengthen clean air and water for our communities.”

Mary Creasman, CLCV CEO, said that though California had a reputation for being progressive, 2020 was largely a year of ‘climate change inaction.’

Only 11 (nine Assemblymembers and two Senators) out of 120 legislators scored 100%.

Governor Gavin Newsom earned a score of 87% despite California’s poor track record on climate change initiatives last year, only because he issued executive orders  at the year end to conserve biodiversity and boost climate resilience

CLVC said that the climate crisis took a back seat in Sacramento last year. For the first time, the annual Scorecard revealed that 70% of the California Legislature accepted campaign contributions from oil companies and major oil industry Political Action Committees (PACs). According to their analysis, 60% of Democrats and 100% of Republicans took these dollars.

Even though Kalra and a small band of legislators fought for climate justice, they failed to convince a majority in the legislature to pass bold policies. In reality, corporate interests are still calling the shots in Sacramento when it comes to the environment and public health, added Creasman.

“Corporate polluters continue to have an outsized impact on policy in Sacramento.”

With less than nine years left to address the most severe impacts of climate change, the California League of Conservation Voters is calling for renewed action in Sacramento and, in particular, the development of a comprehensive climate action plan for the state.

Mike Young, Political and Organizing Director at CLCV urged the Governor and the legislature to work together to renew their focus on the climate crisis. He pointed them to the Biden Administration’s climate action plan, with justice, jobs and public health at its center, nothing that “We need a vision for the future that centers the health and safety of Californians.”

CLVC called for California to create a clear climate action plan of its own, because “the country and the world is looking to California for leadership.”

California’s Overall Score: 74%

Governor Newsom’s Score: 87%

Assembly Overall Average Score: 71%

Senate Overall Average Score: 73%

Meera Kymal is a Contributing Editor at India Currents

Grow, Eat, Share and Sell – Local Families Get New Resource for Heritage Seedlings

Valley Verde to sell culturally-meaningful and hard-to-find seedlings for families to ensure food security and comfort during pandemic and economic uncertainty 

Today, Valley Verde launched a new offering of seedlings for culturally-preferred produce at a price point that communities can afford (even offering a discount to low-income shoppers). With unemployment and the cost of living high and a crisis like COVID-19 hitting our community, a backyard or porch garden can provide economic security and a nutritional safety net for families in need.

“Families want to grow healthy, fresh, organic, and affordable culturally-meaningful organic produce like Thai basil, bitter melon, chayote, and chili peppers in their own gardens. We are here to help them every way we can,” said Raul Lozano, Founder of Valley Verde. “People can grow their own food and eat it, share it, or even sell it to other families in the community.”

Diverse South Bay communities can have difficulty finding seedlings for the healthy, culturally-meaningful, and organic produce they would like to grow and eat. When families must rely on big stores and corporations for food access it can be easy to feel disconnected from their cultural food roots. With this new effort, Valley Verde is making it easier to grow the vegetables that our communities want. 

Valley Verde has provided participants in gardening courses with homeland seedlings for four years, and  is now expanding this opportunity to meet community demand. This includes opening an in-person nursery at 59 S Autumn St. on Saturday, March 27th where families can buy seedlings and have access to resources for new gardeners. 

Lozano added, “Food unites our communities and nourishes our souls. Planting seedlings in a home garden or community garden is a critical first step to food security. Harvesting foods from our heritage is also a way of investing in the future and creating the community we want to see.” 

To tell this story, we can offer media:

  • Interviews with Valley Verde representatives (Languages: English, Spanish, Punjabi, Hindi)
  • Interviews with local growers/gardeners (Languages: TBD) 
  • Site visits to the nursery, including on the day of its grand opening – Saturday, March 27th, 9am
  • Photos and b-roll of gardens and people working in their gardens

Seedlings will be available for sale at:

Homeland seedlings for sale (at prices ranging from $5.00 – $10.00) include:

  • Amaranth 
  • Thai Basil 
  • Chinese bitter melon 
  • Alok – bottle gourd 
  • Chayote 
  • Chinese eggplant
  • Satsuma long eggplant
  • Squashes and zucchinis
  • Cilantro
  • Fenugreek 
  • Daikon radish 
  • Epazote
  • Huacatay
  • Hoja Santa
  • Thai hot chili and other peppers
  • Okra 
  • Lemongrass
  • Habanero, jalapenos, and serranos 

About Valley Verde

Valley Verde is a San Jose-based nonprofit focused on increasing self-sufficiency, health, and resilience through a culturally informed community based food system. We own greenhouses and help local residents plant gardens to promote food security. We offer monthly workshops and one-on-one mentorship in a variety of languages (including Spanish) to help home gardeners have a successful harvest. We want to support our community as they build resilience through food sovereignty by providing culturally preferred vegetable seedlings, environmental education, and supporting the development of edible gardens.


