Tag Archives: thoughts

Letters to India Currents: 10/22/20

To The Editor,

I have seen how the Indian American Voters have gotten slightly disaffected by Harris/Biden/Jaipal Reddy/Ro Khanna/Ilhan Omar’s stances being perceived as though against India, especially on Kashmir and Modi administration.

In swing states, Indian votes will make a difference. I see a large number of politicians and policy wonks giving a perception of this anti-India stance (and mollycoddling of Separatism in Kashmir by Muslim fanatics supported by Pakistan and China).

Therefore I would request politicians that support Indian democracy and want peace and normalcy to return to the Indian subcontinent – especially Kashmir, please make a strong statement that supports India’s Modi’s efforts to call the 70-year-old bluff (explained below) and bring normalcy to the people of Kashmir, including for Muslims, by restoring Law and Order slowly.

To US Political Leaders and Policymakers:

Please give light to the treatment and plight of the Kashmiri Pandits who had to flee Srinagar due to the genocide/ethnic cleansing wrought on them by the Pakistani Army.

Mention the fact that a majority of the J&K population and area – Jammu residents and Ladakhis do support the Modi governments’ actions and gradual restoration of the rule of law.

Mention that after article 370, there are glimmers of hope in Kashmir and now the local population is asking the Indian government about constructing infrastructure instead of breaking away. As an example, read this article on India Currents: https://indiacurrents.com/after-370-glimmers-of-hope/

You could also talk about the torment (and smothering) of ordinary people in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (which Pak cunningly calls Azad Kashmir) and Gilgit Baltistan under the hands of the Pakistani military, which does not easily allow free expression or a free Press. In addition, talk about how a large cross-section in these regions under Pakistan, wants to actually join India!

Additional points:
1) Don’t ignore the plight of the soldiers and their families who have lost their near & dear ones too.
2) There is a history of corruption and demagoguery by the Kashmiri politicians (Abdullahs and Mufti Mohammed Syeds, albeit along with central political parties) in rigging elections in 1989 and thus giving disaffected youth a cause to rebel – however unjustified.
3) Note the treachery of the Hurriyat leaders (local Kashmiri leaders), including Gilanis.
4) Please understand that J&K had acceded to India in 1947 and it is the Pakistani army that tried to wrest it away by force. Upon that, Article 370 and 35A were but temporary and stop-gap measures having no validity any longer and completely un-tenable for a state in a democratic country
5) Understand the abuses of these articles in Kashmir, with the politicians giving passports and citizenships to Uighurs as well as Rohingyas without any sanction from the Central Government.
6) Let people know about the amount of money and sops given by Indians to Kashmir, which was mis-used by the corrupt Kashmiri (local) politicians and administration before the abrogation of article 370.
8) Realize that the original Kashmiri Muslim (mostly a Shias/Sufis) will have much better human rights, security, and equality in a unified Kashmir than under Pakistan (Shias being persecuted in Pak), just as Kashmiris had between 1947 and 1989, before militancy.

I really hope you can educate your colleagues to avoid making a blanket “mother of all” statements supporting the plight of the Kashmiri Muslim alone, without understanding the complex history, nuances, and facts – especially the plight of the plurality of the J&K population (Pandits, Jammu residents and Ladakhis).

I hope your colleagues will be even more strident in castigating and thwarting the Pakistani military’s nefarious designs at damaging the Kashmiri psyche, peace, and economy by fueling Jihadist terrorism.

If you leaders are true to your words and really care for the average Kashmiri, you need to pass resolutions to stop funding and aiding the Pakistani military, impose sanctions on ISI and strengthen the Indian administration’s hand in making J&K a prosperous part of peaceful and democratic India.

Please help in the ongoing restoration of peace by making such statements for India’s efforts and pass this on to your colleagues’ policymakers.

Thank you,

Mayank Jain


If you would like your opinion or perspective expressed at India Currents, do not hesitate to contact editor@indiacurrents.com with a submission or note. We are open to all voices, only barring hate speech and misinformation. 

Letters to India Currents: 10/14/20

To The Editor,

Thank you for your email and for including me in your community. I will address your general questions.

Yes, I am voting in 2020. I have always voted since I became a US citizen in 1981 and I am a registered voter in CA as an Independent. So, I have the right to choose my candidate not necessarily for a Political Party but across the party line. As an independent, I am restricted from Voting in the CA Primaries.

Sorry, I will not share who I am going to vote for. I will reserve my right to privacy. I consider the ‘Issues’ and the ‘Stands’ for each Presidential candidate and not necessarily for their personalities, although that is somewhat important for a President. Nevertheless, to me, I never bring it down to a personal level for anyone I come to know, not necessarily a political figure. Although most people do. It is the most convenient, shallow depth and an easy way to bring a person down and avoid personal responsibility.

