Tag Archives: San Jose

RaajneeTEEN: A Chat with Deepa Mahesh

The 2020 presidential election is not a race. It is a battlefield. Scattered across its rugged landscape is an onslaught of tweets and hashtags, opinions hurled from every edge of the American demography. From our broken healthcare system to our toxic immigration legislation, it is clear that America has everything to gain – and much to lose. 

2020 Presidential Candidate Sen. Kamala Devi Harris, knows what is at stake. Since her emergence in mainstream American politics during the controversial Brett Kavanaugh questioning, Harris has captured public interest with her visceral speeches.. As a South Asian woman, she is a pioneer in political territory that has long been foreign to Indian-Americans. To discuss her representation of our community, we spoke with fifteen-year old Deepa Mahesh, a member of Kamala Harris’s South Asians For The People initiative. 

“My group is all about uniting people in this community who want to fight for Kamala”, explains Deepa. “Unity gives us a lot more power, and makes our stances a lot more clear and more well-known in this sphere of politics… we’re fighting for her so she can fight for us.” 

Deepa’s role in this initiative includes maintaining a consistent social media presence, spreading the news among students, and communicating with voters and supporters. As a young person in this unique political climate, she is molded by the flame of America’s polarizing past . 

“I was first drawn to politics in seventh or eighth grade, when the 2016 elections were drawing to a close. And from then on, politics became really intriguing. It affected everything around me, from people I’ve seen… to people in Washington..and then this 2020 election started. I looked at the candidates, and I was instantly attracted to Kamala … As a South Asian, I was..happy to see someone like me … She is an amazing speaker. She’s the kind of person to command an audience and she has experiences that I don’t think..that other candidates can toss into the ring…I really share her social views and her beliefs, and I was just..drawn to her.” 

Unfortunately, the same heated social climate that drew Deepa into politics drove other teenagers her age further into indifference and apathy. Social media and the other casualties of an internet age serve as prime distractions from pressing societal issues. Deepa offers advice for other alienated or indifferent students, “ teenagers should know that just because we don’t see people exactly like ourselves in politics, doesn’t mean that we are invalid. Don’t let that be a roadblock in your path…if you have a stance, always remember to fight for it and act on it. It’s one of the greatest things in our country that we are allowed to do..”

On the surface, Deepa Mahesh is just your average San Jose teenager. “I really enjoy playing video games online in my spare time,” she laughs. “I know it’s not the most productive hobby.” But her voice exudes a sense of social awareness, and her commitment towards the Kamala Harris campaign is reflective of the immense potential of the South Asian youth community. 

Politics, in a sense, is the larger-than-life, funhouse reflection of another video game, from its unspoken rules to its spiraling conflicts. And young people really do have the power to navigate these challenges – as long as we give them the chance to play. 

*Raajneeti is the Hindi word for politics. The title is a play on words, as this article is about teenagers’ contributions to American politics today.

Kanchan Naik is a rising junior at The Quarry Lane School in Dublin, California.

Edited by contributing editor, Meera Kymal.

San Jose Shows Up for Shreya Ghoshal

It was another crowd-pleasing musical extravaganza by Sankara Eye Foundation (SEF). Singing queen Shreya Ghoshal performed at the San Jose State University Event Center on Friday, August 23. All of this was for a magical cause of brightening the world. 

Shreya Ghoshal has reigned supreme in Bollywood for many years. As the audience experienced throughout the concert, Shreya is best known for her angelic vocal cords. Her sweet and melodious voice captured the ears from afar. 

Winning ZeeTv’s music contest “Sa Re Ga Ma Pa” gave Shreya the kick start she needed to launch her singing career in Bollywood. Shreya’s first Bollywood break came with the song Bairi Piya from Devdas, which won her the National Film and the Filmfare Award for Best Playback Singer (Female). 

Photo credit: Siva Dhanasekaran for SEF

The concert was stunning – Shreya Ghoshal and her orchestra brought the house down with her songs. She sang Bairi Piya, her debut Bollywood song from Devdas, and some of her latest songs, including Slow Motion from the movie Bharat. The concert started on time at 7:30 PM – all Sankara concerts start on time.  Shreya kept the audience enthralled and totally mesmerized until 11:05 PM – when her last song Ami Je Tomar from Bhool Bhulaiya ended – with the audience wanting a lot more. Shreya also took the audience in a nostalgic journey with songs from yesteryears. She performed a medley of old songs from great singers, including Rafi, Kishore, Lata and Asha, ending with Dum Maro Dum with the audience singing along.  

Shreya also acknowledged and appreciated the great work done by SEF over the years and the dedication of its volunteers. SEF donors and audience members appreciated how well the concert was organized and managed. Established in the Bay Area, SEF is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization that has been working for the past 21 years for the cause of eradicating curable blindness in India.

Cover photo credit: Siva Dhanasekaran for SEF

Yogathon at Sevathon – Sun Salutation Marathon

We all have heard of Marathons, 10Ks, and 5Ks. Yogathon is a Surya Namaskar (SN) Marathon. Each SN is a series of 10 or 12 poses in a seamless flow; synchronized with one’s breath and typically performed at sunrise and sunset every day. It is ideal for people with busy schedules as it provides various physical and mental benefits packaged into a single routine requiring a small duration of time. SNs are performed to give reverence to the internal Sun, the creative force that radiates inside the body, along with the external Sun — the source of all energy. 