Silicon Valley’s Success Sits on Toxic ‘Superfund’ Sites

At the Front Door – a column on climate change in our lives

The Environmental Burdens on our Neighbors

Silicon Valley has been one of the greatest wealth generators in the United States. Yet this wealth has come at a price, one that hasn’t been shared equally amongst the residents of the Bay Area. The more ‘visual’ costs, such as skyrocketing rents and urban sprawl obscure the more subtle, but far more dangerous and long-terms costs right beneath our feet. Literally. The true cost of Silicon Valley’s success is in the ground you stand on. Santa Clara County is home to 23 superfund sites, the most of any county in the United States. If you live in the South Bay, you are never more than a short drive from one of these sites. If you live in Mountain View, Sunnyvale, or San Jose, you can probably walk to one.

A site gains a superfund status if it scores above a 28.5 or higher out of 100 on the EPA’s Hazard Ranking System, which is a measurement of the site’s threat to human health. Sites must reach a certain level of severity before they can be designated as a ‘superfund’, which lets the government to force the parties responsible to perform cleanups or reimburse the government for EPA-led cleanup. There are also hundreds of other toxic sites which don’t qualify as superfund sites which are scattered across Silicon Valley.

To understand where we are, we need to look at where we have been. Silicon Valley earned its name by hosting semiconductor and microprocessor companies such as Atari, Fairchild, Hewlett-Packard. These companies used a solvent called trichloroethylene (TCE) in their manufacturing process. TCE is now a known human carcinogen and can also cause birth defects. After use, the TCE was poured down drains or kept in storage tanks which subsequently leaded and contaminated local groundwater.  In some instance, the pollutants can re-emerge as vapor and result in ‘toxic plumes’ or ‘vapor intrusion zones’.

The environmental burden of these sites fallen unevenly upon the shoulders of people of color and the poor, as most sites “are predominantly situated in Mountain View and Sunnyvale, and Santa Clara County cities which are comprised of the highest percentage of low socioeconomic immigrants of color.” Unsurprisingly, the whiter cities of Palo Alto and Cupertino host far fewer sites.

I live in northern Sunnyvale and I can easily walk to half a dozen, three of which are collectively called the ‘Sunnyvale Triple-site’. The vapor intrusion zone from this site encompass 400 homes and four schools, including the majority-Latino San Miguel Elementary School. Polluted in the 1980, the site was only fully cleaned up in the last decade and is now closely monitored by authorities.

Superfund sites are not the only environmental legacy of the economic boom. Another is traffic, a problem which plagues most of the Bay area, and Highway 101 is the “area’s most toxic industrial belt, with contamination impacting air, water, and soil.”

It is not a coincidence that Highway 101 through the same areas of Sunnyvale, Mountain View, and San Jose which host the highest concentration of minorities (and superfund sites).

The highway also runs through East Palo Alto on its way to San Francisco. East Palo Alto is diverse city with 61%  of its residents identifying as Latino, 15.6% African American/Black, and 11% Asian. The median income in 2018 was $58,783, a far cry from the average of $137,000 in whiter neighboring Palo Alto. Children in East Palo Alto are 2.5 times more likely to suffer from asthma as children in the rest of San Mateo County, and life expectancy is 13 years shorter.

And East Palo Alto isn’t an exception but rather part of a trend, a paper published by researchers at Santa Clara University noted that,

“Environmental burdens are concentrated along transportation routes and industrial centers that represent Silicon Valley’s rapid development. Hispanic populations, people of color, and socially vulnerable populations…are more likely to be exposed to multiple environmental hazards than other groups.”

The term ‘environmental burdens’ doesn’t quite convey the truth that our neighbors who bear these ‘burden’ will be sicker and die sooner than our neighbors without such burdens.

I felt two things when I learned this: shocked and lucky. Shocked, because I had no idea of the history of pollution and injustice which underlay the success of Silicon Valley.  And lucky, because while traffic is annoying I don’t live in an area where I have to worry that car exhaust will damage my health or the health of my family. Nor do I have to decide between affordable housing and living in an area which could be exposed to toxic vapor plumes.