I believe ‘ Actions’  are important because that is what makes the person not the looks or the talks. I judge a person by his or her actions over a period of time.  I also want to see the overall ‘situation’  of the country and decide on my vote.

It is not easy to have a perfect Democracy. Each person must understand its value and the value of the vote. It is not a matter of ONE issue but SEVERAL issues and how those are being dealt with.

Hope I didn’t offend you by my remarks.  I do have my First Amendment Rights and being in the publishing business, you might know about it very well.

Best wishes,

Sumedha Sengupta

Livermore, CA


If you would like your opinion or perspective expressed at India Currents, do not hesitate to contact editor@indiacurrents.com with a submission or note. We are open to all voices, only barring hate speech and misinformation. 

Letters to India Currents: 10/06/20

Dear India Currents,

In the Red and Blue states and cities where we have our hotels, we are pledging to work with the cities local officials to create polling places for the 2020 general elections promoting community and civic engagements. Our employees will volunteer and help out as needed.

Like the years before, we are giving employees paid time off to vote, urging to uphold virtues of respect and dignity amid contentious election as we continue to push for social, racial justice, and equality.

In the 2016 General Elections, our 2 sons, Krish (10) & Aryan (9) joined us at the polls to vote, where me, my parents, and Neelam made our selections and our sons turned the dials and pressed the buttons communicating it to the government and election officials. It bought a big smile to the whole family when the official ballot was being printed to double confirm as we pressed the accept red-button.

As a first-generation American, voting has always been a big deal for me and I was feeling proud and patriotic. you know, I am an immigrant and built my professional life here in the United States. I owe much to this country, as I started from nothing to my education and the opportunity to build a company here to the safety to raise a beautiful family in an encouraging, inclusive, and diverse society. I feel a moral obligation to take a stand on social issues and spread enthusiasm. Turnout is just going to be critical in this election.

The Voting process instills positive lessons about responsibility, honor, equality, justice, patriotism, and leadership. Practicing good citizenship understanding and appreciating our responsibility for civic involvement being good stewards of the communities. Citizenship has taken roots in their kids in the form of 2 young voters who became engaged in the voting process, owning the responsibilities and privileges of American citizenship making them true patriots. Voting reinforces respect for people and it’s very important that kids inherit a great country and just not a great history. Take the young Voters of tomorrow to the polls today, as they will be empowered for the future. This is their chance to be part of history and emerging as PROUD Citizens who’d done a citizen’s noble work.

Voters are the future of this country and continue to practice kindness, compassion, and respect for others building bridges of love and respect. No matter how divided you might be, Voting is your right and shared experience, a process that everyone should feel proud about as United Americans. You can also choose to go out and volunteer at a local precinct of your preference to call on your friends and families to vote. You may even help them and talk through policies with them. Whatever you do, exercise your right to vote, help someone else do the same, and make a positive difference. more importantly, GO VOTE!

For us, the policy is non-partisan and designed to give employees, some of whom may be voting for the first time, the chance to make lasting changes and be part of the community and the American Dream. No American should have to choose between a paycheck and fulfilling his or her duty as a citizen,

Voting matters even @ 85 in a wheelchair, with my father’s failing eyesight, Dad cast his vote and he made me read the names on the ballot and told us which one to mark for him. That was his purpose of action contributing his abilities and right to Vote, his voice to be heard making a positive impact. Living a value-centered life is highly rewarding and gratifying for our family.

With the Covid-19 pandemic, it feels we all are just searching for pathways to connect and not to feel discouraged, not to feel pessimistic and not so powerless. Right now, the needs of our country, our community and citizens are right in front of our faces and we must not ignore it. Everyone is trying to tear us apart, but we need to heal now.

GOD BLESS AMERICA.

Sunil Tolani

Los Angeles, CA


If you would like your opinion or perspective expressed at India Currents, do not hesitate to contact editor@indiacurrents.com with a submission or note. We are open to all voices, only barring hate speech and misinformation. 

Letters to India Currents: 9/29/20

This is with regard to the recent article published by Dr. Majmudar,

Normalcy after the Pandemic

The article is very timely and the attention it brings to mental health, particularly of children is heartening. Children, besides their vulnerability and being at an impressionable age, have paid the highest price. We would like to hear more about what can be done by parents and communities to help them. The article sheds light on many aspects, it is brief but dense.

Have we mastered our learned lessons or will our fickle memory sequester it in oblivion?” is the question put forth by the author Dr. Majmudar.