Surya Namaskar is a technique that combines both stimulation and relaxation to reduce stress. Yoga has a lesser chance of injury to muscles and joints compared to other forms of exercise due to the continuous variability of muscle length and also due to the emphasis on awareness of breath and body throughout the practice. Yoga also helps one in handling difficult situations of life as yoga builds mental strength and will-power. Many scientific journals have reported physiological benefits of Surya Namaskars. While one research paper suggests that SNs improve muscle strength [Bhutkar, et al, Asian J Sports Med. 2011 Dec; 2(4): 259–266], another paper suggests SN can act as a great cardiovascular exercise [Mody J Bodyw Mov Ther. 2011 Jul;15(3)].

Sevathon is an annual event hosted by the India Community Center. At Sevathon, over 100 nonprofits partner and over 3000 attend each year: Yoga Bharati leads Yogathon at Sevathon where children, adults, and seniors get together to practice 108, or 51, or 24 SNs.  Over 100 people gathered last year in a spectacular show of Surya Namaskars. It is also the annual fund-raising event for the non-profits including Yoga Bharati.

Venue: Arena Green, San Jose

Date: September 8th Sunday, 2019; 6:30 AM to 1:30 PM

Vidya danam, Param danam – Education is the best form of service. Help us give true education — Yoga Vidya! Come together to perform yoga! Collect pledges for your chosen non-profit organization – Yoga Bharati.  

Please send any inquiries to sny@yogabharati.org or visit https://yogabharati.org/sevathon for more information!


Sri Lakshmi Ganapathi Temple August 2019 Events

Tuesday, August 6th:  Night at 8.30 PM, Sukla sashti vratha, Sri Valli Deva Sena sametha, Sri Subramanya sahasra nama archana.

Friday, August 9th:  Sri Vara Lakshmi vratha Pooja:

  6:00AM – 1st Batch

  7:00AM – 2nd Batch

  8:00AM – 3rd Batch

 9:00AM – 4th Batch

10:00AM – 5th Batch

12:00PM – 6th Batch

Please bring the following items for Vara Lakshmi vratha/pooja: Turmeric powder, kum kum, sandal powder, agarbathi, camphor, beetle leafs (6), beetle nuts (4), coconut, variety of fruits, flowers, Sri Vara Lakshmi deity (silver mukham), silver kalasam (if you have in your house), Pancha pathira uttharani, kalasa vasthram, small deepam and prasadam for naivedhyam.

4:00PM – Sri Bhuwaneswari / Sri Lalitha Devi abhisheka, followed by Sri Lalitha sahasra nama chanting, aarati and manthra pushpa.

6:00PM Samoohika Sri Vara Lakshmi vratha/pooja, aarati and manthra puhpa.

Please bring the following items for Sri Vara Lakshmi vratha samoohika pooja: Turmeric powder, kum kum, flowers, variety of fruits and prasadam for naivedhyam.

Monday, August 12th: Evening at 6.00 PM, soma pradosham, Shiva Sri Rudra abhisheka, Sri Lakshmi Ganapathi abhisheka, Sri Valli Deva sena sametha, Sri Subramanya abhisheka aarati and manthra pushpa.

Thursday, August 15th: Rig/Yajur upakarma avani avittam.

Yajur upakarma (avani avittam) – Brahmacharis samithathanam, kamokarishith japam, brahma yagnam, maha sankalpam, noothana yagnopaveedah dharanam, kandha rishi tharpanam, Sri Vigneswara / Sri Vishwekshena aardhana pooja, varuna sahitha, Sri Veda Vysa pooja, homa, Sri Veda aarambham, aaseervadham and theertha prasada viniyogam

5:55 AM – 1st Batch

8:00AM – 2nd Batch

10:00AM – 3rd Batch

Please bring the following items for avani avittam upakarma: Pancha patthra uttharani, plate (thambalam), rice, moong dhall, jaggerry, black seasame seeds, (black /ellu/till/ nalla nuvulu), variety of fruits, flowers, coconut, beetle leafs (4), beetle nuts (2), prasadam for naivedhyam.

Please bring the following items for thalai avani avittam (1st year prathama sravanam vadu’s brahmacharis): sundal, appam and prasadam for naivedhyam. Please contact the temple for further details.

6:00PM – Sri Pournami vratha /pooja, Sri Sathya Narayana swamy pooja/vratha. Please participate with family and friends.

Friday, August 16th: At 7:00AM – Sri Gayathri japam/ homam, aarati and manthra pushpa. 

Monday, August 19th:  Sri Maha Sankata Hara chathurthi. Evening at 5.00 PM Sri Lakshmi Ganapathi homa / Sri Lakshmi Ganapathi abhisheka aarati and manthra pushpa.

Friday, August 23rd: Evening at 5.00 PM, Sri Bhuwaneswari / Sri Lalitha Devi abhisheka, kritika, vratha; Sri Valli Deva Sena sametha, Sri Subramanya abhisheka. Continued Sri Lalitha sahasra nama chanting. 

Evening at 6.00 PM, Gokula asthami, Sri Vaikasanasa jayanthi, Sri Janma Ashtami special pooja  aarati and manthra pushpa.

Saturday, August 24th:  Evening at 4.00 PM Munithraya Sri Jayanathi, Sri Pancharatha, Sri Jayanthi pooja aarati and manthra pushpa.

