Tag Archives: SJSU

Ruthless Politics, Female Power and Kathak

The Forgotten Empress from Farah Yasmeen Shaikh—formerly of Chitresh Das Dance Company and now founder of Noorani Dance—will come to two Bay Area stages; San Jose at the end of February and Z Space at the beginning of March. These performances are not only timely and topical because of the subject matter, but arrive just as the world celebrates International Women’s Day, which this year occurs on Sunday March 8.


“The themes are timeless,” says Shaikh, “love, ego, struggle for power, betrayal by the ones you hold closest, loss of loved ones, and a longing desire for something different other than what fate has dictated to you as one’s own life.”

Empress Noor Jahan was a woman who while possessing both a deep compassion and sensitivity toward others, paired these attributes with an  intelligent and strategic mind. The possessor of what Shaikh describes as a “a rare and intoxicating beauty,” Noor Jahan was willing to use those attributes in order to achieve her own ends, ends that included marriage and motherhood as a means to pursuing power and authority at the state level.

This solo Kathak performance, a discipline that traces its development to the 16th century, and is considered one of eight forms of Indian classical dance will feature Shaikh portraying all the characters, both male and female. Kathak comes from the Sanskrit word “katha” which means “story,” and the term Kathak is taken to mean “that which tells a story.”

“Kathak offers both the dancer and the audience an opportunity to go on an visually rhythmic journey of emotions,” says Shaikh. “It’s a form that asks the performer to not only to dance highly technical compositions and combinations, but also act out emotionally charged scenes as well.”

The Forgotten Empress is woven together from an original script written by acclaimed Playwright and Director, Matthew Spangler (who also adapted Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner for theater). The live music for the evening is directed and will be performed by rising tabla artist, Salar Nader, who will be joined on stage by: Ben Kunin on sarod; Raaginder Singh Momi on violin; Deepti Warrier on vocals; Sukanya Chakrabarti (San Jose) and Radhika Rao (San Francisco) as the actor/narrator.

The San Francisco performances, which occur in the days just prior to International Women’s Day, will feature a special guest, historian and author Ruby Lal, who wrote a definitive biography on the subject Empress: Astonishing Reign of Nur Jahan, who will give a pre-show talk as well as a reading, with book sales and signing to follow.

What: The Forgotten Empress, Co-Presented by Communication Studies at SJSU
When: Feb 28 & Saturday, Feb 29 at 7:30pm
Where: Hammer Theatre Center at San Jose University
Tickets: Tickets: $35 / $45 / $60 at www.nooranidance.com 

What: The Forgotten Empress, Co-Presented by Z Space & Litquake
When: Thursday, March 5 and Friday March 6 at 7:30 pm
Where: Z Space, 450 Florida Street San Francisco 94114
Tickets: Tickets: $35 / $45 / $60 at www.nooranidance.com 

Desis of Silicon Valley Speak: An Oral History

In 2016, KQED reported that 350,000 Asian Indians have moved to California over the last fifteen years based on data from AAPI (Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders). It is well-known that the trend followed the dot-com boom in the late 1990s when software and computer engineering professionals from India moved to Silicon Valley and the South Bay in record numbers. Affluent cities in areas such as Cupertino, Palo Alto, Fremont, and Milpitas experienced what The Mercury News reported as a diversification in the Asian community owing to the rise in the Asian Indian population. One constant story left untold amidst this demographic transformation is the impact of the growing Asian Indian or ‘Desi’ population on the region. The Martin Luther King, Jr. (MLK) Library at San Jose State University is creating an oral history project to record first-hand stories of ‘Desis’ in Silicon Valley. An oral history is a field of study in which audio and /or video recordings of first-hand interviews are collected, preserved, and interpreted to understand periods of history or events through the lived experiences of the interviewees or participants.

For the purpose of this study, the use of ‘Desi’ refers specifically to the Indian diaspora in Silicon Valley and the South Bay. What social and cultural changes have occurred in the past thirty years as a result of the growing ‘Desi’ population? How has the ‘Desi’ identity been transformed by Silicon Valley? Why and how is Silicon Valley ‘home’ for so many Desis?

A tenure-track faculty member at the MLK library has received a university grant to build the first phase of the oral history project. She has started conducting interviews with Desis from various backgrounds – magazine founders, radio station founders, IT professionals, boutique owners. She invites members of the Indian community to participate in the oral history project in order to record and preserve the stories of our community. She will scale the project in 2020 and the next few years. Email [email protected] if you are interested in participating.