The tragedy and loss is a  great teacher. The lessons taught by it are of a lifetime– it could be bitter or sweet. It is Our choice, what we make of it. 

One big lesson, I hope that we all learnt during these testing times is – How few are our NEEDS and how much load of WANTS we have been carrying.

In our search for independence and self-reliance we had forgotten the eternal truth – life is possible only by codependence and cooperation.

The author has done well in reminding us of our role and responsibilities. And the gratitude we all owe to those on the front line.

“The course of our actions will let us see who we are and who we are not. ”

So well stated by the author and it forces us to give a hard look at ourselves, our actions/inactions.

Thanks!

Vimal Nikore


If you would like your opinion or perspective expressed at India Currents, do not hesitate to contact editor@indiacurrents.com with a submission or note. We are open to all voices, only barring hate speech and misinformation. 

Letters to India Currents: 9/22/20

A response to the previous Letter to India Currents. 

Dear Vandana Kumar, 

Black Lives Matter, also relates to our own sordid chapter in the history of the Indian diaspora.  For those of us who arrived in the fifties, sixties and decades before, have experienced the white heat of racial discrimination, insults, and rejection like our black brothers and sisters.  The difference is that as a group we spread tentacles to connect with other brown folks for support, and pushed forward.  A friend, retired president and CEO of a silicon valley business, related his viewpoint as a matter of fact.  I saved enough, working as an engineer to buy the business and then broke the glass ceiling to reach the top.

Looking forward, most of us ended up in a better place as engineers, doctors lawyers, while giving our offsprings a head start.  African Americans, Natives Americans, and Hispanic Americans, unfortunately, suffered many more setbacks due to poor education, weak support systems, and outright discrimination. That is perhaps an oversimplification. It behooves us, however, to be sympathetic to those who are less fortunate.

If it helps, let us remind ourselves that only a generation or two ago, we were under a brutal colonial rule in India.  Most can trace their lineage to parents who fought, resisted, revolted, and gave birth to a nation called India.  I am proud to say, that my mother led Azaadi marches at the age of 15 in Bombay. For her work, she was awarded a handwoven Khadi blouse made by Kasturba. The progressive mindset is in our bloodstream.  Change for the better is natural. MLK said in his ‘I dream’ speech,  paraphrasing, I dream of the day when White, Black, Brown, will share and live together happily. Please continue to highlight progressive views, because that is the path of enlightenment, I trust the mission of India Currents.

– Satish Chohan


If you would like your opinion or perspective expressed at India Currents, do not hesitate to contact editor@indiacurrents.com with a submission or note. We are open to all voices, only barring hate speech and misinformation. 

Letters to India Currents: 9/15/20

Dear Vandana Kumar,

I have been an avid reader of IC for several years. I have enjoyed your magazine and website until recently. Lately, your content has been disappointing, leaving me with a bitter taste. Every week I let it pass but felt like now I had to write to you.

I find your recent content very biased, leaning towards subjects of identity, race politics, and pushing only liberal agendas. you represent the Indian American community as if we all live in California and are trendy hipsters in a protest.

I was a teacher for many years and see the enthusiasm and future of young people, but I also see a lack of experience and understanding of life’s complexities. Even though your new writers like Srishti Prabha and Kanchan Naik are good writers, their understanding is very young. And you definitely do not feature different sides of issues.

I was very disappointed when in the first week of BLM protests IC came out with a solidarity message. You pushed and keep pushing similarities between the Black and Indian communities. Please get your facts rights!!

I believe in racial equality but I also believe in the success of the American dream. While the intentions were correct, this mass movement also has an extremist, communist bent that you have not reported, instead of glorifying them. Please read Khabar Magazine’s editorial by Parthir Parekh. In spite of a very democratic outlook, he addresses extremism in this movement and presents its perils like looting, threatening, violence, lack of tolerance, communism, and lack of diverse opinions.

As an Indian American who has worked hard had been rewarded with a good life in America, I do not want to side with your views! If this country was so bad, we would not have survived here and IC would not be in business.

As media, you should be a neutral place to exchange views, especially as a community online magazine. You or your staff can have personal views on this matter but should not promote them under the name of IC.

I understand with the election year things are hot but you are not a corporation unless you are funded by agencies asking you to present only leftist and racist points of view, in that case, you might be another sell-out.

I hope you can provide more balanced content. If not, I will sadly not be logging on anymore.

Sincerely,

Neelima Sheth

Atlanta, Ga

P.S. Being an immigrant has more complexities than just race. It is not so one dimensional.


If you would like your opinion or perspective expressed at India Currents, do not hesitate to contact editor@indiacurrents.com with a submission or note. We are open to all voices, only barring hate speech and misinformation. 