Wednesday, August 28th: Evening at 6.00 PM, pradosham, Shiva Sri Rudra abhisheka  aarati and manthra  pushpa.

Monday, Septmber 2nd:  Labour day weekend timings.

Sama Veda upakarma, Morning at 7.00 AM, only one batch.

Sama Veda upakarma (samopa karma).

7:00AM – Only one batch. Please contact the temple for further details.

Ganesh Chathurthi / Vinayakar Chathurthi mahothsav

7:00AM – Temple opens with Sri Venkateswara suprabhatam, followed by Sri Lakshmi Ganapathi homa / Sri Lakshmi Ganapathi abhisheka followed by Sri Siddhi Vinayaka vratha, aarati and manthra pushpa.

All Day – Continuous archana.

10:15 PM – Sukh Karta Dukh Hartha aarati and Jai Jagadeesha Hare aarati, Balaji ekantha seva. Temple closes after aarati.

Tuesday, September 3rd: Rishi Panchami.








Sri Lakshmi Ganapathi Temple June 2019 Events

Sunday, June 2nd: Evening at 4.00 PM, Kritika Vratha, Sri Valli Deva Sena Sametha, Sri Subramanya abhisheka, Sri Laksmi Ganapathi abhisheka, Sri Shiva abhisheka, aarati and manthra pushpa.

Saturday, June 8th: Afternoon at 2.00 PM, Sri Lakshmi Ganapathi temple vadica vidhya Ganapathi Center 16th year anniversary celeberations, Sarva Devatha homa, Sri Navagraha homa, Sri Saneeswara Graha homa, Sri Navagraha abhisheka, Sri Saneeswara Graha abhisheka, aarati and manthra pushpa.

Evening at 4.00 PM, Sri Venkateswara abhisheka, continued with Sri Vishnu Sahasra Nama chanting, aarati and manthra pushpa.

Evening at 6.00 PM, 16th year anniversary celeberations. Music programme Vignesh Venkataraman and Guhan Venkataraman and party. All are welcome to participate with family.

Night at 8.30 PM, Sukla Sashti vratha, Sri Valli Deva Sena sametha, Sri Subramanya sahasra nama archana.

Friday, June 14th: Evening at 5.00 PM, Sri Bhuwaneswari / Sri Lalitha Devi abhisheka, continued with Sri Lalitha shasra nama chanting.

Evening at 6.00 PM, Praodhsam, Shiva Sri Rudra abhisheka, aarati and manthra pushpa.

Sunday, June 16th: Pournami vratha. Afternoon at 2.00 PM, Sri Sathya Narayana Swamy pooja / vratha, aarati and manthra pushpa. All are welcome to participate with family.

Thursday, June 20th: Sri Sankata Hara chathurthi. Evening at 5.00 PM, Sri Lakshmi Ganapathi homa / Sri Lakshmi Ganapathi abhisheka, aarati and manthra pushpa.

Saturday, June 29th: Evening at 4.00 PM, Kritika vratha, Sri Valli Deva Sena sametha, Sri Subramanya abhisheka, Sri Venkateswara abhisheka, continued with Sri Vishnu sahasra nama chanting, aarati and manthra pushpa.

Sunday, June 30th: Evening at 4.00 PM, Pradosham, Shiva Sri Rudra abhisheka, Sri Lakshmi Ganapathi abhisheka, Sri Valli Deva Sena sametha, Sri Subramanya abhisheka, aarati and manthra pushpa.




Growing Up Asian in America Contest Winners

AACI and NBC Bay Area to Host 2019 Asian Pacific American Heritage Month Celebration

SAN JOSE, CA – On Saturday, May 18, 2019 at 2 pm, NBC Bay Area will be hosting the annual Asian Pacific American Heritage Month Celebration where we will celebrate student winners from the 24th annual Growing Up Asian in America contest and honorees of AACI.

The Growing Up Asian in America program celebrates Asian Pacific American Heritage Month by giving voice to the varied experiences of Asian and Pacific Islander (API) youth throughout the Bay Area and encouraging this next generation of leaders to take pride in their heritage through creative self-expression.

This year’s theme, “My Contribution to America,” brought in hundreds of entries from K-12th grade Bay Area students. Students submitted art, essays, and videos sharing their personal contribution to our country and the contributions of APIs that came before them. This year’s best in class and honorable mention winners include remarkable students of Indian, Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Taiwanese and other ethnic backgrounds. Each best in class winner will have an opportunity to share their thoughts and inspirations about their winning entry.

Bay Area students receiving Best in Class awards for art, writing and video from the 2019 Growing Up Asian in America contest include Olivia Mai (Union City), Creaye Lim (Alameda), Sahana Hariharan (Fremont), Catherine Wu (San Jose), Audrey Shen (Milpitas), Aubrey Ilasco (Benicia), Kayla Lam (San Leandro), Brandon Tran (San Jose), and Becky Tran (San Jose).

Sahana Hariharan, an 8th grader of Indian descent from Fremont, won best in class in the 6-8 category for her winning artwork entry titled, “A Balanced and Healthy Democracy”.

“This year we celebrate the stories and achievements of our young artists and the new beginning with contest host AACI,” said NBC Bay Area’s Lance Lew, co-founder of the contest. “Now more than ever, it is important we look toward our community’s youth to encourage sharing their personal thoughts on what they view as their contribution as an Asian American.”

