Tag Archives: Stories

Indian Producer Acquires Rights to Dalrymple’s Bestseller Book

Stories about the colonization of India and British imperialism have existed for decades. But it’s time these stories are told by Indians themselves. Producer Siddharth Roy Kapur recently announced the purchase of the audio-visual rights to William Dalrymple‘s bestselling book, ‘The Anarchy: The Relentless Rise of The East India Company’Kapur’s production house, Roy Kapur Films, intends to adapt this book into a large-scale international production.

Both the original work and Kapur’s filmography suggest that this project has massive potential. ‘The Anarchy’, which traces two hundred years worth of history regarding The East India Company, has been lauded by the public and critics alike. The Guardian recognized that “the book’s real achievement is to take readers to an important and neglected period of British and South Asian history, and to make their trip there not just informative but as entertaining as an evening of poetry and music in a Delhi palace.” Former President Barack Obama listed ‘The Anarchy’ on his Top 10 Recommended Books of 2019.

Meanwhile, Kapur’s previous work in the film industry suggests he has a knack for bringing unique stories to life. In 2016, he produced Dangala high-grossing, heartwarming narrative about a young woman’s entry into the world of wrestling. He also produced The Sky Is Pink, a Priyanka Chopra Jonas starrer about a girl’s battle with a life-threatening disease. His 15 years in international cinema have set the bar for ‘The Anarchy’ rather high.

When asked about this latest project, Roy Kapur said:

“I believe that stories that are compelling, relevant and authentic have the potential to resonate with audiences across all nationalities and cultures. William Dalrymple’s epic tale of The East India Company is one such story. While a debate rages today around the world about the increasing power of giant corporations and powerful individuals to wield control over minds and nations, what could be more relevant to global viewers than the true story of the takeover of an entire subcontinent by a small trading company! We are delighted to be working with William to bring to life this fascinating tableau of incredible characters, each playing off the other in their quest to exercise dominion over what was then the richest subcontinent on the face of the Earth.”

Kanchan Naik is a rising senior at the Quarry Lane School in Dublin, California. Aside from being the Youth Editor at India Currents, she is also the Director of Media Outreach for Break the Outbreak, the Editor-in-chief of The Roar, and the 2019-2020 Teen Poet Laureate of Pleasanton.

Environmentalism Through Kid’s Kathas

Living in the world that all of us do today, it goes without saying that children across the spectrum need to read books that create awareness surrounding the environment and its inhabitants. 

When I think of an Indian publishing house for children, the name that first comes to mind is Katha. What sets Katha’s books apart from others is that it is known for facilitating learning through the power of storytelling. Storytelling is a beautiful way to address some of the most pertinent issues related to the environment and climate change, and the 32-year-old publishing house has time and again called for attention towards our planet through this distinctive approach, in books such as Tigers Forever!, The Mysteries Of Migration, and Polar Bear

Books that Make You Fall in Love with Nature

Sonam’s Ladakh

One of the most effective ways of getting children to care about the environment is to simply help them fall in love with it. Some of Katha’s older books instill a love for nature with their stories and themes. Each of their books has a varied message: In Run Ranga! Run!, one gets to explore the grasslands with the fearless baby rhinoceros who needs a friend; Walk the Rainforest with Niwupah and Walk the Grasslands with Takuri are tours of rainforests and grasslands with a hornbill and an elephant, respectively; On the Tip of a Pin Was… uncovers the science behind wormholes; The Gift of Gold is a mythical story from South African folklore is about a little girl who saves her village from drought. 

Manish Lakhani’s Sonam’s Ladakh tells a story through exquisite photography about a girl belonging to the semi-nomadic Changpa tribe, wandering shepherds in Ladakh. Young Sonam informs readers about animals in the Ladakh region that are her closest friends and “better than boxes of money”. She mentions goats, dogs, her father’s pashmina herds of sheep, and yaks that help grow food and whose wool make their tents. She also points out other animals in the region—the rare Eurasian otters, horses, and Himalayan wolves. The story that is bound to fascinate most children with its sheer novelty and imagery. The books ends with a section that discusses Ladakh’s many glaciers that are gradually melting due to the earth’s global warming, increasing pollution levels and the cutting of trees. The questions posed are aimed at making children think of ways in which all of us in our own way can contribute to caring for the environment.