Letters to India Currents: 4/21/20

Dear India Currents,

To keep her self entertained my daughter draws a cartoon every day thinking about all the things that are happening around her now. Her goal, she said, is about putting a smile on someone’s face in this gloomy time. 

This is what she did yesterday, hope it puts a smile on your face as well as your readers’. I have a few more that have done rounds and people have sent lots and lots of positive comments on her details.

Priya 


Dear Editor:

Please share only the positive feedback. It is already scary out there. I think it is time for some positive, upbeat information to build our immune system.

I stay positive, do not watch the news (except for PBS for half an hour a day), focus on prayers, meditation and keep my strong faith. I turn inward to draw as much strength as possible. It is not easy.

Thanks,

Vijaya Narasimhan

Letters to India Currents: 4/07/20

Dear India Currents, 

In these difficult times, many of us are busy worrying about and taking care of others. It is important to remember that first and foremost we also need to take good care of ourselves and to make the time for self-care and self-compassion. 

Respond to yourself in the same way you would respond to a close friend when he or she is in distress. Mindfully accept that the moment is painful, and embrace yourself with kindness and care. Be warm and understanding toward yourself. Don’t ignore your own pain or beat yourself with self-criticism. Recognize that being imperfect, failing, and experiencing life difficulties is inevitable. Be gentle with yourself.

Together, we will come out at the other end of this tunnel, into the sunshine that is temporarily eclipsed.

Take good care,

Mukund Acharya


GREETINGS Vandana ji & team INDIA CURRENTS,

PRAYERS TO TEAM & FAMILIES.

We follow your daily updates, good—keep it up.  WE ARE IN IT, WITH YOU, WITH OUR COMMUNITY.

It has been a scary and unsettling time for everyone, and we are our part in supporting our community. Providing medical and emergency personnel with FREE rooms and at  deeply discounted rates to keep our staffs humming along with positivity.

We are grateful for the bravery and sacrifices our hotel staffs, medical personnel, Social Workers  are making to save lives and stop the spread of the Coronavirus, Our hearts go out to all those impacted by this terrible disease.

Our teams ensure rooms are thoroughly cleaned and sanitized and deeply touched by the support from the community.

https://www.asianhospitality.com/hotel-owners-across-the-country-are-struggling-with-cancellations-due-to-covid-19-epidemic

https://india-herald.com/hotel-industrys-perspective-on-cov…

Respectfully,

Sunil Tolani

Letters to India Currents: 3/31/20

Dear Team Members, 

Your mail surely touched my heart, so simple and yet genuine.

It is a period of deep anxiety as we strictly follow the Government’s decision for all to stay indoors and maintain a fair distance from one another. Difficult perhaps for parents of young children and for several amongst us for whom a glimpse of the social world is an uncontrollable urge. But as the graph rises with  mounting casualties and still several others inflicted and convalescing, we should all take this call of Nature and tune in to its WILL: protect yourself and thereby protect nature.

Hoping good times will soon come by and the silver lining to this dark cloud will soon bring in happy sunshine.

In the meantime, thank you all for the cheerful introspection you give us.

A happy reader,

Nita (Dave) Jain, PGCTE, PhD


Hello India Currents,

Thank you for your media presence in these difficult times.  My wife and I are retired Indians, children off to their worlds and we feel blessed with good health so far and so good.  We are particularly proud of our community at large. 

Indian doctors, professionals and politicians are working in the best interest of America while holding on to our long tradition of ‘do no harm’.  

America gave us the opportunities to grow and we are now giving back in knowledge and resources we acquired. These coming months will challenge people from India.  We have unique opportunities to lift, support and lead in more creative ways that we ever imagined. 

In our small ways we are volunteering in public services in our community, and support of Sansthas like BK, Vedanta Society, Glides Church in San Francisco.  No bragging, but just a shout out for these organizations among many who are keeping their doors open despite the pandemic.  

Please continue to do what you are doing for the community and country at large.  With kind regards.

Satish and Surekha Chohan

The “Should” Issue

Is it already that time of the year? The whirlwind that is 2016 has flown by so fast, thrusting us forward from one season to the next. We’ve witnessed several amazing events unfold, some of us embarked on new journeys, while others said bittersweet goodbyes to children going to college—all of this and more packed into one glorious year, which now culminates into some much-needed introspection. As we recover from an unprecedented election, this time of the year is as much for spending time with friends and family as it is for taking pause to reflect on the year gone by. While we look inward and take stock of our goals, accomplishments and regrets, we look to others for inspiration, to take cues from their lives.