AACI will honor four Asian Pacific American Community Heroes. These honorees represent the impact and dedication that a diverse Asian Pacific Islander community brings to the Bay Area local community.

Among these honorees is Leena V. Khanzode MD, a board certified psychiatrist dedicated to providing quality, evidence based treatment to help individuals and families overcome difficulties and lead happier, more productive lives into the work force.

She began volunteering at AACI in 2016 as an adult psychiatrist and provides help to the low income and diverse immigrant population that AACI serves which includes many refugees and survivors of torture.

Dr. Khanzode commented, “I was moved by the ‘Survivors of Torture’ and these survivors are unique in their resolve and resilience. As a physician I have learned to not only honor and respect their experience but they have taught me to be empathetic and kind. It continues to be a very fulfilling experience for me and I am very grateful for this opportunity.”

Other honorees are Dr. Stephanie Chao, Channary Bill, and June Tran for their exemplary work in the community in the areas of health, gun control, and community building.

“AACI is honored to celebrate an incredible group of young artists and community leaders. The Growing Up Asian in America contest has provided a platform for numerous students to express themselves and AACI is excited to uphold the legacy pioneered by Asian Pacific Fund and NBC Bay Area” said AACI President and CEO, Sarita Kohli.

NBC Bay Area News anchor Anoushah Rasta will be in attendance as master of ceremonies. A graduate of the University of California, Los Angeles,

The Asian Pacific American Heritage Month Celebration will take place at NBC Bay Area studios, 2450 North First Street, San Jose, CA 94107.

About AACI

AACI was founded in 1973, and is one of Santa Clara County’s largest community-based organizations advocating for and serving the marginalized and vulnerable ethnic communities. AACI’s mission is to strengthen the hope and resilience of our community members by improving their health, mental health and well-being.


Sri Lakshmi Ganapathi Temple May 2019 Events

Thursday, May 2nd: Pradosham Evening at 6:00pm, Shiva Sri Rudra Abhisheka Aarati and Manthra Pushpa
Sunday, May 5th: Kritika Vratha Evening at 4:00pm, Sri Valli Deva Sena Sametha Sri Subramanya Abhisheka Sri Lakshmi Ganapathi Abhisheka Sri Shiva Abhisheka Aarti and Manthra Pushpa
Tuesday, May 7th: Sri Akhshaya Tritiya Sri Bala Rama Jayanthi Vening at 6:30pm, Sri Bhuwaneswari Special Pooja Aarati and Manthra Pushpa
Thursday, May 9th: Evening at 6:30pm, Sri Ramanujia Jayanthi, Sri Sankara Jayanthi Special Pooja Aarati and Manthra Pushpa
Friday, May 10th: Sukla Sashti Vratha Night at 8:00pm, Sri Valli Deva Sena Sametha Sri Subramanya Sahasra Nama Archana
Monday, May 13th: Sri Vasavi Jayantho
Thursday, May 16th: Pradosham Evening at 6:00pm, Shiv Sri Rudra Abhisheka Aarati and Manthra Pushpa
Friday, May 17th: Evening at 6:30pm, Sri Narashimha Jayanthi Special Pooja Aarati and Manthra Pushpa
Saturday, May 18th: 12:00 noon, Sri Nava Graha Loma/ Sri Saneeswara Graha Homa Continued with Sri Nava Graha Abhisheka Sro Sameeswara Graha Abhisheka.
2:00pm Vaikasi Visakham Sri Buddha Pournima Pournami Vratha Sri Santhaya Narayana Swamy/ Vratha/ Pooja Aarati and Manthra Pushpa. All Are Welcome to Participate with Family.
Evening at 4:30pm, Sri Venkateswara Abhisheka Continued with Sri Vishnu Shasra Nama Chanting Aarati and Manthra Pushpa
Sunday, May 19th: Evening at 4:00pm, Sri Kanchi Maha Periyaval Chandra Sekara Swamy Jayatnhi Special Pooja Aarati and Manthra Pushpa
Wednesday, May 22nd: Evening at 5:00pm, Sri Sankata Hara Chathurthi Sri Lakshmi Ganapathi Loma/ Sri Lakshmi Ganapathi Abhisheka Aarati and Manthra Puhpa
Monday, May 27th: Memorial Day Weekend Timings.
Tuesday, May 28th: 7:00pm, Sri Hanuman Jayanthi According to Lunar Calendar Chandramana Vaisaska Masa Poorvabhadra Nakshatra Sri Hunuman Jayanthi. All Are Welcome to Participate With Family.
Friday, May 31st: Evening at 5:00pm, Sri Bhuwaneswari/ Sri Lalitha Devi Abhisheka Continued With Sri Lalitha Sahara Nama Chanting.
Evening at 6:00pm, Pradohsam Shiva Sri Rudra Abhisheka Aarati and Manthra Pushpa.

Nazaakat Aur Taaqat ~ A Delicate Power

Stories are powerful entities. They hold entire universes within them. The human experience across the world, depends upon the telling and sharing of stories to shape its cultural identity. Narratives come in forms that are as varied as the plots and characters that inhabit them. Music and dance have played an important part in storytelling from times immemorial.

Speaking with Bay area based Kathak dancer and teacher, Farah Yasmeen Shaikh opened up another dimension into the world of storytelling. Reading her biography on her website, Noorani Dance, only whet my appetite to delve deeper. Farah’s life is a story of many beginnings.

