Darshana V. Nadkarni, Ph.D.

Recruitment for Biotech & Medical Device companies Training & Consulting in Diversity and Inclusion

Homepage: https://darshanavnadkarni.wordpress.com

“ચાલો લ્હાણ કરીએ” – અનિલભાઈ ચાવડા ની ગઝલ “શું જોઈતું’તું ?”


બેઠક (www.shabdonusarjan.wordpress.com) નો આ વખત નો વિષય છે “ચાલો લ્હાણ કરીએ” તેમાં મનગમતી કોઈ સુંદર રચના ને શોધી અને તેનું અર્થઘટન કરી અને લોકો સાથે તેના અહેસાસ ની લ્હાણી કરવી।

Image resultવારતા આખી ફરી માંડી શકાતી હોત તો શું જોઈતું’તું ?
ને ક્ષણોની પોટલી બાંધી શકાતી હોત તો શું જોઈતું’તું ?
એવા ઘણા પ્રસંગો જિંદગી માં આવતા હોય છે કે એમ થાય કે જો એકજ વખત પાછા વળીને ફરી કરી શકાય તો આ પ્રસંગ નો અંત કૈક જુદોજ લાવી શકાય। એક વખત હું રસ્તો ચુકી ગઈ એટલે બીજા રસ્તે ગાડી વળી અને ત્યાં કોઈ માણસ ખુબ ગતિએ ગાડી હંકારી ને આવતો હતો તેણે મારી ગાડીને એવી ટક્કર મારી કે મારી ગાડી ચાર ગોથા ખાય ગઈ. અમને બધાને વાગ્યું પરંતુ મારી મમ્મી ની તો જિંદગીજ બદલાઈ ગઈ. તેમને અત્યંત શારીરિક ઇજા ઉપરાંત સખત મગજમાર વાગ્યો અને તેને લીધે તેમની યાદદાસ્ત ચાલી ગઈ અને વ્યક્તિત્વ પણ બદલાઈ ગયું। આવા સમયે એમ થાય કે રસ્તો કેમ ચુકી ગઈ , જો એ ક્ષણ પછી મળે તો એ રસ્તે ગાડી વાળું જ નહિ. એક “guilt” ની ભાવના સદાને માટે દિલ માં ઘર કરીને રહી જાય છે.

આપ બોલ્યા તે બધા શબ્દો પવન વાટે અહીં આવ્યા હશે પણ,
પત્રની માફક હવા વાંચી શકાતી હોત તો શું જોઈતું’તું ?
કેટલીયે વખત કહેવાનું કહેવાતું નથી અને સાંભળવા મથતું મન આશાના તોરણે લટકાઈ રહે છે. જો મનમાં હોય તે વાત હવા ના રથ ઉપર સવાર થઇ ને આવે અને રૂદિયાની આંખે તેને વાંચી લેવાય તો?

જો પ્રવેશે કોઈ ઘરમાં તો પ્રવેશે ફકત સુખની લ્હેરખીઓ,
એક બારી એટલી નાંખી શકાતી હોત તો શું જોઈતું’તું ?
માણસ વગર એકલા અટુલા તો જિંદગી જીવાયજ નહિ. પણ દુઃખ પણ મૉટે ભાગે માણસ ના લીધેજ થતું હોય છે. દરેક આવનારા જો સુખની જ લહેરી લઈને આવે તો જીવન કેવું સુખમય જાય?

ડાળથી છુટ્ટું પડેલું પાંદડું, તૂટી ગયેલા શ્વાસ, પીછું,
ને સમયની આ તરડ સાંધી શકાતી હોત તો શું જોઈતું’તું ?
સમય જિંદગીના તાંતણા જોડે છે અને સમય ને લીધેજ તાંતણા છૂટે છે, તરાડો પડે છે, દીવાલ બંધાય છે, સબંધો તૂટે છે અને દુઃખ પેદા થાય છે. ક્યારેક સબંધો સાંધી શકાય છે. પણ ઘણી વખત છૂટી ગયેલા શ્વાસ અને તૂટેલા સબંધો ની અતૂટ વેદના મૂકી ને તે સમય ચાલ્યો જાય છે.