Keeping it Simple

In a world filled with an overwhelming amount of information on environmental degradation, young children are most likely to gain sensitivity about the situation most through personal experience. Katha’s books have constantly aimed at bringing out simple storylines with characters that relate to most children.

In Who Wants Green Fingers Anyway?, Geeta Dharmarajan explores a mother’s obsession with her potted plants kept in her verandah. When her plants start mysteriously wilting and drooping, her husband researches the subject of how to keep them happy, leading him to attempt re-potting them. What follows is a comical saga, however, the key message has been surreptitiously slipped in—that the roots of plants get tangled up when their pots become too small for them.  

More recently, in The Mystery of the Missing Soap, Tobakachi, the wicked Asura and GermaAsura, along with their Coronavirus Army, make soap disappear in Dakshinapur, one of the happiest villages in the country. By tricking people in this way, they ensure that no one washes their hands, which makes them all very sick. That is until the helpful elephant, Tamasha and the fearless girl, Lachmi, show everyone how to make soap in order to win the battle against the Virus Army. The story, beautifully illustrated by Suddhasattwa Basu and Charbak Dipta, is followed by a simple recipe for making soap at home using reetha berries. By explaining the importance of washing one’s hands in order to prevent coronavirus, the book then dives into Katha’s famous “TADAA” (Think, Ask questions, Discuss, Act, and Take Action for the community) section which details what coronavirus actually is and what one can do to prevent oneself from getting it.

Big Ideas with a Heart

After getting kids to fall in love with nature through simple stories—and hence, getting them to care for the environment—the next step is to focus on concepts that help them think about pressing environmental issues that are affecting the world. Every narrative in Katha’s books is filled with common themes—or what the publisher likes to call ‘big ideas’. For instance, all of Katha’s environment books have recurring themes such as empathy, affection, kindness, collective action, and cues to switch to alternative eco-friendly habits.

Ma Ganga and the Razai Box weaves environmental concerns like pollution, soil erosion, and desertification with mythology. The Magical Raindrop humanizes and gives emotions to Mother Earth, formulating her character in a way that the readers feel she’s a person who feels happiness, sadness, anxiety, and joy just like all of us. Katha’s Thinkbook Series has been designed in a way to introduce young readers to big ideas such as “climate change, gender, and kindness through stories that inspire, aspire, and engage.” 

Educating through Stories

Katha’s founder, Padma Shri Geeta Dharmarajan, is an award-winning writer, editor, and educator. Her published works alone include more than 30 children’s books, many of which are Katha publications. Needless to say, environmental issues are very close to her heart. She is credited for having created Katha’s unique concept of StoryPedagogy, which combines India’s oral traditions and the 2,000-year-old Sanskrit text on the performing arts, Natya Shastra; an idea that she has seamlessly integrated with an earth-friendly curriculum.

While the stories get children to empathize with the characters and their situation—and thus, understand and imbibe an environmental concept—Katha’s final goal is to make children think deeper and take initiatives to act and make a difference. The insightful exercises that appear at the end of each book are created using the SPICE model (Student-centred, Problem-based, Integrated, Community-based, Electives, Systematic) as well as observations, teachers’ feedback, and research among children in the Katha Lab School.

Katha Lab School is a model and a center of creativity for the slum cluster of Govindpuri in New Delhi. Thus, Katha takes the storytelling approach a step further beyond its books too. The Katha Lab School, for instance, uses no traditional textbooks or a one-size-fits-all syllabus. Instead, its system of education is based on StoryPedagogy, a technique that is delivered through Active Story-Based Learning, which helps children to learn language, science, and mathematics, while developing general awareness and critical thinking skills through various stories and activities.

Katha’s StoryPedagogy is the new age of education – one that we can all benefit from adopting.