And now I feel determined, because I can do something to help my neighbors who do have to worry about these things. I can vote for people who take environmental issues seriously, and who support clean public transportation. I can advocate at the state and local level for our legislators to ensure that the benefits and burdens of success are distributed more equally. I can speak up because we are all part of this community, and it is my responsibility to help my neighbors.

Erin Zimmerman was trained as a Climate Reality Leader in 2019 by the Climate Reality Project, but has been active in the environmental movement for over a decade. Erin holds a PhD in Political Science from the University of Adelaide, where she focused on environmental degradation and its impacts on country and regional stability in Asia. She is currently the Chair of the Speakers’ Bureau of the Santa Clara Chapter of the Climate Reality Project  and an active member of the Legislative and Policy team.

Edited by Meera Kymal, Contributing Editor at India Currents.

Image by Hermina Olah Vass  @beautymakesasound

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Greenaction. (2019). “East Palo Alto, California.” Greenaction.org.
Nieves, E. 2018. “The Superfund Sites of Silicon Valley.” The New York Times.
Pellow, D. N. & Park, L S-H. (2002). The Silicon Valley of Dreams: Environmental Injustice, Immigrant Workers, and the High-Tech Global Economy. NYU Press.
Rao, A. and Scaruffi, P. 2013. A History of Silicon Valley: The Greatest Creation of Wealth in the History of the Planet. Omniware Group.
Reilly, C. (2018). “Silicon Valley’s ‘Middle Class‘ Earns 7 Times US Average.www.cnet.com.
Schlossberg, T. 2019. “Silicon Valley is One of the Most Polluted Places in the Country.The Atlantic.
Siegel, L. (2015). “Building Trust at the Triple Site, Sunnyvale, California.” Center for Public Environmental Oversight.
Solof, L.E. (2014). “Bay Area Student Involvement in the Environmental and Food Justice Movements: A Narrative of Motivations, Experiences, and Community Impact.” Doctoral Dissertation. University of San Francisco; The Faculty of the School of Education.
Stewart, I. Bacon, C. Burke, W. (2014). “The Uneven Distribution of Environmental Burdens and Benefits in Silicon Valley’s Backyard.” Applied Geography. 55: 266-277.
Stock, S. Paredes, D. and S. Pham. 2014 (12 May). “Toxic Plumes: The Dark Side of Silicon Valley.NBC Bay Area.
Sustainable Silicon Valley. (2020).
United States Environmental Protection Agency. (2020). “What is a Superfund.


SJ Teen Pioneers Globally Lauded Biodiversity Project

Young people are integral towards the fight for a sustainable future. From social media to student platforms, teenagers have used their collective voice to pioneer a new wave of eco-friendly advocacy and innovation. To learn more about Gen Z’s unique position within the environmental movement, I had a chat with Almaden valley teen, Adarsh Ambati. A junior at Archbishop Mitty High School, Adarsh was the only U.S. finalist for the global Gothenburg Sustainability Youth Award and the International Action For Nature Organization’s Eco-Hero. After the devastating California wildfires, Adarsh learned more about the disaster’s impact on endangered species — most notably, California’s amphibian biodiversity.

IC: What prompted you to work in the sphere of environmental sustainability?

AA: The Californian drought was instrumental in developing my awareness of climate change. I found that changes in migratory patterns, habitat shifts, disruptions in food-web, the prevalence of pathogens, parasites and diseases, wildfires, and floods, are directly or indirectly a result of climate change. This interdependence of the climate on even niche areas of ecosystems developed in me an interest in understanding ecology and biodiversity, which propelled me into the world of environmental sustainability.

IC: Why amphibians? How do you learn about the pathogens impacting endangered species in the first place?

AA: Because of the California Drought, I grew up not only verbally hearing about the importance of water but practically witnessing the devastating effects of water shortage – lush green lawns turning brown, the creek in front of my home drying up silencing the croaking of the frogs, deers moving on, and ravaging wildfires.  As a 6th grader, I used to accompany my brother to BioCurious, our community lab. Seminars and workshops regarding climate change at the lab provided me with a lens for understanding the environmental effect of climate change on organisms and their ecosystems, which spurred my interest in environmental sustainability. After further research in the field, I discovered the Batrachochytrium Dendrobatidis fungus that is endangering hundreds of frog species around the world. After reading more about this crisis in the novel, The Sixth Extinction, I promised to do my part in helping maintain the Earth’s biodiversity. With the help of mentors from my local community lab, BioCurious, I embarked on this Amphibian Biodiversity Protection Project.