Like most immigrant narratives, it begins with a multi-generational series of journeys. Starting in Partition-era India, it winds its way through Pakistan, before reaching the shores of the American dream. And there it finds yet another beginning in the dreams of a young girl who falls in love with the dance form of Kathak. Honing her skills over a period of nearly two decades under the tutelage of her Guru, the late Pandit Chitresh Das (Chhandam School of Kathak), the story evolves to see her spread her wings and invent new plot lines.

Farah choreographed the full length production of “The Twentieth Wife” in 2015 based on Indu Sundaresan’s award winning novel. This was followed by “The Forgotten Empress”, scripted by well known playwright and director Matthew Spangler. Her latest work “The Partition Project”, was co-produced in collaboration with EnActe Arts to commemorate the 70th Anniversary of the 1947 partition of India and Pakistan. In 2016, Farah founded “Noorani Dance”, an organization which provides in-depth Kathak training to students. Apart from performing internationally and actively teaching, she writes, blogs, and uses her voice to highlight issues that are close to her heart. Her most important role is that of a mother to her 8 year old daughter. These achievements over the years have only served to stoke the fires of her passion for dance and journey further both spiritually and creatively.

The recipient of awards and grants from the Walter & Elise Haas Fund, San Francisco Foundation, and SVCreates to name a few, Farah was the guest choreographer for the World Dance Program at Alvin Ailey Extension in New York City, and the Mona Khan Dance Company, besides being involved in theatrical and feature film choreography as well. 

As she prepares to launch a new dance production “Nazaakat aur Taaqat – A Delicate Power”, I spoke with her about the impact of Kathak on the many areas of her life.

P.K:  Let us start by talking about your upcoming production. An interesting choice for a title! The word Nazaakat (delicate/delicacy) is not often seen associated with the word – Taaqat (strength).  

F.Y.S:  The word ‘Kathak’ is derived from the word ‘Katha’ which means ‘story’. Performers were originally called ‘kathakars.’ In this dance form,  the four elements of ‘Tayaari’ (technical readiness), ‘Laykaari’ (rhythmic virtuosity), ‘Khoobsurti’ (beauty) and ‘Nazaakat’ (delicacy/refinement) , are equally important. One cannot and does not take precedence over the other. Here we see complementary yet contrasting elements making up the whole. Kathak requires years of discipline. A dancer certainly has to develop strength (Taaqat), but it is a fragile and delicate skill to maintain that discipline – ‘Sadhana’. So in a sense, delicacy itself is such a powerful thing!  Delicacy is also about sensitivity and consciousness. It also speaks to femininity. The stereotypes explored and examined in this production will show that often delicacy shrouds an innate strength and power. The ability to be mothers, possessing a deep sense of nurturing – that in and of itself is a strength!

P.K:   What is the main story central to this production? Have you taken a new approach to your craft in terms of choreography?

F.Y.S:   The central story is that of Heer and Ranjha – the equivalent of Romeo & Juliet. The opening piece is based upon a light classical film song which has been rearranged musically to fit into the structure of a classical piece. Heer and Ranjha’s story can be placed in so many contexts. I was moved by the idea that two people were forced to separate on the basis of caste, social class and creed.  Religion and betrayal play a big part in their story. I wanted to explore how we use religion to our advantage… and how it works against us, even in this day and age.

This production has retained the traditional Kathak style as far as structure. But I am exploring many things that I have tried during my workshops in Pakistan. This is the first time I will be sharing that on stage.

P.K:   Reading your blog is a revelation about you – the person, the dancer, the woman. What has dance taught you about cultural and religious identity?

F.Y.S:   I believe strongly that my art form, my creativity, is essentially a study in human emotions. For most people culture and religion are two sides of the same coin. But for some, one might supersede the other. There was an instance when I was a student of Pandit Chitresh Das where I was approached by a fellow student, a Muslim like me, who wanted to know how I could relate to or accept some of the aspects of Kathak that might be perceived as ‘Hindu.’ I have always held strongly to the idea that creative expression and art is a language that goes beyond labels. It certainly does not make me less of a person, or less of an artiste – to be who I am, creating the work that I am doing.
During my time in Pakistan I was initially hyper-aware about not performing pieces that could cause trouble. Eventually I learnt that the people who attended the performances were there out of sheer interest regardless of what I chose to showcase. My work was warmly received, and I never felt alienated. My experiences there made me realize that these relationships should be fluid. There is no need to categorize and box myself in any way.

P.K:   You have based your work on several female ‘Nayikas’ or protagonists, with productions like “The Twentieth Wife”, and “Forgotten Empress”. What draws you to characters from that period in history, other than the obvious reason of empathizing with them as women?

F.Y.S:   Stories need to go beyond just the storyline or characterizations drawn from an epic or a book. Exploring the lives of these woman, taking them out of the zenana, from behind the jaali, allows us to get up close and personal with them. Noor Jehan was labelled as having been a shrewd woman because she managed to hold on to her power from behind the scenes. Why is that so wrong?! I wanted to explore all aspects of her attributes and celebrate them. For me personally, this exploration took on a new dimension in my understanding of Kathak.

As for the time period in history, there was an amazing spirit of tolerance, an acceptance of diversity in all forms – in arts and culture – during the Mughal era; especially during Emperor Akbar’s time. It must have been an incredible time to have been an artist! That is also why these women were able to exert such an impact on the world around them.