Neha Kirpal is a freelance writer based in Delhi. She is the author of Wanderlust for the Soul, an e-book collection of short stories based on travel in different parts of the world. 

Irani Cafes Influence Dishoom’s Cuisine

From Bombay with love

“The thing about Mumbai is you go five yards and all of human existence is revealed. It’s an incredible cavalcade of life, and I love that.” Julian Sands.

Dishoom is so much more than a cookbook. It is a walking serenade to South Bombay and it’s Irani Cafes. The refreshing, authentic, and passionate storytelling style of the authors, Shamil and Kavi, make this book a pure treat to all your senses. The vibrant visuals and descriptive narratives are bound to make your palate salivate. This 400-page walking tour guide starts off with a vintage map of South Bombay. The map highlights all the 34 places that you will be visiting through its pages. The book is filled with old black and white photos, overlayed with recent snapshots to provide a colorful canvas for this love story.

If you are not from Bombay, the city can overwhelm you. Shamil and Kavi ease you into the chaos and bustle, to settle you down with a backdrop of their childhood in Matunga, where they spent many holidays with their grandparents, near Koolar and Co., one of the oldest Irani Cafes. 

Dishoom Shoreditch, London

They introduce you to Chef Naved and his exquisite recipes that showcase their restaurant Dishoom in London. They also give you an overview of the fascinating history of Bombay from how it got its name to many an anecdote about different locales.

The migration of the Parsi community to Bombay is not well documented in most Indian history books. Parsi history usually starts and ends around their move from Iran to India to escape religious persecution and their settlement in Bombay. Shamil and Kavi give us a much richer treatise to the Parsi community.

Irani cafes were instrumental to the cosmopolitan culture of old Bombay. They were the very foundation in the hearts of our two authors, for their new restaurant venture, DISHOOM in London. Like they say, “We serve dishes in Parsi, Muslim, Hindu, and Christian traditions which all jostle on our tables for space.” Poetic indeed!

The book’s walking tour starts…

An 8 am breakfast at Kyani and Co. What a treat! Every Indian can relate to the nostalgia of dipping a pau (bread) into your chai (tea). I stopped reading at this point and made myself a cup of masala chai, just to take in that memory. 

Chef Naved starts us off with some simple recipes like the Akuri (Parsi scrambled egg) and the Chilli Cheese toast which is the base for the Kejriwal (Fried Egg) – yes Kejriwal! 

Mr ‘Knock Out’ Zend’s Yazdani cafe and his simple Brun (Bun) Maska dipped in hot chai will make you drool for more. “Dip the brun into the sweet chai, allow the butter to melt slightly and put in your mouth for an immediate, simple, and true delight.”

We feast ourselves with chicken berry pulao and salli boti (meat curry) at the legendary Britannia, in the presence of its famous owner Mr. Boman Kohinoor

“In a place as hectic as Bombay, the allure of Chowpatty is clear. Here you can partake in the serious business of idle pleasures. A gentle stroll on Chowpatty at sunset, with plentiful snacks.” Sink your teeth into a piping hot pau (bread) bhaji or a spicy bhel (puffed rice), or the ever famous vada pau, the iconic Bombay street food. Wet your lips with the falooda (sweet dessert) and kulfis (ice cream) and end your cravings with Sharma Paanwala’s paan (betel leaves) to digest the day’s symphony of dishes in your system. 

Get back on track with Kala Ghoda’s Trishna for the finest butter pepper garlic crab.

Walk down to Mohammed Ali Road, past a spectacular array of food stalls and antique stores. A notable pit stop for a meat lover is the Surti Bara Handi. How can you miss Halim and Aamir’s Taj ice cream and Burhanpur hot, hot jalebis?

Not sure how much stomach you have left, but the tour hasn’t ended yet as it dives into the third dinner at the famous Bademiya in Colaba. The picturesque and flamboyant tossing of the dough by the chef and service on warm car bonnets, stays with you for a long while. 

After 3 heavy dinners it’s time to walk along Marine Drive promenade and gaze out to the sea. You will run into the famous Rustom and Co.’s ice cream parlor known for its seasonal flavors. 