આ ઉદાસી કોઈ છેપટ જેમ ખંખેરી શકાતી હોત, અથવા,
વસ્ત્રની નીચેય જો ઢાંકી શકાતી હોત તો શું જોઈતું’તું ?
આ પંક્તિ દિલની વેદનાને ખુબજ નાજુક રીતે વ્યક્ત કરે છે. આમ તો મૉટે ભાગે આપણે ઉદાસી ખંખેરીને જ પ્રસંગો માં પ્રવેશ કરતા હોઈએ છીએ. અને ખંખેરી ન શકાય ત્યારે તેને ઢાંકીએ તો છીએજ। પણ છતાંયે આપણી ઉદાસી આપણા હૃદય સાથે જોડાયેલી હોય છે અને હાસ્ય વચ્ચે ડોકિયાં કરતી હોય છે. ભલે લોકો તે જોય ન શકે પણ આપણે તો જાણીએ છીએ કે રંગબેરની કપડાં નીચ્ચે, makeup ના થથોડા નીચ્ચે, હાસ્યના ઝબકારા નીચ્ચે એક ઉદાસીની નાની લહેર છે.

કેટલી સુંદર છે આ ગઝલ?

અનિલભાઈ ચાવડા જેટલી સુંદર રચનાઓ લખે છે તેવુંજ હૃદયસ્પર્શી તેમનું સુંદર વ્યક્તિત્વ છે. તેમની બધીજ રચનાઓ મારા હૃદય ને તરતજ સ્પર્શી જાય છે.

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JOBS – April, 2017


Image result for jobsAll US based opportunities require valid US work visa and prior experience in biomedical industry.  If interested in any opportunities below, please send me an email (resume as an attachment) and include position title in the subject line.  You can also find me on LinkedIn. (Or send me a message with title of the position that interests you, how it matches your background & your contact info). Please include in the email, how well the description matches your background and where the gaps are, if any.  All leads or referrals are greatly appreciated.

VP OF MARKETING – Sunnyvale, CA
A global company with a breakthrough solution in the fight against cancer has an immediate opening for VP, Marketing.  The company seeks to dramatically transform early cancer detection through simple & accurate blood tests.

Responsibilities: Develop & implement product & brand strategies; Drive commercial results; Work cross-functionally; Develop strategies/initiatives worldwide to drive growth; Lead creation and design of new product portfolio; Develop comprehensive marketing strategy for products across multiple channels, including direct to consumer and product segments; Develop, execute & manage cohesive geographic expansion plan taking into account market potential, clinical and regulatory pathways, exclusivity, and strategic alignment; Develop marketing strategy to ensure sales goals; Expand relations with KOLs & customers; Hire and lead Marketing team; Maintain industry awareness.

Requirements: Experience in launch & commercialization of innovative, first-in-class lab developed tests; Strong collaborator; Contribute to creation of a brand plan that enforces a highly collaborative and effective commercial organization. Qualifications required: BA plus 10+ years experience in diagnostic industry in conception, development & execution of marketing strategies for highly specialized products in China, Taiwan, India & S E Asia and US. Experience in building corporate brand from grounds up, in developing compelling data-driven pitch decks for various strategic recommendations, in presentations, in marketing to diverse customer segments, in mentoring, in “out of box” innovative thinking & strong customer orientation. MBA and fluency in English & Mandarin preferred.

Head of Asceptic Manufacturing – San Jose, CA
There is an immediate opening to head Asceptic Manufacturing for Drug Device company in San Jose, CA.  Requires strong engineering background and expertise in setting up asceptic manufacturing.  Opportunity for profit sharing in exciting technology company along with an opportunity to work with a top notch team and a veteran leader are great pluses.

PRODUCT MANAGER, GENOMICS – Sunnyvale, CA
A global company with a breakthrough solution in the fight against cancer through novel and dramatically transforming early cancer detection through simple and accurate blood tests has an immediate opening for Product Manager. This breakthrough technology is already creating patient impact in Asia. Reporting to the VP of Marketing, the Product Manager will be a driver for key products and will be responsible for the product strategy as well as the design of all genomic products. Working closely with sales and cross functional leadership in R&D, clinical and medical functions, the candidate will develop initiatives worldwide to drive revenue growth.

Responsibilities: Define product strategy & roadmap and deliver product requirements with prioritized features; Develop the core positioning & messaging; work cross functionally to drive technical & clinical development of the product; understand competition & incentives for all stakeholders in the system to drive growth of the product; Create marketing communications materials for physicians; Brief & train sales force on product benefits & features; Work closely with marketing team in Asia to design & implement local programs to support product goals; Support marketing team in organizing special event & marketing campaigns; Manage company presence at conferences & tradeshows; Manage media, PR, digital marketing & social media campaigns  About 30% travel required.
Requirements: Background in molecular & cell biology, experience in healthcare product marketing or product management. Fluency in Mandarin desirable.