P.K:   Speaking of watershed moments in history, you performed as part of the Partition Project in March of 2018. The Partition of India and Pakistan in many ways rewrote your own family history, did it not?

F.Y.S:   Yes, I grew up watching movies from that time period and was always very interested in the topic. My parents’ families lived in Mumbai in 1947 during the Partition. They were both very young at that time and did not move to Pakistan until 1948, following the civil unrest after Gandhiji’s assassination. Although they do not have direct memories, I have heard stories about what it was like during that time. My grandfather left behind a thriving business to make the decision to move his family, only to realize how difficult it was to start over from scratch on the other side. The helplessness and demoralization that he and others in his situation experienced was heartrending. But despite this, many people survived and made something of themselves. Noorani Dance partnered with EnActe Arts to commemorate the 70th Anniversary of the Partition in March 2018. Titled ‘The Parting’, the production was very close to my heart!

P.K:   Since your first solo performance in 2007, your journey with Kathak has been about personal exploration and self discovery. It is evident from your blog posts that it shares space with social activism as well. Is this a natural progression for you as an artiste?

F.Y.S:   Yes, it is! My Guruji, Pdt. Chitresh Das, planted a seed in me which went beyond my love and passion for the art form in and of itself. It was the idea of creating art within a larger context and message. While I absolutely love Kathak, and it enriches me in so many ways, it also has incredible power as a medium and a vehicle in the realm of storytelling. Visual display, movement, music – all these layers make for a powerful instrument. I find myself naturally gravitating towards issues with social and political merit. It is exciting to be able to find ways to express my opinions through the medium of Kathak, with an inherent message underlying the elements of dance.

P.K:  Can you share with us about your time training with Pdt. Chitresh Das Ji?

F.Y.S:   I have an immense amount of gratitude for the skill and knowledge he imparted in the years I was his student. My training with him began when I was a student in SFSU. It was in many ways an intense and demanding relationship. He was very old school in the way he trained. It was all about tough love and lessons happened both on and off the dance floor. He was an exacting teacher and I definitely benefited from his demands for perfection!

We live in a liberated society in the U.S, but this traditional art form, like many others, requires a complete submission to the Guru. Many people who are committed to traditional art forms face challenges when it comes time to allowing their students to explore on their own. This is quite common. Unfortunately it became challenging to study with him when that time came in our relationship. I had to make a hard decision very much against that ‘Parampara’ (tradition), and struck out on my own. As difficult as it was for me, and I am sure for him as well, I will always honor and cherish my time with him forever!

P.K:  What are the next steps for Noorani Dance?

F.Y.S:   I don’t envision a large institution for Noorani Dance, but want quality over quantity. Forming a nonprofit organization is at the top of the list. And as always, I have several new ideas for projects! Keeping my work in Pakistan ongoing is very important to me. I would like to travel and work there, building bridges between Indian and Pakistani artists, even if that happens here locally in the U.S.  

P.K:  How do you see yourself evolving as a teacher?

F.Y.S:   As an artiste, I see two aspects that are equally important; my performing career and being a teacher and mentor to my students. Teaching is so much more than just imparting the dance form. It is a combination of having clarity, but being fluid and open without becoming rigid about evolving. I don’t call myself a Guru – that label has to be earned!

“Nazaakat aur Taaqat – A Delicate Power” opens on May 4th, 2019, at the Mexican Heritage Theater in San Jose. Featuring an impressive lineup of talented musicians and singers, along with the dancers from Noorani Dance, the production promises an evening of visually rhythmic journey of dance and music to enthrall our senses.


Pavani Kaushik is a visual artist who loves a great book almost as much as planning her next painting. She received a BFA from the Academy of Art University, San Francisco. Her new avatar requires creative juggling with the pen and the brush.


Sri Lakshmi Ganapathi Temple April 2019 Events

Tuesday, April 2nd: Evening at 6.00 PM, Pradosham, Shiva Sri Rudra abhisheka, aarati and manthra pushpa.

Saturday, April 6th: Chaitra Noothana Vikari nama Samvath Saram (Telugu / Yugadi / Kannada / Marati). Gudi Padwa, New Year. Temple opens in the morning at 9.00 AM, Sri Venkateswara suprabhatam, continued with Sri Nava Graha Homa / Sri Saneeswara Graha homa, continued with Sri Nava Graha abhisheka / Sri Saneeswara Graha abhisheika, Sri Venkateswara abhisheka, continued with Sri Vishnu sahasra nama chanting, continued with panchanga patana / sravana pooja panchanga patanam / sravanam in Telugu / Kannada, aarati and manthra pushpa, continuous archana.

Vasantha Navathri begins in the night at 10.00 PM, Sukh Kartha Dukh Hartha aarati, Sri Jai Jagadeesha Hare aarati for Balaji, ekantha seva. Temple closes.

Monday, April 8th: Kritika Vratha, evening at 6.30 PM, Sri Valli Deva Sena sametha, Sri Subramanya abhisheka, aarati and manthra pushpa.

Thursday, April 11th: Sukla Sashti Vratha, night at 8.30 PM, Sri Valli Deva Sena sametha, Sri Subramanya sahasra nama, archana, aarati and manthra pushpa.