The tour ends with an ode to the Taj hotel. Little did we know of it being the backdrop for the glorious and illustrious jazz scene of the 1930s through the Independence era of India. I love a good cocktail and the tipples section is clever and innovative with some interesting drinks like the Kohinoor Fizz, The Commander, and the Dhoble.

As whimsical and flowery as the descriptions in the book, the experience I had preparing the recipes brought me quickly back down to earth. Recipes that started off as a few easy steps evolved into a complex multitude of steps, that required different preparatory recipes, all infused into one large recipe. 

Some recipes are not for a novice cook. I recommend you read and prep all the sub-recipes before you decide to make a more complex dish. For example, the chole (chickpeas) has 2-3 sub-recipes that are found in different sections of the book. As a cookbook, it was a bit tedious to maneuver back and forth between the pages of this heavy book. 

Make sure to carefully read the serving sizes, as they vary from dish to dish, and are not consistent. I had to take a picture of the recipe and sub-recipes to make it easier to follow. I still have a lot more recipes to try out. What would have helped is a listing of all the dishes in the table of contents, or next to each section, to avoid the constant referring to the index page to find the recipes. Furthermore, the metric system measures in the recipes are not ideal for an American audience. 

Overall, this is a great gift for anyone who enjoys food, history, and stories. For all the avid readers out there, the recommended reading is an added bonus. The genuine voices of Shamil and Kavi along with Naved’s journey into making Dishoom a world-renowned restaurant is commendable. 

My journey with Dishoom

The chili cheese toast had a kick to it and with the masala chai was a delectable breakfast. 

The Mattar Paneer was tasty, but needed a little more cooking to soften the frozen peas, as they stood out without soaking into the onion- tomato masala with a gentle simmer of 5 minutes and cook time of extra 10 minutes.

The Murgh malai recipe was a classic hit. The juicy thigh meat with two marinades was well worth the effort. 

Pau bhaj – I made this for my Bombaite nephews and nieces who grew up eating vada pau and pau bhaji. Their consensus was that it was a little sweet and westernized. Maybe what it missed was the ginger/garlic green chili paste?

The warm pineapple and black pepper crumble was a huge favorite especially with some vanilla ice cream on top. 

The East Indian Gimlet – used a homemade lime cordial. 

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Praba Iyer is a Chef Instructor, Food Writer, and cooking judge. She specializes in team-building classes through cooking for Venture Capitalists and Tech Companies in the bay area. She teaches Thai, Mexican, Pan Asian, Indian, and Ayurvedic cooking classes. Praba is a graduate of the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco. She was an Associate Chef at Greens Restaurant in San Francisco. 

Nirtya Darshni, Natya Chinthamani Revathi Satyu Touches Many Lives

Core strength and flawless posture mark the ladies stepping out of Arathi School of Dance in Dallas, Texas. The students, some who have been at the school for most of its thirty-nine years, carry the poise and gentleness of its founder Smt. Revathi Satyu. Revathi who as a young girl has performed before the Maharaja of Mysore, Prime Minister Smt. Indira Gandhi and President Shri V.V.Giri among other dignitaries, has in her lifetime gently floated from one accolade to another for her service to the art of dance.

Smt. Revathi Natyu with Maharaja Jayachamarajendra Wodeyar of Mysore

It was in 1980, when there was no other dance academy in the state, art connoisseurs came together to enjoy and encourage the art form under her leadership. Herself a young lady with small children Revathi nevertheles forged forward with her dream to pass on the art to the next generation of children to grow up in the US. “When our children were young,” said Dr. Neil Satyu, “she would teach only on weekends, but increased the lessons to three to four days a week when the children were older. She would drive an hour each way from our home to teach dance in Dallas, and fly to San Antonio once a month to teach there.”

 

Dr. Neil Satyu

When the school started, the classes were held in a recreation center, then they were moved to a church community hall, soon they were subleasing ballet studios.  “When the Hindu Temple build classrooms, she began to teach at the temple,” said her husband, Dr. Neil Satyu.

