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COMMUNITY | News in Brief: August 2010

Abhinaya Dance Company Celebrates 30th Anniversary
Akshaya Patra Recognized for Culture Of Innovation
Youth Cricket Tournament
ICC Landmark Walkathon
Role of Diaspora
Hiding Divya
Diabetes Awareness
Hate Crime

Abhinaya Dance Company Celebrates 30th Anniversary

Dancers of the Abhinaya Dance Company.

Abhinaya Dance Company of San Jose, the Bay Area’s premier South Indian dance company, will celebrate their 30th Anniversary this year. Artistic director Mythili Kumar founded the Abhinaya Dance Company of San Jose in 1980 to present innovative and professional-quality performances of South Indian classical dance. “In January 1980, at the insistence of a few friends I started teaching bharatanatyam to a small number of girls in San Jose,” says Kumar. “I only intended to keep in touch with the art form, so that the stress and excitement of settling down in a new country wouldn't cause me to lose all that I had learned, practiced and performed for over fifteen years in India. But phew..... time flies and here we are thirty years later!" After steady growth in the 1980s, Abhinaya incorporated as a non-profit organization in 1990 and has  continued to grow ever since.

Since establishing as a non-profit, Abhinaya’s reputation for artistic excellence has built a solid base of financial support and a substantial audience. Abhinaya has received numerous grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the California Arts Council, the City of San Jose, the Arts Council Silicon Valley and several other community granting organizations. In addition, in 1991 and 1997, Abhinaya was awarded grants by the prestigious Rockefeller foundation to present collaborations with Kathak master Chitresh Das (The Guru - 1991) and Gamelan Sekar Jaya (The Ramayana - 1997) 

2010 marks thirty years of performances and instruction in the Bay Area by  Kumar who has nurtured an entire generation of exceptional dancers in bharatanatyam, the ancient classical dance of South India. During the course of this year, Abhinaya’s performances will showcase the ancient living tradition of classical bharatanatyam, tracing its evolution through Abhinaya’s extensive repertoire inspired by India’s religious, mythological, and contemporary literature.

This year, World Arts West presented the Malonga Casquelourd Lifetime Achievement Award to Mythili Kumar in honor of her commitment to the arts community, whose passion and artistic achievement has been exemplary.


Akshaya Patra Recognized for ‘Culture Of Innovation’

Dough scraps recycled to make chapatis at the roti-making machine at the Jaipur Akshaya Patra kitchen.

The Akshaya Patra Foundation, one of the world’s largest NGO-run midday meal programs, was one of 11 winners that received the distinguished Indian Express Innovation award  titled ‘Scalable, Technology Driven Kitchen Model’ from Entrepreneurship and Management Processes International Group of Institutions in association with The Indian Express Group at an awards ceremony in New Delhi.

Dr. Nandan Nilekani, the chairman of the new Unique Identification Authority of India, presented the gold trophy to Chanchalapathi Dasa, vice chairman, The Akshaya Patra Foundation at the fourth annual EMPI-Indian Express Indian Innovation Awards ceremony July 12 in New Delhi.  Akshaya Patra was recognized for being a role model for the midday school meals program based on their innovative deployment of technology and cutting edge management practices.

Initiated in 2005 by former Indian President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, the award identifies innovative organizations in India who have made breakthroughs to become role models in their respective fields.   Akshaya Patra was selected out of 184 applications representing corporations, NGOs, and various government departments.  

For the past two years, EMPI and Indian Express annually recognizes organizations operating in India through these awards aimed at promoting a “culture of innovation” in India by showcasing their innovative initiatives.

“We are honored to receive this recognition. It is innovative technology that has not only allowed us to sustain and grow the Akshaya Patra Program in reach and scale but to differentiate it from other programs. We look to a time when hunger will no longer be a barrier to school attendance and learning, and I am confident that Akshaya Patra will help achieve this not only in India but globally as well,” said Madhu Sridhar, Akshaya Patra USA president and CEO.

Akshaya Patra’s currently feeds over one million children each day in 7,000 schools through 19 kitchens in eight states in India.


Youth Cricket Tournament

A player being awarded at the fifth U.S. National Cricket Youth Tournament award ceremony.

The 5th U.S. National Cricket Youth Tournament, hosted by the Cupertino, Calif.-based California Cricket Academy, ended with almost 150 cricket players participating from 10 teams from all over the U.S. in the Under-13 and Under-17 age groups.  California Cricket Academy’s U-13 team won the championship fifth year in a row. The All US U-17 team defeated CCA U-17 team in the finals. 