Saturday, April 13th: Smartha Sri Rama Navami, 12.00 Noon, Sri Nava Graha homa / Sri Saneeswara Graha homa / Sri Nava Graha abhiheka / Sri Saneeswara Graha abhisheka, aarati and manthra pushpa.

Afternoon at 2.00 PM, Sri Sita Rama Kalyanam, special Pooja, aarti and manthra pushpa.

Evening at 4.00 PM, Sri Venkateswara abhisheka / conitnued with Sri Vihnu sahasra nama chanting, aarati and manthra pushpa.

Sunday, April 14th: Vikari Nama Samvathsaram, Tamil New Year Baisakhi, Temple opens in the morning at 7.00 AM, Sri Venkateswara suprabhatam, continued with Sri Lakshmi Ganapathi abhisheka, Sri Valli Deva Sena sametha, Sri Subramanya abhisheka. Sri Shiva abhisheka, continued with panchanga patana / sravana, pooja pancchanga patanam / sravanam, aarati and manthra puhpa, continuous archana.

Night at 10.00 PM, Sri Sukh Kartha Dukh Hartha aarati for Balaji, ekantha seva. Temple closes.

Wednesday, April 17thEvening at 6.00 PM, Pradosham, Shiva Sri Rudra abhisheka, aarati and manthra pushpa.

Friday, April 19th: Chaithra Pournami, Evening at 4.00 PM, Sri Bhuwaneswari / Sri Lalitha Devi abhisheka, continued with Sri Lalitha sahasranama chanting, aarati and manthra pushpa.

Evening at 6.00 PM, Chaithra Pournami, Sri Sathya Narayana Swamy pooja / vratha, Chithra Guptha pooja, aarati and manthra pushpa.

Monday, April 22nd: Sri Sankata Hara Chathurthi, Evening at 5.00 PM, Sri Lakshmi Ganapthi homa / Sri Lakshmi Ganapathi abhisheka, aarati and manthra pushpa.


Sri Lakshmi Ganapathi Temple March 2019 Events

Sunday, March 3rd: Evening at 4.00 PM, Pradosham, Shiva Sri Rudra abhisheka, aarati and manthra pushpa.

Monday, March 4th: Sri Maha Shiva Rathri mahothsav.  Temple opens in the morning at 10.00 AM. Sri Venkateswara Suprabhatam, continued with Mahanyasam Kalasa Pooja, Shiva abhisheka, aarati and manthra pushpa.  Continuous Shiva abhisheka, last Kala abhisheka, Tuesday March 5th morning at 5.30 AM, Sri Shiva Rudra abhisheka, aarati and manthra pushpa. Temple closes.

Tuesday, March 5th: Temple opens in the morning at 10.00 AM.

Sunday, March 10th: Daylight saving time begins.

Tuesday, March 12th:  Evening at 6.30 PM, Kritika vratha, Sri Valli Deva Sena sametha, Sri Subramanya abisheka, aarati and manthra pushpa. Night At 8.30 Pm Sukla Sashti Sri Valli Deva Sena Sametha Sri Subramanya Sahasra Nama Archa Aarati And Manthra Pushpa

Thursday, March 14th: Karadayar Nombu Night at 8.30 PM Sri Bhuwaneswari (Sri Kamakshi) Pooja, aarati and manthra pushpa. Please Contact the temple for further details.

Monday, March 18th: Evening at 6.00 PM, Soma Pradosham, Shiva Sri Rudra abhisheka, aarati and manthra pushpa.

Wednesday, March 20th:  Evefnign at 5.30 PM, Shiva abhisheka, aarati and manthra pushpa. Evening at 6.00 PM, Pournima vratha, Holi festival. Sri Sathya Narayana Swamy pooja / vratha, aarati and manthra pushpa. All are welcome to participate with family.

Thursday, March 21st: Panguni Uttiram.

Sunday, March 24th: Evening at 4.00 PM, Sri Sankata Hara chathurthi, Sri Lakshmi Ganapathi homa / Sri Lakshmi Ganapathi abhisheka, Sri Shiva abhisheka, Sri Valli Deva Sena sametha, Sri Subramanya abhisheka, aarati and manthra pushpa.

Tuesday, April 2nd:  Evening at 6.00 PM, Pradosham, Shiva Sri Rudra abhisheka, aarati and manthra pushpa.

Abhinaya Dance Company of San Jose presents Si Se Puede

Sunday, March 3rd, 2019 4pm

Mexican Heritage Theater (1700 Alum Rock Avenue, San Jose, 95116)

Abhinaya Dance Company with Indian musicians and a Mariachi Guitar Duo – Ignacio Alvarez & Gil Cruz

Abhinaya Dance Company of San José presents ‘Si Se Puede’, choreographed by Artistic Director Mythili Kumar and featuring the company who will be accompanied by live music by master musicians. Presented in the classical Bharatanatyam idiom, the concert portrays the struggles of Cesar Chavez and his fight for farmworker rights. The concert is presented in association with San Jose Multicultural Arts Guild.  The company presents vivid portrayals of Cesar Chavez’s life, his struggles as a hardworking farmworker, his awareness of Gandhi’s non-violent principles and his leadership through forming the United Farmworkers union fighting for the rights of the farmworkers. The fight for decent wages and working conditions continues to this day.