“She was the first to start a Bharatanatyam dance school here in Dallas forty years ago. It took guts, grit, and a strong resolve to do this at a time when there were not very many Indians in the area and she had to travel hours to get to the students. Dance school became a place where friendships developed, a place where the children of those who left India could be exposed to the rich culture of their heritage; a community grew. The school not only helped the students attending it but it helped the parents of the students make connections and relationships that are ongoing even today,” said Anu Sury, who has been her student since the age of twelve and now teaches in the school.

Arpana Satyu Burge, her daughter, remembers that there was always someone coming over to practice for a show or arangetram. They always had one or two dance sisters attached to the family. “Raising the two of us in the sticks of East Texas, in a town where she knew nobody could not have been easy, but she did it.  She met people, she made friends, she found students, she handled the household.  She raised two kids (who turned out pretty okay) but created many more dancers.”

Revathi and her team later took on the task of taking the dance to non-Indian audiences and to educate the people at large. Suma Kulkarni joined forces to take Smt. Revathi Satyu’s vision for the Arathi School of Dance forward. They created the Indian Cultural Heritage Foundation, non-profit organization whose vision is to promote intercultural awareness by providng a platform for the interaction between Indian and American cultures through workshops, presentations and performances. ” Prabha (Suma) Aunty and Revathi Aunty have conceptualized, started, and managed ICHF for the past 25 years. Through this organization, Dallas has benefited immensely with outstanding artists being presented here,” said Anu Sury.

Modest about her achievements Smt. Revathi Satyu is not one to boast. She often refers to dance as a good hobby. But the depth of her commitment is evident when her students talk about her in reverential tones

Alpana Kagal Jacob, her student of 38 years remembers being mesmerized by her performance at just ten years of age and demanding her parents enroll her in her school of dance.“ I was 10 years old and our family had recently moved to Denton, Texas. I remember watching aunty perform a few Bharatanatyam items and specifically a Mohiniyattam item. I was instantly mesmerized by her grace and connected with her through her striking glances that seemed to not allow the audience to look away. It was magical. I remember telling my mother that I would like to start dance classes with Revathi aunty. We really didn’t understand what a treasure we had right in front of our eyes.  Aunty sacrificed so much for us and for this amazing art form. I remember days when she would have one of her young daughters holding on to her feet as she patiently continued to teach us. When I think back to those simple days I can’t help to feel such gratitude for growing up in a world that was so simple and having the opportunity to learn from this simple yet complex woman.”

“I am always thankful for ALL that she does, and especially, for all that she is,” said Shalini Varghese Chandragiri who has been her student since the age of five and now teaches at Arathi School of Dance. “She teaches by example how to submit to the higher power without ever letting ego get in the way.”

“It is believed that in life, every person’s destiny is bound to another person. Revathi aunty came into my life twenty-one years ago when I moved from India to Dallas, to pursue my doctoral program. Dance was always my first love. My dear Revathi aunty, and the Arathi School family that she built further enhanced this love. I still vividly remember that Saturday afternoon at the Irving temple when I laid my eyes on this exquisite and gorgeous aunty. She and her senior students were getting ready for a performance. When I approached her, she welcomed me with open arms in her quiet and sweet manner. This journey of dance has been more than just dance to me. This has been a journey of love, patience, compassion, and self-discovery, all thanks to Revathi aunty.  She is my Guru, when I need direction, my dance mom when I need advice and a friend when I need to share my smiles and tears, and even when I need to share a cup of hot tea with a good book to read,” says Sarita Venkatraman her student, now herself a teacher at Arathi School of Dance.

“When I was older, I moved away and realized that not all dance teachers are like Revathi Aunty. She is a rarity in that she is open to collaboration, with never an unkind word about anyone.  I love being a teacher for Arathi School of Dance.  It is because of Revathi Aunty’s unwavering dedication to teaching Bharatanatyam that our school has such a strong foundation and remains the most established school of Bharatanatyam in the entire state of Texas”, said Shilpi S. Mehta her student and a teacher herself.

