Tag Archives: Sandhya Acharya

The Launch of Sandhya’s Touch

We are delighted to announce the launch of Sandhya’s Touch, a non-profit organization whose mission is to improve the quality of life of people dealing with chronic or serious illness. We do this by supporting projects that provide services, support and care that ease the burden of suffering for these patients and their families, and by sponsoring community education and outreach events that will result in better care and outcomes in such situations.

Dedicated to the memory of Sandhya Acharya who confronted cancer with amazing resilience and grace while bringing joy and support to her loved ones every day, Sandhya’s Touch forms partnerships with organizations and institutions in the community to meet its mission and objectives.

Two projects have been funded as of this launch date, a third is under active consideration, and four more projects are in the pipeline.

Please visit sandhyastouch.org for more details about our mission, leadership, partners and projects.  We welcome grant requests from established community organizations and institutions for projects that align with our mission. Projects must directly support people and families dealing with serious and chronic illness to improve the quality of their lives. For more details on how to apply, contact us at  info@sandhyastouch.org.

Your contributions will go a long way in helping us fulfill our mission and fund new projects. Please make a generous donation before year-end by going to the Donate page on our website!

Sandhya’s Touch is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization registered in the State of California. All donations are tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law.

Michael Kors, Jhola and I

This is a story of temptation, of failing and finally redemption.

Last holiday season, I fell prey to a craven desire. It was as if I didn’t recognize myself. I was being irrational and impulsive. No amount of reasoning assuaged my restlessness. So I gave in. I needed to tell my husband, but at that moment I could not stop. I got ready in a hurry, threw away my cotton bag and rushed to the car with just a wallet in hand. I drove impatiently and sprinted into the mall longing for only one thing. I ran through the store, eyes flitting, peering at the shelves. At last, I found Michael —Michael Kors.

jhola

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It was a beautiful maroon with a pronounced golden emblem screaming MK. I held it gingerly, feeling the smooth firm texture. I slung it on my shoulders and gazed admiringly in the mirror. We made quite a pair. Still in a trance, I paid the $300 to the jubilant saleswoman. Then picking up the object of my adoration I walked away. As soon as I sat in the car, I texted my husband politely thanking him for his very thoughtful gift.

“Look what you gave me! I excitedly displayed my new purse that evening. I ramp-walked up and down in the house for him. He mumbled an obligatory acknowledgement and went back to sipping his tea. I was too elated to mind.
Over the next few days, MK and I had many happy moments. At first, it felt a little awkward. Being seen with MK was a new experience. I had had cloth, jute, fake leather bags in the past. I was neither a fashionista nor a conscientious leather refuser. A bag was a purely functional object for me. It served as a sack to dump my daily needs.

But life with MK gave me a different perspective. I realized the role of a purse could be much more. I got a lot of unsolicited compliments from people. “Nice purse!” they would say. “What a bright color!” another would add. At first, it felt good. But then I started feeling uncomfortable. I was not used to this kind of pointed attention.

I felt eyes on me when I entered a room. In crowded buses, I felt defensive. Aunts coveted it. Neighbors envied it. Strangers stared at it. I began to question if MK and me were really suited for each other. I felt small against MK’s large frame, the golden unabashed two-lettered logo felt inexplicably heavy.

The novelty started wearing off and I began to treat MK with a little less respect. I had been carefully storing my phone in one pocket, keys in another and wallet tucked neatly in the middle. Now I began to dump things without restraint. A half-eaten muffin, old crumpled bills, my toddlers half eaten lollipop wrapped in a tissue, the artwork of my three-year-old—all found home in the far corners of my purse.

Then one day, I was in a hurry to meet a friend. I pushed my laptop, charger, a kindle, a tablet into MK. It was a bit too much. MK couldn’t take it anymore. On my walk back to the car, a handle ripped off and a big gash stared at me. I reached home and tenderly slid MK off my shoulders. I lay it on the bed and emptied the contents. It was over.

Then I opened my closet and rummaged through the drawers. Stuffed in a corner was my once discarded cotton bag—my jhola. I had purchased it in Ladakh—a hill station in India on our honeymoon. My husband must have put it through a laundry cycle. It looked clean and fresh. A simple white with soothing blue and pink embroidery. It had cost me Rs. 300 i.e. roughly 2% of MK’s price tag. It had a single flap with a press button that dutifully clicked to close. There were no compartments inside, just empty space to use in whichever manner suited me. The handle was long and comfortable. I slid it across my shoulder and let it hang against my hip. I looked at myself in the mirror.
Jhola and I looked happy.

Sandhya Acharya has worked in the area of corporate finance and is now actively pursuing her passion for words. She is a mother of two boys and a dance enthusiast living in Santa Clara

Guns and Grass

There is an interesting story in the Mahabharata, not as often retold. It is the story of how the illustrious, valiant clan of the Yadavas to which Krishna belonged, destroyed themselves.10443834716_869ed89500_o

Fearing bad omens surfacing in his land, Krishna and the Yadavas go on a pilgrimage to Prabas—a holy town near the ocean. A fight breaks out between factions that cannot agree, assumedly on what had transpired in the great Kurukshetra war featured in the Mahabharata. Words lead to blows.

In a fit of anger, Krishna reaches out to a blade of Eraka grass that miraculously turns into an iron weapon and kills the miscreants. Taking a cue from Krishna, everyone reaches out to the blades of grass around, which turn into lethal weapons.