That is why we, at India Currents decided to bring to you stories from across the ever-upwardly-mobile Indian American community. We forayed into different arenas in search of accomplished professionals to get an insight into what motivates them, and what values guide them on their quest for greatness. What resulted is an eclectic group of highly driven individuals who shared their inspiring stories, giving us a telescopic view of what books, movies and uplifting words-to-live-by shaped them and determined the course of their journeys.

Compiling this story was nothing short of a miracle for they show us that prominence isn’t just reserved for a fraction of the population; that even us, with our everyday and common mindset and skills, can inspire and lead if we’re so inclined. It’s been a privilege to interview and indulge in colorful conversations with these people and we hope you enjoy this piece just as much as we did putting it together.

Dr. Piya Sorcar, Founder and CEO of TeachAIDSCover_1Piya Sorcar

Most of us look at the problems that the world is facing today, empathize with those affected, and move on with our lives. Others go ahead and take action. Piya Sorcar read reports that millions of dollars were being invested in HIV prevention efforts in India and yet, HIV rates were on the rise and basic knowledge levels among young people was low. As a student of education at Stanford, she was curious to see if she could do something about it. The result was TeachAIDS, which creates free, research-based, culturally-appropriate learning materials to address the challenges associated with health education. Today governments, NGOs and educational institutions in over 70 countries use this software, and it is funded by institutions like Yahoo!, UNICEF, Barclays Bank, Time Warner, Google, and national governments all over the world.

Dr. Piya Sorcar holds a PhD in Learning Sciences and Technology Design from Stanford University, and teaches at Stanford’s Graduate School of Education and at the School of Medicine. In 2011, MIT Technology Review named her to its TR35 list of the top 35 innovators in the world under 35. In 2016, she became the youngest recipient of Stanford’s Alumni Excellence in Education Award.
In an attempt to understand her motivations and draw inspiration from her, we asked Priya some questions.

What is the biggest challenge that you have experienced in your work?
All challenges serve as opportunities. The greater the challenge, the greater the opportunity. Ours was how to effectively teach about HIV education to a population where sex education had been banned in schools.

What change would you like to see?
I would like to see more concrete efforts, particularly from the United States, towards addressing global warming.

What inspires you to keep going, everyday?
Imagining the faces of the children we wish to serve.

What book/s do you have on your nightstand right now?
Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard
by Dan Heath and Chip Heath, The Man Who Lied to His Laptop by Clifford Nass and Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Pikett

What things/tasks do you not like to do?
Driving! I’m looking forward to self-driving cars.

*****

Dinesh Sabu, Independent Filmmakercover_2dinesh

Dinesh Sabu is an independent documentary filmmaker who recently completed his directorial debut, a feature-length documentary titled Unbroken Glass. The film is Dinesh’s journey across the United States and India to piece together the story of his mother’s schizophrenia and eventual suicide.

Dinesh learned vérité cinematography from legendary Kartemquin co-founder Gordon Quinn. His accomplishments include being a finalist for the prestigious Edes Prize for Emerging Artists in 2011, and a fellowship from Firelight Media’s Documentary Lab in 2014.

His story is filled with a yearning to tackle the problem of stigma within the Indian-American community about mental illness, a subject begging to be shared on a larger platform. Let’s dive in to better understand the man behind the camera lens.

What’s the book on your nightstand?
I’ve got two books—fiction and non-fiction. The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan and Speaking Truths with Film by Bill Nichols.

Which book has had an impact on the way you approach life?
We Wish to Inform You that Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Families,
an account of the Rwandan genocide in 1994, lyrically written by Philip Gourevitch, a writer for the New Yorker. When I read this several years ago, it really clarified the power of nonfiction storytelling. Gourevitch’s work was at once beautifully written, morally clear, and did not sacrifice nuance or complexity for the sake of storytelling. It still has an urgency about it today, a work that sets its readers on fire. After I read it, I realized my goal was to make a documentary that aspires to achieve what Gourevitch did in this work.

What book will you recommend to your 16 year old self?
When I was 16, I was pretty cynical. I wish I had picked up a book like Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children. I think I would have appreciated the sci-fi elements of it, as well as the level of  beauty and craftsmanship in the sentences.

Which movie has had a lasting impression on you?
Stevie by Steve James. It’s a documentary made by Kartemquin Films, where I made my current film. It’s a personal documentary where the filmmaker, Steve James, revisits the kid he used to be a “big brother” to in rural Illinois, the eponymous “Stevie.” At least a decade has passed and  now an adult, Stevie has been failed by the foster care system time and time again. In the film, Stevie is accused of a heinous crime, and the filmmaker follows the repercussions unfold while trying to come to grips with this man who he cares for. Like Gourevitch’s work, it’s the kind of art I aspire to make.