” I too have had the opportunity to see other dance schools run by other teachers in America. I haven’t found one that has created the kind of dance culture Revathi aunty has. She builds relationships with other dancers and teachers rather than seeing them as competition. She nurtures relationships with many different musicians through mutual respect,” said Latha Shrivatsa. “She had the strength in character to invite other prominent dancers to conduct workshops at a time when other dancer teachers were not doing this, so that we might be exposed to other styles rather than claim her students as her own territory. She encourages her own dancers to keep striving, to explore directions beyond where she has,” said Latha

As the President of the Indian Cultural Heritage Foundation, Revathi Satyu continues to promote and encourage other dance, music and art connoisseurs around the world. She is a true athlete of the art. The dance studio spends a great deal of time and energy in connecting the ancient traditions with the ideas and stories of the present and the future. “She’d dance in the kitchen while we were at school, choreograph in her head while listening to music in the carpool line, and drag us to hours upon hours of dance lessons on weekends, because that was her happy place,”  her daughter Arpana said.

Revathi has been the choreographer and artistic director for a number of dance dramas, raising funds for deserving causes. Every performance by the school encapsulates in the performance a message or story the students can relate to. Powerful stories for instance of different aspects of the mother; Jiva or the art of protecting the environment or our roots are conveyed using abhinaya and nritta or rhythmic footwork, geometric movement, codified hand gestures, and facial expressions. The performers with technical virtuosity express devotion to the deities and their cultural tradition. They share their knowledge of the different facets of Indian deities and mythological stories with their non-Indian audiences.

Revathi Satyu’s dance journey began in India where she reached great heights. Illustrious gurus, U.S. Krishna Rao and Chandrabhaga Devi, Pandanallur Muthiah Pillai, Tanjore K.P. Kittappa Pillai and Mysore Venkatalakshamma, shaped her into a worldclass Bharatnatyam dancer and stage actress in India where she performed for a decade 1965-1974. Revathi Satyu is a sought after Bharatanatyam dancer. Karnataka Kalashri, Bharata Kala Rathna, Sangita Sambrahma and recently winner of the Mary McLarry Lifetime Achiement Award from the Dance Council of North Texas her outstanding contribution in the field of classical dance has been awarded many times.

Earlier this year she was endowed with the prestigious title of “Nritya Darshini” by Kalaimamani Smt. Priyadarsini Govind. Additionally Revathi Satyu is being honored by Saptami Foundation, with the title of ‘Natya Chinthamani’ on November 23rd, 2019. The Nirtya Darshni award recognized her as an outstanding dancer and guru.

Dance flows through her and this teller of ancient and modern stories steals your heart with a fluidity of motion and a flash of her expressive eyes. As Arpana her daughter says, “As perennial as a rose, so is my mom–she stretches further and blooms brighter as the years go on.”

Click to watch video

Why Stories are Important

Books are enchanted. They have the ability to transport the mind to an imaginative place where the story gets painted in vivid colors. These stories can also be crucial in teaching lessons, at any age, and allow us to experience a journey through a character’s insight. It is truly magical when a book and its lessons stay with you and become an integral part of your core principles and understandings. When I was in the fifth grade, I read the book Holes by Louis Sachar three times. 20 years later, the story has stuck with me as a telling of the resilience, resourcefulness and the deciphering between right and wrong that children so clearly possess.

The book tells of a young teenage boy named Stanley Yelnats. He was wrongly accused of theft and sent to a juvenile corrections facility in a vast Texan desert called Camp Green Lake. He comes from a poor family who has always believed they were cursed due to his “no-good-dirty-rotten pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather”. At Camp Green Lake, Stanley and the other inmates are told to dig one hole every day that is 5 feet deep and 5 feet wide to build character. However, Stanley soon suspects they might be digging for something in particular, because the warden promises a day off for anyone who finds anything interesting. Stanley befriends another young boy named Zero, who has been homeless most of his life, and together they find themselves on a journey for survival.