“It is ironic that those who till the soil, cultivate and harvest the fruits, vegetables, and other foods that fill your tables with abundance have nothing left for themselves.”… Cesar Chavez

Tickets: $20 General; $ 15 Seniors/Students; $50 VIP


Free for Friends of Abhinaya

Box Office: (408) 871-5959, abhinaya.org

San Jose Makes Plans for Coyote Valley

Under the watchful eyes of dozens of community activists who hours earlier had rallied outside on the plaza, San Jose’s City Council held a study session Jan. 22 to discuss plans for Coyote Valley.

The valley is a 7,400-acre swath of farms and undeveloped land extending south from San Jose to Morgan Hill, between the Santa Cruz Mountains on the west and the Diablo Range to the east.

By an overwhelming margin 71%  voters in November endorsed Measure T, which authorized the city to float $650 million in bonds for infrastructure improvements throughout San Jose, including up to $50 million to buy land in Coyote Valley for conservation purposes.

Among the expected benefits are natural flood mitigation, enhanced groundwater protection and wildlife habitat and open space for recreational purposes.

The city must now decide how to spend the bond money. Besides Coyote Valley, the city is looking at what to prioritize with the other $600 million of bond money, intended to be spent fixing roads and bridges and upgrading fire stations and emergency operations.

But the Jan. 22 study session was all about how to proceed in Coyote Valley. And although the voting public spoke clearly in its 71% support of Measure T, developers and Coyote Valley property owners are holding out hopes of making more money by building there. The city could opt to spend less than the $50 million voters authorized, or look for options that would still allow some Coyote Valley development. But, Greenbelt Alliance program director Brian Schmidt told Ethnic Media Services, doing so would “not be following the spirit of the measure.”

Over the course of four and a half hours, the City Council heard presentations organized into three categories: “Land Use Planning,” “Environmental Perspective” and “Development Perspective.” Then, for 45 minutes, the public was allowed a chance to address the council, in one-minute increments per speaker.

Opening the land use planning portion of the discussions, Chris Burton, deputy director of the city’s Office of Economic Development, reminded the council that Coyote Valley development had long factored into the city’s planning as an “employment lands growth area.” As such, it has been expected to deliver tens of thousands of jobs, primarily from an industrialized northern sector of the valley. San Jose land with that designation is in relatively short supply and job opportunities are limited for those without higher education degrees.

The environmental panel emphasized the hope of creating a wildlife corridor so animals can range freely between the mountain ranges. By restoring the valley’s Laguna Seca wetlands and taking full advantage of unpaved ground’s ability to absorb rainfall, the city will be protecting and replenishing the aquifer, they argued, safeguarding the source of a third of the city’s drinking water. Doing so would also help prevent catastrophic flooding such as the city experienced in December 2017 ꟷ and is continuing to remediate, at a cost surpassing $100 million. They also emphasized the value of protecting a natural habitat for people’s recreational use and reminded the council that aesthetic values also can provide economic benefits.

Burton also led the development presentation, with representatives of real estate developer Scannell Corp, real estate investment firm Jones, Lang LaSalle, and Kate Sofis, of SFMake and Manufacture: San Jose.

Collectively, they argued that Coyote Valley represents the city’s best opportunity to attract businesses that can’t afford downtown rents and would otherwise find Newark, Fremont, Tracy or Livermore more attractive options.

In the question-and-answer period that followed, Mayor Sam Liccardo asked them about the added cost developers face due to the state’s VMT  vehicle miles traveled assessment. The VMT factor is a product of the state legislature’s SB 743 from 2013, which San Jose chose to implement in 2018. It will apply statewide by July 2020, part of the state’s goal of reducing greenhouse gases, it imposes a fee on new projects based on their anticipated traffic impacts.

A 200,000- to 500,000-square-foot facility, employing 1,000-1,200 workers, would incur about $17 million in transit fees, the Scannell Corporation representative calculated.

“No matter how much they want to be near San Jose, they’re going to move to Tracy or Livermore,” he said.

“The state (California) may have just decided this for us,” Liccardo replied.

District 10 council rep Johnny Khamis asked how much flooding might be prevented by preserving the open space, and had some pointed questions about the effect of surrendering possible job creation by declining to industrialize Coyote Valley.

An unofficial appraisal of the privately held Coyote Valley lands is about $130 million. The Peninsula Open Space Trust has pledged to pony up what the city cannot and already begun the process.

Other possible sources of funding include FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) and the Army Corps of Engineers, which support flood mitigation efforts.

Dozens of people filled out public comment cards for the opportunity to voice their opinions at the conclusion of the session. Some called for “a balanced approach.” Others bemoaned a “short-term pursuit of tax revenue,” saying “the jobs are not going to be coming full force” because changes in technology, for example, are likely to alter the economic landscape.

Others emphasized the special qualities of the land in its natural state. “This is unique, irreplaceable and also a flood plain,” one said. “Coyote Valley is doing its actual, natural job. Just protect the land and stick with the voters.”

The next City Council meeting, on Feb. 12, will feature more comprehensive discussions about Measure T.  Three council members were absent for the Coyote Valley study session: District 4’s Lan Diep, District 5’s Magdalena Carrasco and District 8’s Sylvia Arenas.

The worst possible outcome, Schmidt told Ethnic Media Services, would be if proposed warehouse development were approved. Such spaces, which provide only a few jobs, would avoid the disincentive posed by the VMT assessment but have an outsized environmental effect by paving over the natural sponge that open land provides.