IC: Why do you think it’s important for young people to use their platform to advocate for sustainability and the protection of biodiversity?

AA: The environment encompasses all that we need to sustain life on the planet. Today, massive problems ranging from water shortage to raging wildfires, which are triggered by climate change, threaten the environment and, indirectly, all life as we know it. While legislation and grassroots activism are 100% necessary to curbing and reversing man-made problems, innovative solutions are also crucial to solving such issues. So, I would implore all young innovators today to pursue environmental projects as the destruction of the environment will affect our generation the most. If we as youth choose to ignore the problem, it will only magnify until it can no longer be solved. By setting our minds to developing innovative solutions that help the environment without drastically changing one’s life, we can little by little overcome such worldwide issues. As these issues pertaining to the environment affect youth the most, it is imperative that we start to create projects aimed to help, protect, or sustain our planet immediately.

IC: What’s the future of this project? Do you plan on further developing or refining your in-field technique?

AA: After further testing with the fungal protein, I hope to expand into the next phase of the project – manufacturing the physical lateral flow strips using Ribosome Display. These test strips would allow researchers the unique ability to test in-field and be able to better protect the amphibians. So far, I have proved that a protein can be biologically engineered to build an in-field diagnostic for this fungal pathogen. My next goal will be to manufacture and continue to test this project.

IC: Do you have any advice for other teenagers trying to initiate sustainability projects of their own?

AA: For any youth trying to initiate sustainability projects of their own, my advice would be to be aware of the environment, think critically for innovative problem solving, and most importantly be open to taking criticism. In our world, there exist many problems ranging from massive losses of biodiversity to the seemingly insurmountable problem of climate change. We have to be aware of these problems so that we can solve them. Next, we need to think critically across various scientific disciplines to create the best solution for the problem at hand. For example, for my amphibian project, I had to combine my passions for environmental sciences, biology, chemistry, and physics to develop the most optimal solution. The next step is arguably the most important. Being able to accept criticism is one of the hardest to develop yet the most valuable quality an innovator can have for their projects. Through these three steps of identifying a solution, critical problem solving, and accepting constructive criticism, your sustainability projects will be increasingly successful.

Kanchan Naik is a senior at the Quarry Lane School in Dublin, California. Aside from being the Youth Editor at India Currents, she is also the editor-in-chief of her school newspaper The Roar and the 2019-2020 Teen Poet Laureate for the City of Pleasanton. Follow Kanchan on Instagram at @kanchan_naik_

Free COVID-19 Testing Available at AACI

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.


Sachin Helps Homeless by Stepping “In Their Shoes”

Sachin Radhakrishnan, the co-founder of the San Jose non-profit  In Their Shoes was recently honored by  AACI (Asian Americans for Community Involvement) for his work with the homeless population.  “Through his work, Sachin reminds us that our actions speak volumes. His many accomplishments are a shining example that any ordinary person, like you and I, can change lives.”  A high honor indeed for this self-effacing young man but when you read his journey of how he got to this point, you will not be surprised.

When Sachin was in college during the economic downturn of 2009, he was aghast that “the first thing that our state cut was colleges, community colleges.”  It became an issue because he and his fellow students could not get their required classes.  So, he fell into community organizing and started lobbying with professors in Sacramento to effect change.  He switched his major from engineering to politics because “I wanted to get into and learn as much as I could about how do you solve a problem.” The rest as they say is history.

After college, Sachin was working in City Hall in San Jose, when homelessness was becoming a challenging issue. In December 2014, the city decided to dismantle San Jose’s massive homeless encampment known as “The Jungle” which set off a chain reaction.  This encampment was thought to be the largest of its kind in the US.  Many people had been living there for almost 20 years and had built waterproof but non-traditional homes for themselves. While the city found other housing for some residents, many others were left with few viable options when their encampment was dismantled.  Sachin started fielding calls from city residents when homeless people started moving into their neighborhoods.  

Sachin realized really quickly the ramifications of the city’s actions.  Instead of solving the problem of homelessness, their policies were only moving it around.  “Just imagine your state of mind when you’re constantly being moved around.  You feel like you’re breaking no law, but you’re just poor. You have no control, you lose your medication, you lose your identification. So, I started learning like that.”