The plot includes history of the area along with the interconnected relationships between other characters and how they each affect Stanley. Themes include illiteracy, homelessness, racism, and the mistreatment of children. I understand it sounds heavy for a ten year old to read, but Sachar’s story telling was inscribed in such a way that I believe now was important for my young mind to piece the themes together. They are topics that ring ever true to our future and have yielded my passion and will to make the upcoming generation better.

As a third grade teacher, my goal is to teach my students the importance of resilience, compassion, and understanding the different families and backgrounds in our community. Holes is an important reminder that children can make a profound impact on the world. One instance in my classroom that made me feel that full-hearted, proud teacher beam happened this past school year. I was teaching my students about the Native Americans. We discussed the treatment of the Native Americans by the Europeans, and how it was not as peaceful as we used to be taught when my generation learned about Christopher Columbus and Thanksgiving. We talked about the conflict over land, and one of my students raised her hand. When I called on her, she asked, “Why didn’t they just have a conversation and find a way to share the land fairly?” This is why we teach history. I told my students that their mindset is already greater than those who came before them, and that is the mindset we need in our future for a joyous and successful world.

Ultimately, the themes of resilient problem-solving and fair treatment of others are what I aim to teach my students every day. Just like Sachar’s novel, life is an adventure and through each challenge, a valuable lesson is learned.

Annie Milan is a Bay Area native and is currently a third grade teacher in Los Gatos. Teaching has always been the guiding light of her education and career. She graduated with a BA in English Education with a minor in Spanish from California State University, Chico in 2013. She has always relished literature and writing, and started a book club for her colleagues earlier this year. Annie and her husband live in San Jose. Together they frequent the foothills taking hikes and enjoy weekend trips to the beach. In her downtime, she loves to read, cook, and take on home projects.

Stories From The Heart

It was a quintessentially cold American winter afternoon. It was barely 5pm and the sun was setting. As a recent immigrant to America, my spirits wearied, especially on such dark winter days. In desperation I googled “Indian-American magazines.” The first one that showed up was India Currents. As soon as I clicked on it, hours passed and a subliminal  thirst was quenched. I was taken back to India, not geographically but deep within my soul. I was transported to a place where I could hear and understand and speak and be understood. My diasporic dilemma felt natural and true.

During my first encounter as a writer for India Currents, I was met with respect due to a community or a family member. Articles were not only accepted but made to feel valued. Being an active spectator, I have recognized the heart element in everything that this organization  does. Stories are told from the heart and that’s what ties the diverse subjects from people from all over the world together on India Currents.

It’s been ten years since that winter day and I can hardly believe it!  I am now a part of this family’s fabric as Managing Editor. The honor is mine to experience every story in all its richness, to hunt for these jewels, help enhance them or merely bow to the power of their perfection. . 

The nature of the diaspora is a unique one. Its longing, passions, pain and will power have been the subjects of many an artist, author, poet and filmmaker. The need to belong is a human one and yet all of this is not outwardly apparent. To represent such a community while encouraging true dialogue is our privilege. These stories continue to inspire, resonate, and prove relatable again  and again, because they come from the depths of the diasporic community.

In its digital avatar, India Currents  will keep its heartful and real story telling alive. As digital content challenges us toward shorter, snippier pieces, we aim to achieve precision, articulation and nuance without compromising on quality. While we strive to be sleeker and clearer, we also look forward to opening up to more ideas, diversifying our palette to include different points of view across horizons. 

The beauty of the online platform is that it frees us from geographic limitations, it unites us in the spirit of all things Indian. Whether we are Indian by birth or Indian-American, liberal or conservative, artist or scientist — if we have a story to tell, we have a family to hear it. 

Preeti Hay is the Managing Editor of India Currents.

Why Did The Chicken Cross The Road?

A slim envelope arrived in the mail. It didn’t look like junk mail and its heft was light.  I turned it over a couple of times and slit it open. Inside, on a single sheet of ruled paper was a crisply-penciled note from my grandniece.  “Dear Mukund Thatha,” it read. “Thank you for coming to my show. I enjoyed dozing off during class with Ms. Quipster. Taarini”

When was the last time you received a personal letter in the mail?