“It’s a proud moment for CCA to be hosting this National Tournament for the fifth year in a row,” said Ajay Athavale, president of the California Cricket Academy. CCA founder Hemant Buch said: “Welcome to Cupertino, California and let’s play and enjoy the game to the fullest.” CCA has been sponsoring this tournament every year with the intent of creating a grassroots movement to encourage cricket, especially in the younger generation.

Several high-profile companies and people like John Thickett from Tusker group, True Roots International Calling Service from TATA Communications, Innominds, UBS and State Bank of India, Dhiren Unadkat, Patni Computers, Lehigh Cement and G1G Insurance sponsored the four-day event.

The award ceremony was well attended and awards were given out by prominent volunteers of the Cupertino city and academy advisor. Mahesh Nihalani and Innominds CEO Divakar Tantravahi. 

Finals for both U-17 and U-13 were Web cast live by ePrasaran and Dyyno technologies a start up in video broadcasting based in Palo Alto. 

CCA’s players have been invited every year to represent the U.S. against other countries in the Under-15 and Under-19 age groups.


ICC Landmark Walkathon

Walkers in Indian Community Center’s walkathon in Sunnyvale, Calif.

Over 2,000 walkers, runners and picnickers poured into Baylands Park  in Sunnyvale, Calif. July 18 to join  the India Community Center at the nation’s first walkathon to celebrate the spirit of seva or “service.”

Sevathon 2010 was the result of the combined efforts of 41 Bay Area nonprofit organizations), which pooled resources, expertise and ideas to help promote a common message of embracing volunteerism and giving.  Collaboration of this scale amongst nonprofits, organizers said, is a first in itself.

“We have truly accomplished the mission of unite, serve and celebrate,” said B.V. Jagadeesh, Sevathon co-chair.  “It was great to see everyone come together for the event; we have raised the bar and I believe this year’s success will make Sevathon 2011 will be even bigger.”

The walkathon commenced with a torch lighting ceremony that had the entire contingent of walkers and runners following the golden torch (which was handcrafted by artisans in India) to the start line while the tunes of Mahatma Gandhi’s favorite bhajan ( “Raghupati Raghav Raja Ram” played in the background.  Gandhi walked 280 miles to protest British imperialism and sparked a nationwide movement that led India to freedom.

“My 5K run may not move mountains but it may help someone in need. It’s a step in the right direction. That’s what Mahatma Gandhi did; he took a step in the right direction, and look what happened,” said Nishant Kapoor, a Mountain View participant.  “I watched in awe the massive crowd follow the torch in a celebration that was not unlike an Olympic ceremony.”

“We made history by bringing together the largest gathering of its kind here in North America, all devoted to the Gandhian message of Seva,” said Raju Reddy, Sevathon co-chair. “There were several moments that were inspiring to me personally over the last few months, but perhaps none as much as the few minutes that we all marched to the start line as we followed the torch.  Those few minutes were a beautiful culmination of the ideas, energy and passion that each one in our community has brought to Sevathon.”


Role of Diaspora

Left to RIght:  Sonal Shah, Sara Shroff, Raj Kumar

The Washington Leadership Program July 14th partnered with NetSAP and the Atlantic Council of the United States to host a discussion of “The Role of the Diaspora in South Asia.” Panelists included Sara Shroff, senior director of Change our World, and Sonal Shah, founder of Indicorps as well as the director of White House Office on Social Innovation. The event was effectively moderated by the president of Dev Ex International Development, Raj Kumar.  

Both panelists highlighted the importance of a global identity. Shroff began the discussion by emphasizing the importance of who and what makes up the diaspora. For her factors such as affinity, economic aspects, such as remittances, and the networks one has plays a big role in the engagement that will occur from both sides of the diaspora.

Shroff concluded her thoughts by outlining six models she believed could lead to successful engagement. These included: philanthropy, leadership platforms, business professional networks, volunteer corps, direct investment, and policy making.

Shah continued the discussion by stressing the need for importance to be placed on the social sector and fixing problems. She stated, “Our [South Asians] role in the civic sector is not just voting, it is participating.” In her discussion, Shah highlighted three components that were essential to success. First, that understanding how the legislative process works is key to making a difference. Second, that the politics of South Asia is beginning to change, and that the most productive communities and agencies are those that share information and communicate. Finally, she spoke about the importance of diasporas working together and identifying common issues to fight. The example she provided of the national immigration issue currently facing the United States made for good dialogue in the question and answer portion later in the discussion.