Homelessness is not just a humanitarian issue for Sachin, but a deeply personal one.  A close friend suffered from mental illness and was homeless himself.  “His family did not know how to deal with that. And so, my friend was homeless just because relationship-wise, he was not doing a great job of respecting his parents. And at the same time, his parents didn’t really know how to talk to him.” 

Sachin tried to make sense of his friend’s struggles, “Because he had money, his parents had money, but how does he end up homeless?  And, he is intelligent and he has a lot of stuff going for him. How does he end up homeless?”

It has been a long journey but this story has a happy ending because his friend is now in the army and is doing well and. But that experience had a profound effect on Sachin and helped him better understand this complex issue.

Sachin and his friend Jamie Foberg had long conversations about homelessness and came to the conclusion that one of the key components that most of us take for granted – strong interpersonal relationships are completely missing for the homeless.  They co-founded In Their Shoes to do just that – be a buddy and support the homeless. “To be one positive relationship that hopefully would spark other relationships. Maybe it would get them to heal relationships they had burned in the past. Because if they keep the relationship good with us, we’ll continue to help them. We advocate for them. We’ve been to the hospitals advocating for people, we’ve gotten people back on the list for housing.”

It started very organically for Sachin and Jamie. They would befriend the homeless in San Jose by bringing socks, water etc and start a conversation with them.  They built relationships with them.  They did not even pretend to have any understanding of their situation but just try to “step into their shoes” to really understand what their life is like and what they are dealing with.  

Sachin recognizes that his unique background at City Hall helps him see the issues from both sides.  One of the biggest aha moments for him was when he realized that the government can try to solve the cases while blaming homeless people for drug use etc, but “when you are working for the government, you should see the effect of your own policies.” 

“Jamie and I, we would go and help people. When the city came in and kicked them out, they would lose their phones. It wouldn’t be so hard to find that same person who maybe we have a bed for at the shelter.  The city needs to understand that you’re making social work harder.” 

One of the myths of homelessness is that drug users end up on the street, but the fact is that people who end up homeless, often resort to drugs as a way to cope with their feelings of despair and hopelessness.

As inequality grows in our society, people are actually becoming homeless faster than before.  Silicon Valley is the poster child for this problem but the right to a secure home is a universal right under international human rights law. Sachin is not the lone voice who thinks the policies guiding homelessness nationwide lack empathy and actually criminalize it.  A United Nations expert on housing has called the Bay Area’s treatment of the homeless “cruel and inhuman”.  

Sachin believes that “ it would be great if we could focus on that housing part, but at the same time, stop kicking people around. You know, I can’t imagine someone’s mental health after a year of being homeless.  I’m actually so surprised when I see people happy in the streets, they have some sense of pride, they still have hope. I don’t know how they have it. They’ve been kicked out so many times.”   But when they are moved around so much, they lose that pride, security and sense of self and that leads them down a spiral.  

Today at the Bill Wison Center, Sachin is doing outreach and case management for youth and loves being a part of this endeavour.  He plans to go back to graduate school for business, concentrating on finance.  He has seen first hand the effects of not understanding basic finance and learning to budget. “You’re easy prey to other people that may understand it. If people just even know a little bit, they may be able to stop the cycle of poverty.”

When I asked Sachin what we could do as a community to better understand the problem and be a part of the solution, he shared this point of view. 

 “So much of our culture is philanthropic and service . But there’s also another side of it that is very, very callous. Really disrespectful to people and their experiences. And yeah, that’s something in our society that we need to really think about, on how we talk about others. How we may even perpetuate certain stereotypes.” 

He also urges all of us to get rid of the NIMBY (Not In My Backyard) mentality.  Sachin would like us to get  involved in our community and be a proponent for solutions for low income and subsidized housing.  There are many reasons people become homeless. Being empathetic and trying to understand them instead of criminalizing and stigmatizing them would be a start.  

Changemakers: Individuals making a difference in all walks of life

Anjana Nagarajan-Butaney is a Bay Area resident with experience in educational non-profits, community building, networking and content development and was Community Director for an online platform. She is interested in how to strengthen communities by building connections to politics, science & technology, gender equality and public education.

Edited by Meera Kymal, contributing editor, India Currents



Free, Easy COVID-19 Testing in Santa Clara County!