*****

Anuradha Nehru, Dancer
Anuradha Nehru

Anuradha Nehru is a Kuchipudi dancer and founder-director of Kalanidhi Dance Company, a non-profit dedicated to Indian classical dance based in Washington D.C. She has been recognized by the Governor of Maryland for her service to the arts, and has been supported by the Maryland State Arts Council.

Her lifelong commitment to this art form took a decisive turn 25 years ago, when her guru, Guru Vempati Chinnasatyam, drew her aside after a performance and told her to dedicate her life to dance. Overwhelmed by his endorsement, she spent the next six months at his dance academy at Chennai, India, and then came back to Maryland and founded Kalanidhi Dance. Kalanidhi Dance Company recently celebrated its 25th anniversary.

Share a lifelong lesson you learnt from a mentor.
There are no shortcuts in life. Hard work, sweat, and perseverance are the only ways to achieve your dreams.

What’s the most challenging aspect about dancing and performing?
To continuously find fresh ways to connect with the audience.

Has there been any book/artistic work that has had an impact on the way you approach life?
I have been deeply moved by a book I am currently reading, Balasarasawati: Her Art and Life, which describes her deep passion and her unswerving commitment to staying true to her art form.

What change would you like to see in the world around you?
Definitely greater appreciation and better financial support for the performing arts, especially Indian classical dance!

What’s your favorite quote/motto?
“Dance is the hidden language of the soul of the body.”— Martha Graham

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Failure is not an option. Believe in yourself and commit yourself fully to what you do.

*****

Sujit Saraf, Playwright-Director, NaatakSujit_JasonPhoto_2013
Sujit Saraf is a Bay Area novelist and playwright, having published four novels and a dozen plays, and directed many of those plays for Naatak, America’s biggest Indian theater company. His second novel, The Confession of Sultana Daku, is soon going to be a motion picture; and his latest book, Harilal and Sons, a fictionalized account of his grandfather’s travels through India and Bangladesh, is slated to be published in December.

Sujit strongly believes that it’s hard to reach that happy place of accomplishment in the very first attempt. His advice to folks just entering the world of theatre is that, “Your first 12 plays are crap,” so to keep at it, never give up, and to never lose perspective along the way—a challenge he dodges everyday.

What change would you like to see in the world around you?
The death of social media.

What song is running through your head right now?
Yeh raatein, yeh mausam, yeh hasanaa hasaanaa, a lovely song by Pankaj Mallick.

What’s your favorite quote/motto?
“Vimrishyaitat asheshen yathecchasi tathaa kuru.”
In the Gita, Krishna tells Arjun, “Having deliberated fully on this, do as you like.”

Something about you that drives people crazy.
I’m loud. Very loud.

Best advice that you’ve ever received.
“When in doubt, shout!” But I believe the opposite: “When not in doubt, you are probably wrong.”

What inspires you to keep going everyday?
The world. As soon as I feel I have run dry, something happens and I feel I must interpret it, record it, express it.

*****

NanditaBakhshi-13493_approved_062116Nandita Bakhshi, President and CEO, Bank of the West

Nandita Bakhshi arrived in America thirty years ago, armed with a Master of Arts in International Relations from Jadavpur University, and tons of ambition. She started her career as a branch employee, an experience that  has allowed her to understand the role that branch employees play in the bank’s success. Over the years, true to her favorite quote by Winston Churchill, “The kite, after all, rises only against the wind,” she rose to hold leadership roles.

Her advice on how to make professional choices that further one’s career are definitely words to live by. She refers to it as the Rule of the Thirds. “Always seek a position that is one third comfortable, one third a stretch and one third, pure, white-knuckle terror,” she says.

What values do you like to see in your workplace?
I encourage people to bring their authentic selves to work. I’ve found that people appreciate the rich diversity this brings to a corporate culture. You shouldn’t have to be a certain type to advance. Don’t be afraid to take thoughtful or measured risks. Every time I’ve taken on a new challenge I have grown personally and professionally.

What things do you not like to do?
I like spending time in the field with team members and customers, so I don’t like it when I can’t. For me, it’s important to be close to the perspectives that our team members and customers share.

What was your favorite subject in high school?
My favorite subjects were history and international studies. I enjoyed learning about the past and how that could influence the future global landscape.

If you were marooned on an island, which book would you rather have with you?
A book of poetry by the poet laureate, Rabindranath Tagore. His work inspires me, specifically Gitanjali.

What inspires you to keep going, everyday?
Our customers and our team members inspire me every day. I believe if you have the spirit to serve and focus on doing right by people—be they colleagues or customers—you can do no wrong.