They are intoxicated and overcome by anger, rage, passion. It is only too easy to “pull the trigger.” They aim the weapons on each other. Quickly, the situation escalates into a full-fledged bloodbath and in the ensuing skirmish the Yadavas manage to wipe out their entire race. A part of this weapon finally causes the end of Krishna too. It is a tragic end to a glorious people.

It is hard to comprehend how in one instant, harmless grass becomes a stockpile of dangerous weapons. In the hands of an inebriated lot, the weapons become nothing short of complete annihilation machines. What haunts me, in particular, is how easy and quick the decimation is.

How fickle our natures are. Even Krishna the exalted one, instead of conducting himself with grace gives in to anger and violence in a moment of madness.

The weapon brings out the ugly in the most beautiful of people.

When I hear about tragedies of Sandy Hook, Columbine and San Bernadino, I am reminded of this story. Weapons in the arms of a chosen few is permissible in a society where we wish for collective law and order to prevail. Weapons freely available to anyone and everyone is a different story.

I have trouble accepting the argument of defence as justification. Life is not a video-game where we are Jedis fighting the Dark Forces. There is real blood spilled and real loss of life. Innocent lives can be lost with one wrong move.

If we own a firearm, when do we decide that it is the right time to discharge it? Have we been trained in ways of dealing with and de-escalating situations? Shouldn’t discharging firearms be the last resort?

Cops and army-men go through that kind of rigorous training. Why then is it so easy for us, the general public, to circumvent this kind of vigilance and conscientiousness. Even so, I digress from the current debate.

People can have their light sabres if they are qualified to carry them. I can accept that. We are expected to pass a driver’s license test before we drive a car. Whether we buy a firearm, in a shop or a show or online, why are basic background checks so hard to accept?

There are, by some measures, at least 300 million firearms in the United States. Roughly one for each person. Freely rampant all around us, as common as grass. When I first heard this statistic on the radio, I remember getting down from the car feeling wary and skittish of every person I saw on the road. Who knows who was walking around with a gun.

As history shows, it is only too easy to pull the trigger.

Sandhya Acharya worked in the area of corporate finance and is now actively pursuing her passion for words. She is a mother of two boys and a dance enthusiast living in Santa Clara

In Defense of a Nine Lettered Name

I shifted uncomfortably in the little toddler seat feeling like Goliath at Lilliput’s dinner table. My 3-year old’s teacher spread out a sheaf of papers displaying his work—art, writing, craft. She went through his grades for performance—social skills, fine motor skills, fine arts, math.

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I felt my complacent self move aside to make way for a hassled competitive mother of a toddler. I squirmed at all the 2s and 3s and beamed at the 5s. I wanted to jump out of my chair, grab all the other files piled in the folders and take a look at which kid stood where.

The teacher showed me a piece of paper with incoherent scribblings. That was my son writing his name. While there were interesting shapes, there was nothing in there that resembled any English letter.

If I had shown it to my son, he would have pleaded with me to concoct a story with all the sticks and stones that he had sketched on the paper. I stifled my giggle when the teacher announced that kids were supposed to write their names by now.

“Really!” I heard myself say aloud. She pulled out another promising child’s paper and showed me an example of how a child should be writing at that point. “After all he would be going to kindergarten soon,” she added emphatically. I ruefully looked at the prized paper belonging to some other proud parent with a name splashed across playfully but fully legible. Four full letters put together calling out a sweet little girl’s name. “Oh!” I managed to say after an awkward pause. And then internally I grimaced at the tough time my son probably would face with his nine lettered name—S I D D H A R T H.

It was a beautiful name—one that had pith, substance and meaning. It means one who has attained all his goals. It is also the name of Gautama Buddha, the seer who attained Nirvana. One of my favorite books authored by Hermann Hesse on the spiritual meaning of life and inspired by Buddha is also named Siddhartha.

And when we had to decide on a name, it was the one name that managed to withstand criticism from both sides of the family too. Yes, like many others, we went through the list of hundreds of names, some had felt too terse, some too raw, some reminded us of someone unpleasant. “Siddharth” on the other hand felt just right.

No, it was no Bob or Tom or Raj. It didn’t easily roll off the tongue and it was not so easy to remember. But neither do Hermione Granger or Daenerys Targaryen. And yet they have high recall value so much so that parents are apparently naming their kids after these famous characters.

Then again we live in the Bay Area where names like Wochiski, Blecharczysk, Srinivasan, Thirunavukkarasu, are common parlance. Sure they will be shortened, examined for hidden meanings, given some flavor and zest, go through several avatars for the benefit of the various circle of friends and acquaintances that they traverse through.

Yet, a name represents the culture we come from, our roots. It is a promise of our own unique offering to the world. It is the first manifestation of the love, as well as the aspirations and dreams we as parents see for our children.

A name becomes a part of our identities. A name is a beautiful thing. And really, if we expect our kids to be writing legibly before they are four, thrive at Russian math school, top the spelling bee, score a 4.0 and also win a sports scholarship, be valedictorian, and respect our elders, invent a flying car or fly to Mars—surely, a nine lettered name is not going to create much of a ruffle.

As if reading my thoughts, the teacher assuaged me, “Oh don’t worry, he will be writing his full name by the end of the year.” I smiled at my ambitious, all embracing Californian teacher.

I took a few more notes, collected the papers and hurriedly headed to the door. Was that Mrs. Guilmeneau next in line?

Sandhya Acharya worked in the area of corporate finance and is now actively pursuing her passion for words. She is a mother of two boys and a dance enthusiast living in Santa Clara. A version of this article was read out on KQED’s “Perspectives” program.