Residents in Santa Clara County can now get free and easy COVID-19 testing in their neighborhoods.  The county just launched six new and expanded drive-through and pop-up locations at community centers, parking lots, and county health system in Milpitas, Morgan Hill, Mountain View and San Jose.

People get who get tested at these sites pay nothing for the test.

“It’s fast, free and you don’t need insurance,” said Cindy Chavez, President of the Board of Supervisors, urging residents to advantage of the opportunity to get tested in their neighborhood.

“The County is bringing testing capacity to where it’s needed.”

The locations were chosen based on data showing a higher rate of recent cases in these areas compared to nearby areas. By adding six new locations, the county now has at least 46 sites offering COVID-19 viral detection testing.

Frontline Workers  Need Monthly Testing
The county recommends that essential workers (grocery store clerks, food delivery workers, retail associates, first responders, and other frontline workers), who regularly interact with the public to get tested at least once a month going forward, even if they have no symptoms at all. Testing can identify the infection before a person feels unwell or before they spread it to another person with potentially deadly consequences.

“I encourage everyone to protect themselves and their family by scheduling a test at one of our test sites throughout Santa Clara County,” said County Supervisor Joe Simitian. The tests offered are viral detection tests, which diagnose a person who currently has the infection.

Mobile testing services will be available at Rengstorff Park in the City of Mountain View. “We need everyone – including cities, the County, and private healthcare providers and labs,’ noted Mayor Margaret Abe-Koga, “to do their part to help us get through this crisis.”

Walk-up testing at outdoor “pop-up” sites will be available available without an appointment, insurance or doctor’s note, at Mountain View (May 25 & May 27 and in San Jose (May 29).

Monday, May 25, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Rengstorff Park Pool Area, 201 S Rengstorff Ave., Mountain View, CA 94040

Wednesday, May 27, 9 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Rengstorff Park Pool Area, 201 S Rengstorff Ave., Mountain View, CA 94040

Friday, May 29, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
La Placita Tropicana Shopping Center parking lot, 1630 Story Rd, San Jose, CA 95122

Drive-thru testing will be available 7 days a week at four county health system locations in Milpitas, Morgan Hill and San Jose. These require appointments which can be made online at sccfreetest.org or by calling 888-334-1000.

  • 1325 East Calaveras Blvd., Milpitas, CA 95035 (location subject to change)
  • 18550 De Paul Dr., Morgan Hill, CA 95037
  • 777 E Santa Clara Street, San Jose, CA 95112
  • 1993 McKee Road, San Jose, CA 95116

For more information on testing go to www.sccgov.org/sites/covid19/Pages/covid19-testing-learn-more.aspx#types.

For information on test sites call 211 or go to sccfreetest.org. The site is available in English, Spanish, Vietnamese, Chinese and Tagalog.



Cinequest Film Festival 2020

This year Cinequest celebrates thirty years of elating audiences, artists, and innovators, honoring its legacy of bringing together Silicon Valley’s technologies and spirit of innovation with the arts to empower great creations – Connecting audiences, youth, artists, and innovators with these creations and with each other.

Showcasing premier films, renowned and emerging artists, and breakthrough technology—the festival’s stellar reputation not only hinges on its knack for creating a powerful line-up, but also for securing distribution for many of its honored filmmakers.

With over 200 international movies from 44 countries, the festival will once again bring a world of cinema, fans and moviemakers to downtown San Jose and Redwood City. Cinequest is renowned for its many socials, soirees, and parties, fusing the community of film lovers with film creators, so do plan on attending one or more and meet directors, artists and like-minded enthusiasts.

Here is a sneak peek into films of Indian origin:

The Elder One (Moothon)

An action thriller film features a bilingual narrative in Malayalam and Hindi. The film tells the story of a 14 year old child from Lakshadweep who comes to Mumbai in search of his elder brother.

Ghost of the Golden Groves

Strange incidents occur in the heart of “Shonajhuri” forest in rural Bengal, which develops an ominous character of its own that allures and finally engulfs the protagonists.


In the heart of an Indian market, the captivating portrait of lives of everyday people with everyday stories, not dignified as heroes, but nevertheless people who make the lives of each other better.

Nirmal Anand’s Puppy

An ambitious super-fit Pharma salesman is faced with a major dilemma after being diagnosed with a health condition. Shattered, he is forced to relook at his life’s priorities. He then decides to listen to his heart’s calling and embarks on a new path that he believes will make him happy. But little does he realize that this quirky pursuit of happiness is going to shake up his married life and threaten its very foundation.