*****

Priyanka Wali, Doctor and ComedianPrianka

Priyanka Wali, a versatile stand-up comedian, was named by Refinery29 as “50 Female Stand-Up Comedians You Need To Know.” She performs at corporate gigs and comedy clubs nationally and internationally. She’s been featured in The Today Show, Uproxx, and Cosmopolitan. Priyanka, often called “Pri Pri” by her friends, truly believes laughter is the best medicine, but was a board-certified practicing physician in Internal Medicine in a previous avatar.

Stand up comedy had always been Priyanka’s most morbid fear, something she decided to defeat one day during a “face your fears” kick! What also inspired her to take on the intimidating world of stand up comedy was a Russell Peters’s autobiography where he describes how he pursued comedy despite lack of support from his father, something she could easily relate to. While she draws material for her shows from the various books she reads and by asking a lot of questions, there are some words she tends to live by. One of them includes a quote from Midnight in Paris, “The artist’s job is not to succumb to despair but to find an antidote for the emptiness of existence.”

Which is the most successful gig that you’ve performed? And why?
Success in comedy is subjective but the end goal is always to make people laugh. One of the most successful gigs for me personally was when an audience member came up to me and said “I am currently undergoing chemotherapy. Tonight’s show was so funny that I forgot I had cancer for a few hours.” Honestly, that kind of stuff is the reason I do comedy—to make people feel good on a truly personal level.

What’s the book on your nightstand?
Right now at this exact moment, it is Obesity: Evaluation and Treatment Essentials by Michael Steelman (it’s a real page turner!)

What book will you recommend to your 16 year old self?
How to Spot A Dangerous Man Before You Get Involved
by M.A. Sandra L. Brown

What’s the best advice that you’ve ever received?
Take your insecurities and your weaknesses, everything that you dislike about yourself…and embrace it.

What’s the most challenging aspect about being a standup comedian?
Sometimes having to act funny on stage when you’re actually sad inside.

Any parallels you’ve successfully drawn between medicine and comedy?
Both are important and necessary in life. I mean—let’s get real. Laughter is definitely the best medicine, but taking antibiotics after your ex-boyfriend gave you chlamydia is important too.

*****
Beena Ammanath, VP of Data and Analytics, GE

beenaAward-winning technology innovator. Aviator. Foodie. Baseball fan. Voracious reader. Supporter of diversity in technology. Beena Ammanath’s  enthusiasm for life enables her to wear all these hats and several others with panache.

Beena is currently the VP of Data and Analytics at GE. She is on the board of directors for the non-profit organization, ChickTech. She is the winner of the 2016 Women Super Achiever Award from World Women’s Leadership Congress for supporting diversity in technology.

Beena seems to personify her motto “The only person I have to be better than is the person I was yesterday.” Her passion for life shines through in her responses.

Has there been a defining point/incident in your life that brought you to this field?
My parents wanted me to be a doctor I wanted to be a pilot or a photojournalist. But when I had to choose, I chose Computer Science because it was such a new field. I had always excelled at Math even without trying and the lure of learning something that not many were pursuing was too fascinating.

What would you like to see changed in the world around you?
I want every child to receive an education. When we do not provide an equal opportunity to half the children in the world, it means that the world is losing out on the brainpower of half the world that maybe would have found a cure or discovered the next amazing thing that  the world needs.

What values do you like to see in your workplace?
Innovation and curiosity combined with honesty and transparency leads to great teams doing great work together.

Did you have a mentor?
If yes, who, and how have they influenced you?
I have several mentors. I refer to them as my board of directors. These are a group of people, who have inspired me with their expertise, are my role models and to whom I turn to whenever I am in a personal or professional dilemma.

What things do you not like to do?
I don’t like to be idle. I have way too much energy and way too many great ideas to try out.

What is the biggest challenge that you have faced in your workplace?
Driving cultural change to accept new technologies is one of the biggest challenges that I have seen.

What was your favorite subject in high school?
History. In general, I am a people person—I like meeting people and getting to know their story, their aspirations and dreams. History gave me insight into so many people’s lives to see how their actions have shaped our lives today.

Is there anything about you that drives people around you crazy?
My enthusiasm, my continuous drive to try out new experiences, new places, new food, and meet new people. My family, friends and team members are always wondering what I will make them try next. This world is amazing in so many dimensions that it’s up to us to experience all that it has to offer. And then enrich it for the generations after us.

If you were marooned on an island, which book would you rather have with you?

“How to survive and escape from a marooned island?
On a serious note, I am a voracious reader—on any given day, I am in the middle of reading four books. If I had to choose, it would be The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch. His book is a powerful reminder on how to live a happy, full life no matter what life throws at you.