Taarini was referring to Sounds of Laughter 2019, an annual show by The Music School in Sunnyvale featuring more than a hundred of its students ranging in age from kindergarteners to high schoolers.

A buzz filled the Spartan Theater as people entered, greeted friends, found seats of their choice and settled in. The diverse crowd was representative of the Bay Area, with a good mix of young and old. Proud parents and grandparents, many armed with cameras, video recorders and smartphones were ready to capture the young ones in action.  Many parents were accompanied by their children – some looking somewhat bored, uninspired perhaps by the prospect of having to watch their siblings perform; a few others were armed with books. Friends of the family looked happy in their role as morale boosters. A few among the audience just had to check out that latest WhatsApp message, respond to a work email or check on the Warriors score in a key playoff game.  

The lights dimmed promptly at seven and the audience settled in.  Rustling and movement could be heard behind the stage curtain. A spotlight turned on to illuminate a corner of the stage. “Why did the chicken cross the road?” asked a disembodied young voice. Two young artistes stepped into the spotlight and trotted onto the stage in full chicken regalia, fluffing their feathers.

Thus started an endearing, fun-filled and joyous evening of songs, dance and skits interspersed with more chicken and Knock-Knock jokes than I’d heard in the last ten years combined. It was inspiring to see and hear these high-energy performers – young and younger – giving their best, teaming in coordination and harmony and entertaining the audience while having great fun themselves.

The song and dance numbers included well-known hits such as Monster Mash, and That’s Amore.  A dramatic rendition of Carole King’s musical version of Maurice Sendak’s classic children’s story Pierre: A Cautionary Tale in Five Chapters and a Prologue left a strong impression.

There was once a boy named Pierre
Who only would say, “I don’t care!”
Read his story, my friend, for you’ll find
At the end that a suitable
Moral lies there

One day his mother said
When Pierre climbed out of bed
“Good morning, darling boy, you are my only joy”
Pierre said, “I don’t care!

***********

In a skit titled School Daze, the aforementioned Ms. Quipster tried gamely to deal with students who one-upped her with their attitudes and replies to her questions. The Song That Goes Like This was followed by Papa-Oom-Mow-Mow, previously rendered by the Beach Boys and other bands.  In my opinion the true essence of the evening was captured by the finale Happiness:

Happiness is two kinds of ice cream
Finding your skate key, telling the time
Happiness is learning to whistle
Tying your shoe for the very first time
Happiness is playing the drum in your own school band
And happiness is walking hand in hand

Happiness is five different crayons
Knowing a secret, climbing a tree
Happiness is finding a nickel
Catching a firefly, setting him free
Happiness is being alone every now and then
And happiness is coming home again

Happiness is morning and evening
Daytime and nighttime, too
For happiness is anyone and anything at all
That’s loved by you

Happiness is having a sister
Sharing a sandwich
Getting along
Happiness is singing together when day is through
And happiness is those who sing with you

Happiness is morning and evening
Daytime and nighttime, too
For happiness is anyone and anything at all
That’s loved by you

So, why did the chicken cross the road?

To remind us of all the important little things in life.  To assure us that it’s okay to act silly and have fun. To remind us to be happy with what we have. To feel justifiably proud of the generation that will be our future. To demonstrate what a group of people, young or old, can accomplish when they give of themselves and work together. To reinforce the adage that when you help others you help yourself. To bless us with an enjoyable, fun-filled evening.  And having done all that, to get to the other side!

No, Taarini, it is I who should thank you!

Mukund Acharya spent 40 years on three continents as a professor, scientist, manager and technologist in aerospace. He currently promotes healthy aging and wellness, advocates for patients and their families, and is exploring the use of short stories, photopoetry and blogs to spread the message on the importance of living substantive, impactful, fulfilling and contented lives while giving back to the community.

Happiness lyrics © Johnny Bienstock Music LLC, Songwriters: Bill Anderson