Opening Night Screening and Celebration: John Pinette: You Go Now is director Bob Krakower’s loving tribute to the funny man who made us forget our troubles and laugh at our foibles. Famed comedian, Matt Donaher will lead the screening with a ten-minute live set. Tuesday, March 3, 7:15pm, California Theatre

Closing Night Screening and Celebration: The world premiere of Resistance, the powerful retelling of the story of Marcel Marceau and his incredible efforts to save lives during WWII. Sunday, March 15, 6:00pm, California Theatre

Cinequest 2020: March 3 – 15 in San Jose and Redwood City. www.cinequest.org


Small But Mighty: Desi Comedy Fest Returns

DCF co-founder Samson Koletkar (aka Mahatma Moses) says this all started nearly ten years ago in the aftermath of the coordinated series of terrorist attacks across Mumbai in 2008. Koletkar, who grew up in Mumbai felt helpless about the mistrust, anger and ill-will. Wanting to do something, he used his comedic genius to stage a couple of shows. “The least I can do is get Indians and Pakistanis in the same room and make them laugh.”  Thus, was born the Desi Comedy Fest, a showcase for South Asian talent, that he started with fellow comic, Bengaluru born, Abhay Nadkarni.

It started small, but over the years it grew steadily in terms of audience size and a diverse roster of talent onstage. Featuring a revolving cast of more than 30 performers from across the United States, the DCF featured comics with roots in countries far beyond its focus on India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Over the year’s comics and stand-up artists from Iranian, Syrian-Mexican, Libyan, Japanese and Filipino backgrounds joined the line-up.

This year the majority of the comics participating in the festival are American-born, and all reside in the United States. Nadkarni and Koletkar make it clear that’s due to the one-two punch of the Trump Administration’s travel ban focused on several Muslim-majority countries, and the increasing hassle and expense of obtaining visas.

Desi Comedy Fest 2020: http://www.desicomedyfest.com

JAN 22, 2020, 8:00 p.m.– 9:30 p.m. Marine’s Memorial Theater, 609 Sutter St, San Francisco, CA 94102

JAN 26, 2020, 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. India Community Center (ICC), 525 Los Coches St, Milpitas, CA 95035

This year’s lineup includes:

Asif Ali

Asif Ali is a handpicked favorite from some of the top comedy bookers working today. From his standup in the U.S. and internationally, to many outstanding theatrical roles, he is one of the fastest rising entertainers in the business over the past 7 years in the making. When he is not on stage or touring with his improv group, you can catch him on hit shows such as ABC Modern Family, Netflix Arrested Development, Marvel Agents of Shield, and on Comedy Central. Currently, he is the star on the new hit TV show NBC Mr. Robinson with Craig Robinson.

Raj Sivaraman

Raj Sivaraman is a writer, comedian, and unfunded research scientist. He has been featured in the New York Times, Huffington Post, and hosts the monthly show Monotony!, where comedians talk about their weird, trivial obsessions. Raj has performed in comedy festivals around the country and presented his research at just as many science conferences around the world. He has also written for Comedy Central, and was one of the main writers and performers for Boston News Net. His 2012 sketch album “In Case of Emergency” is available in several boxes under his bed.

Isha Patnaik

Isha was recently featured in HBO’s Women in Comedy Festival and runs Affirmative Reaction, Boston’s only stand up show dedicated to Asian and Asian American voices. She was also a runner up in ImprovBoston’s Stand Up Throwdown and performed at PIT’s Femme Fest. Isha is also an accomplished improviser and sketch comedian. When she’s not doing comedy, Isha likes to attend Moana themed spin classes and work as a user experience researcher.

Kasha Patel

Kasha Patel was listed on Thrillist magazine’s “Best Undiscovered Comedians in the US”. She primarily focuses her jokes on her life as an Indian-American and science, producing one of the only science-themed comedy shows in the nation. Kasha presented a TEDx talk called “Sneaking Science into Stand-Up” where she shares a series of surprising revelations pulled from her analysis of more than 500 of her stand-up jokes. In 2016, she hosted an award-winning mini-series for NASA TV highlighting Earth science fieldwork.