Finally, Shah described the objectives of her organization Indicorps and that the idea was to serve with communities to get a better understanding of your own identity. Ultimately, she stated, the goal is to leverage one’s identity to be a better person.


Hiding Divya

SAMHAJ, the  South Asian Outreach program of the National Alliance on Mental Illness of New Jersey, , has announced the release of the film Hiding Divya, opening in theaters Aug. 20. In New Jersey, the film is being screened at BIG cinemas in Oak Tree Road in Edison.

The film deals with the difficult subject of mental illness that affects three generations of a South Asian American family. The filmmakers have been sensitive to the concerns and experience of South Asians affected by mental illness in writing and developing the film.

“It's been a long journey and we are incredibly excited to be able to bring the film to the big screen,” said filmmaker Rehana Mirza. “When I first started writing this film, it was because of a family friend, Rashi Shyam, whose father had shot himself. No one within the South Asian community even knew he was struggling with depression. No one acknowledged his depression even after that, when he was hospitalized. So we decided to make this film, hoping to de-stigmatize mental illness and bring awareness of the issue to all cultures.”

Over the course of the film's production, Rashi's father passed away. Her mother, too, passed away after many years of having to hide her day-to-day struggles from those she thought would not understand. “And so the importance of the film has become even greater,” she added.

The film is a dynamic drama that explores the effects of bipolar disorder on Divya (Madhur Jaffrey), her estranged daughter Linny (Pooja Kumar), granddaughter Jia (Madeleine Massey), and the surrounding community in New Jersey. It's a wry, emotional, and sometimes humorous look at one family struggling to keep things together.


Diabetes Awareness

The Global Organization of People of Indian Origin Health Council  in association with GOPIO chapters of New York, Upper New York & Long Island and the Indian American Kerala Cultural & Civic Center hosted a diabetes awareness program July 27 at the Kerala Center in Elmont, N.Y.

The speaker was Sangeeta Ahuja, a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator, who spoke on “Meal Planning Made Easy.”

The diabetes awareness program helps diabetics participate in their treatment plan and understand the role of the carbohydrate constituent, and carbohydrate-controlled meal plan in maintaining and improving overall health.

Admission was free, and all participants received free glucose monitors courtesy of Bayer HealthCare, Diabetes Care Division.


Hate Crime

Pan IIT, USA, Inc., the alumni association of the Indian Institutes of Technology, recently wrote a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder requesting that an attack that killed engineering professor Dr Divyendu Sinha in Old Bridge, N.J., “be investigated immediately as a ‘hate crime.’”

“On June 25th, Divyendu Sinha, a respected professor of engineering, author of several books, and a model resident of Old Bridge, New Jersey, was brutally attacked by three teenagers, in the presence of his wife Alka, his 16- year-old son Aashish and his 12 year old son Ravi in an unprovoked incident that led to his death,” Pan IIT USA president Gunjan Bagla wrote in his letter.

“New Jersey’s Indian-American population has suffered from hate crimes many times before. The so-called ‘dotbusters’ killings of the late 1980s and the killing of Indian Americans as recently as October 2008  are fresh in the minds of Indian-Americans.

“This incident has reverberated through the IIT alumni community (over 20,000 strong in the U.S. and 100,000 globally) and we believe that all stakeholders   must work together to eradicate hate crimes against any community.”

Bagla made two requests. He asked that “the attack be investigated immediately as a ‘hate crime,’” and that “the 17-year-olds be tried as adults because of the brutality with which they attacked their victim and because they were so fearless and cold hearted that they decided to attack in the presence of the victim's wife and children.”



Click here to read the Current Issue in PDF Format

Patriot Everywhere:
Makhan Singh (1913-1973)

Makhan Singh loved India. He also loved his adopted country Kenya, where the British jailed him, writes Ved Prakash Vatuk.

Celebrating a Nobelist:
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Charles Townes found common cause with activists working on the environmental challenges of the Bengal and Himalayan basins, who honored him recently. A Siliconeer report.

Why Naxals Thrive:
A Social Critique

Socio-economic disparity, marginalization, and a lack of peaceful avenues to agitate have led to Naxal violence, writes Sandeep Pandey.

EDITORIAL: Patriot Everywhere
SUBCONTINENT: Mega Power Projects
TECHNOLOGY: India News On the Go
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SUBCONTINENT: Fuel Price Decontrol
SUBCONTINENT: India Defense Buildup
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BOLLYWOOD: Film Review: Khatta Meetha
TAMIL FILM: Ananthapurathu Veedu
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