DIRECTOR OF R&D – San Jose, CA
There is an exciting opportunity for Manager/ Director of R&D with hands on mechanical engineering & polymer chemistry expertise.  The company is located in Northern San Jose, CA. This is a once in a lifetime kind of an opportunity to be included in profit sharing and work on disruptive technology with an exciting team and a veteran leader.  

PHARMACOLOGIST with Large Animal In-Vivo Survival Surgery Experience
San Jose, CA

Innovative life science company with several life saving technologies has an immediate opportunity for a pharmacologist for animal studies. DVM ok.

 

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Mission to do common good through better health – 2017 HTF Innovation conference – preview


Current discussions on repeal of Obamacare has brought much focus on issues of health and wellness in America and has energized the underserved communities.  The 6th Annual Health Technology Forum Innovation Conference taking place at Stanford University on May 1 and 2, 2017 will explore health and wellness through panels and speakers, with a central focus on technology and on implementation of key health policies.
Image result for health technology innovation conference

What kind of technology innovations may effectively address the unmet needs of the underserved and underrepresented markets?  Can next generation technology solutions provide better access and improve care outcomes? These and other issues will be discussed in outstanding panels. The Innovation Showcase will offer an exclusive networking opportunity to startups and investment community to develop strategic partnerships. The high visibility demo space in the expo corridor will allow startups an opportunity to highlight their offerings.

Every year, health technology forum conference offers phenomenal opportunity to bay area health strategists, providers, venture capitalists, startups, and professionals to come together with a mission to do “common good” through better health.  Please register for the conference at www.healthtechnologyforum.com .

 

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The Memory Stick – Play Review


Set on an army base in Afghanistan in 2016, “The Memory Stick” by Irish playwright Donal O’Kelly, tackles some serious issues of right and wrong and moral obligation of soldiers when they see something unethical. The Memory Stick is a world premiere co-production between The Stage www.sanjosestage.org and the Arts Office of Dublin City Council, Ireland.  

Image result for "The memory stick", san jose stageTwo Native American soldiers Seth Shaw (John R. Lewis) and Jack Black Horse (Joseph Valdez), occasionally joined by Bridget (Lindsy Kail), begin a makeshift lodge while on an army base in Afghanistan.  Each of them relive their earlier memories and share ruminations that are deeply tied to their cultural identity. One of them has recorded some illegal data onto a memory stick about army’s unethical behavior and the discussion soon veers into the realm of morality and whether or not they should publish/leak this information.  The discussion weaves in many threads including systematic oppression of the Native Americans and events surrounding Wounded Knee as well as oppression of the Irish people and uprisings in Ireland. There is also a segment on Bradley/ Chelsea Manning that portrays Manning as a lonely hero.

This is an ambitious and bold play oddly reminiscent of Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment and takes the audience into deep recesses of morality and ethics. Is the true mantra for soldiers, “theirs not to reason why, theirs but to do and die” or as soldiers in the bigger journey of life, do we all bear responsibility to question the wrong when we see it, that every person can, as Bridget quotes from James Connolly, do “his duty according to his lights”? This play is about human soul and whistle blowers and how it puts someone concerned with doing the right thing sometimes in an incredibly lonely spot.  Indeed the play tackles too much and leaves the audience a bit rattled as well as unsettled.  It is heavy on dialog and while that can put you to sleep at times, yet under the chaos of multiple issues are larger questions about life and morality that are guaranteed to keep you awake at night.  Irish and the Welsh dialect is enjoyable and staging by Tony Kelly is sparse but perfect.

For tickets, please go to www.thestage.org .

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Soundwaves: The Passion of Noor Inayat Khan – Play Review


Image result for noor inayat khanEnActe Arts recently produced Soundwaves: The Passion of Noor Inayat Khan.  

Stories of India inextricably linked with that of its neighbors, the collective that makes South Asia, have always been fascinating and generate universal interest. En Acte Arts company founded by Vinita Sud Belani focuses on bringing these fascinating tales on stage, with multi ethnic cast and crew. Their recent production, Soundwaves: The passion of Noor Inayat Khan told the story of Noor who was born from a union of Indian father and American mother, in January, 1914.  

Image result for noor inayat khan
 Noor imbibed lessons of sufi tradition and during her formative years she focused on music and writing children’s stories. However, the rise of fascism and Nazi invasion of France altered her focus and she became a British spy in occupied France. Given Noor’s interest in music, the play’s heavy theme is beautifully blended with music and dance. This inspirational story is written for stage by Joe Martin. The play is beautifully directed by Vinita Sud Belani and Music composer was Randy Armstrong. Akaina Ghosh is clearly very talented actress and did an awesome job in bringing Noor’s character to life.