Richard Sarvate

Richard quit tech to do stand-up… oops! He started performing in San Francisco and is now based in Los Angeles. He talks about his experience as a first generation Indian immigrant, mental illness, and why he left Silicon Valley. He has a Half Hour Special “Missed the Window” on Dry Bar Comedy and was featured on NDTV’s “Stars of Comedy”. His albums “Live in San Francisco” and “Live at The Setup” available on Spotify. He headlined opening week at Doug Stanhope’s club Chuckleheads in Bisbee, AZ.

Gibran Saleem

Gibran Saleem was born in North Carolina and raised in Virginia in a Pakistani household. While studying Psychology at New York University he was handpicked as an MVP nominee on the national TBS Rooftop Comedy College Competition and was a 2-time recipient of the UCB diversity scholarship. Gibran is the only comedian to ever be selected, as a finalist for both the Stand-Up NBC and NBC’s Late Night program. Gibran has been featured on MTV, TV Land, Popcorn Flix, PBS, CUNY TV, VOA, Elite Daily, and Cosmopolitan and performed his stand-up television debut on Gotham Comedy Live for AXS TV. He was the focus of an international documentary on NHK TV called Asian Dreamers: Brown is Funny and has been featured in festivals nationally across the states as well as winning 1st place in the Hoboken comedy festival.

Badar Tareen is a civil rights lawyer by day and a stand up comedian by night. Born and raised in a Pakistani-Muslim family in North Dakota, Badar won first place at last year’s Think Your Pretty Funny stand-up comedy competition in Washington DC. He has become a crowd favorite at venues like DC Improv, Busboys and Poets, Wonderland Ballroom, West Side Comedy Club, the New York Comedy Club, and the Greenwich Comedy Cellar.

Abhay Nadkarni

Abhay is a comedian/writer/producer that moved from South-India to South Central Los Angeles for grad school. Dodging bullets en-route to grad school armed him with plenty of stories and stand up was his only catharsis for combating culture shock. His act is an eclectic mix of his experience as an immigrant in the US. He’s appeared on CBS, Audible’s “America from Abroad with Rob Delaney”, been featured in The Huffington Post, SF Chronicle. He is also the co-creator of “The Setup”, a weekly comedy show featured as one of the best underground comedy shows in San Francisco by Thrillist and Timeout.

Samson Koletkar

Samson Koletkar was born in Mumbai and raised Jewish. Growing up in the world’s most crowded city, he spent most of his childhood years burning the midnight candles for earning a Master’s Degree in Computer Software, thereby fulfilling his parent’s dreams. He was named “10 Best Indian-Origin Comedians of the Last Decade” by BookMyShow and “10 Indian Comedians Who Found Success in the U.S.” by Silicon India, and SF Chronicle published a cover article on him “India-born stand-up builds comedy utopia in Oakland”.






Shen Yun 2020 World Tour to San Francisco Bay Area – A Gift From Heaven

Back in ancient China, people once held that their magnificent culture was a gift from the heavens. Art was a way to explore this connection between humankind and higher realms. Today, Shen Yun is reviving this tradition. Through the universal language of dance and music, Shen Yun weaves a wondrous tapestry of celestial paradises, ancient legends, and modern heroic tales, taking you on a journey through 5,000 years of authentic Chinese culture. 

Shen Yun combines ancient legends with technological innovations, historically authentic costumes with breathtaking animated backdrops and classical Chinese dance with expressive storytelling, to share with you beautifully diverse ethnic and folk traditions. Filled with an enchanting orchestral sound, this is a mesmerizing experience you won’t find anywhere else. 

Shen Yun cannot be seen in China today, where traditional culture has been devastated under decades of communist rule. Yet Shen Yun, a nonprofit based in New York, is now bringing the wonders of this ancient civilization to millions of people across the globe. The stunning beauty and tremendous energy of the performance are leaving audiences uplifted and deeply inspired. 

See for yourself why Shen Yun is leaving millions around the world in awe, and why they return again and again. 

“An extraordinary experience. Exquisitely beautiful.” – Cate Blanchett, Academy Award-winning actress 

“I’ve reviewed over 3,000 shows. None can compare to what I saw tonight. Five stars, mind blowing!” – Richard Connema, renowned Broadway critic 

“My heart was open and I started to cry. The spirit of hope, beauty, and blessing…It’s a fabulous gift to us.” – Sine McKenna, award-winning Celtic singer 

“This is the finest thing, the finest event I’ve ever been to in my life! I was in tears, because of the human spirit, the dignity, the power, the love, coming out of those people was astounding!” Jim Crill, producer 

Buy tickets HERE or check ShenYun.com/CA for more information.