What inspires you to keep going, everyday?
My sons. They are amazing smart energetic upbeat little human beings who love me, admire me and are counting on me. No matter what happens, it is my responsibility to leave this world a better place for them. They are my inspiration, my motivation and my sunshine, who make me be the best I can be.

What, according to you, is the greatest technical innovation ever?
Artificial Intelligence is going to change our world in a way that we cannot even imagine today. I think we are just beginning to see some of its impact but it is just the tip of the iceberg.

*****

Sima Patel, HotelierSima_2016_Headshot-3560-Edit
Sima Patel arrived in the United States as a newly-married 17-year-old who barely spoke English, and the very next day, she  started working at the front desk of a small inn owned by her husband. She had no background in hospitality, but her husband taught her. In a textbook example of the American dream, Sima Patel rose to become the CEO of Ridgemont Hospitality, and recently became the first industry-elected Chair of the Board of Directors of Visit California. She founded SAAHELI, a global online community for South Asian women, as part of her advocacy efforts towards the Indian-American community.

When asked what change she wants to see in the world, she says that she would like to see more encouragement for women to take on leadership roles. True to her favorite quote by Mahatma Gandhi, “Be the change you want to see in this world,” Bay Area based Sima has led by example by challenging stereotypes all along.

What is the biggest challenge that you have experienced in your workplace?
Maintaining a work-life balance.

What things/tasks do you not like to do?
Terminating or disciplining employees.

What was your favorite subject in high school?
Geography; explains my love for travel!

Is there anything about you that drives people around you crazy?
I am a high-energy person who is always multi-tasking and I expect the same from my team. My expectation for them to keep up with me drives them crazy.

What inspires you to keep going, everyday?
Working in an industry that creates millions of jobs and generates billions in revenue for the state’s economy, and being able to contribute to those results even in a small part is very fulfilling!

*****
Ramya Harishankar, Dancer
dancer

Ramya Harishankar is a Bharatanatyam dancer and Artistic Director of Arpana dance company. Southern California based Arpana Dance Company (ADC) is set to celebrate 35 years in existence early next year under her direction. The company has traveled to India, Europe, Japan, and to many cities in the United States. The company has won grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, Fund for Folk Culture, LA County Department of Cultural Affairs and many other arts agencies. The company has presented over 15 full length productions, many raising funds for charities world wide.

Ramya believes that she has been changed through constant interactions with academics, gurus and others passionate about dance. These meaningful interactions have helped crystallize and redefine her connection to her art from the time she was a little girl.

What drew you to dancing?
Though I started dance lessons when I was six, learning abhinaya from Guru Kalanidhi Narayanan was the catalyst.

What inspires you to keep going everyday?
Knowing that what I do makes a difference in someone’s life and hopefully this instills in them a love for dance/art/life.

What is the most challenging aspect about dancing and performing?
As a US-based dancer and teacher, the challenge is to balance the ‘traditional” and the “contemporary” and I am always aspiring to keep my art relevant.

Has there been any book/performance/artistic work which has had an impact on the way you approach life?
Good Earth by Eckhart Tolle

What do you believe in when it comes to keeping classical dance alive?

My guru Swamimalai Rajarathnam had a way of creating moving pictures in choreography which has stayed with me. Dance has to be precise, but, it should also have grace and elegance.

I hold on to my roots and expand on that base. Living away from India, mythological stories tend to be culturally specific and can be enjoyed only by those who are familiar with those themes. But, apart from that, there are so many songs like padhams for instance, which stand for a woman’s freedom to express her myriad emotions. These are truly universal themes —anyone can appreciate and enjoy them. I perform pieces expressing a  whole continuum of thought.

As you look at the upcoming 35th anniversary of Arpana, what are your thoughts?
There has been tremendous growth in the company. It is very heartening to see a handful of my students dedicate themselves to classical dance full-time. I am definitely more at peace with what I am doing.

What book or experience will you recommend to your 16 year old self?
Live the life you love!

How would your best friend/sibling describe you?
Passionate, talented, focused and task oriented.

What song is running through your head right now? 
Anything from the Beatles to a Kshetrayya padham.

What’s your favorite quote/motto? 
“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”—Reinhold Niebuhr

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? 
The above quote.

*****
Writer. Activist. Music enthusiast. Shilpa  Sachdev knew she would be a writer the day she was grabbed out of the womb. However, other career paths had her wandering, until recently. Rain or shine, you’re sure to find her plugged in, constantly bobbing her head to tunes by Johnny Cash, Pink Floyd and more.

Shruthi Rao loves books, desserts, trees, and long walks. She enjoys stories in all forms, especially if they contain insights into what motivates fellow humans. www.shruthi-rao.com.