EnActe Arts has grown in stature and influence in the bay area. This was a bold production of telling an inspirational story with many twists and turns.  The play featured a large cast and EnActe did a fabulous job.  I will be watching for future plays from this theater company.  For tickets, go to www.enacte.org .

 

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Immunotherapy, Bioinformatics, Devices: EPPICon 2017 Preview


 

One of the latest most talked about buzzwords in cancer treatment is “immunotherapy” where body’s immune system is used to wage a war against the cancer cells. Cancer cells divide rapidly than ordinary cells and manage to evade the immune system. The focus of a range of immunotherapies is to put body’s immune system on high alert so it can easily locate and destroy cancer cells.

Image result for immunotherapy, bioinformaticsThis year, EPPICon (annual flagship conference at eppicglobal at www.eppicon.org) will focus on Immunotherapy, Bioinformatics, and Devices. Another recent buzzword, “bioinformatics” focuses on harnessing technological advances for management and analysis of data, for cancer immunology and immunotherapy.  The hope is that more reliable and comprehensive picture can emerge of tumor genomics landscape and that can point a way towards more effective personalized medicine.

Immunotherapy often involves delivery of a cocktail of immune drugs to awaken the body’s immune system and put it in a “ready” mode to get rid of the cancer cells. Implantable devices can be used to provide regular dosages of medication for several days or everyday for a few weeks and can be used to make localized delivery.  This convergence of technologies makes it an interesting time for treatment of cancer and other diseases.  

EPPICon, EPPIC’s all day conference will be held on Saturday, March, 25th at Crowne Plaza, Burlingame, CA and has a fabulous lineup of keynotes, speakers, and panels.

Image result for Ira Mellman, genentechMorning keynote, Ira Mellman is VP of Cancer Immunology at Genentech and has an illustrious career in solving most profound health problems with strong research, grounded in science.  He spent 20 years at Yale University School of Medicine, prior to joining Genentech in 2007.  After the keynote, the conference program will continue with excellent speakers and panels with a special speed pitch session thrown in, where startups looking for funding will have an opportunity to pitch to a panel of investors and receive critical feedback, in real time. At the end of the day, 2017 “EPPIC Eleven” awards will be given out to chosen startups, from around the globe.

To register for the conference, please go to www.eppicon.org .

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“Calligraphy” – Play Review


Playwright Velina Hasu Houston’s “Calligraphy”, currently running at www.theatreworks.org  at Lucie Stern Theater in Palo Alto, directed by Leslie Martinson, is a complex family drama that tests dynamic family bonds from multiple angles.

Image result for theatreworks, calligraphyFirst, there are two cousins, one American, Hiromi (Mia Tagano), daughter of Japanese mother and African American WWII veteran, Eamon (William Thomas Hodgson) and the other, Sayuri (Elizabeth Pan) are dealing with challenges of caring for their respective aging mothers with physical problems ranging from limb fracture to Alzheimer’s to emotional issues like over-dependance. Second, intermingled with these challenges are cultural issues.  Third, while traditional Japanese culture is steeped in family obligations, and generational rules of etiquette mired in feelings of guilt, there is also an overlay of younger generations growing up with vastly different and sometimes Western values. Hiromi is raised by Japanese mother Noriko (Emily Kuroda) in America, albeit with Japanese values, and considers it her filial duty to take care of her mother in old age.  Meanwhile her cousin Sayuri is raised by her Japanese mother Natsuko (Jeanne Sakata) in Japan. Although Natsuko raises Sayuri with strict Japanese values, colored by external influences, Sayuri rebels and pursues Western attire as well as values of independence and freedom.  And finally, these cultural influences collide in interesting ways with individual personalities and temperament of the colorful characters.

Image result for theatreworks, calligraphyWhen the cousins Hiromi and Sayuri plan to arrange a family reunion of sorts and bring their mothers together after the distance of several  years and different continents, the cultural, generational, relational, and personality collisons occur with a noticeable bang. The two elderly sisters have been bitterly estranged over Noriko’s romance with a black GI and they have not since reconciled. Noriko was a beautiful young woman, married the love of her life, raised a responsible daughter and now afflicted with beginnings of Alzheimer’s, she often imagines the presence of her late husband, Eamon, forgets her whereabouts, but often remembers critical details of her childhood.  Meanwhile Natsuko is as intolerant of her wayward daughter’s choices regarding her filial duty, marriage, sex etc. as she was of her sister’s choice of marriage, years ago. And yet despite the intolerance and the drama, Natsuko too has a certain inner strength and a vision to live life on her own terms.

Within artful strokes of “Calligraphy”, these four beautiful women with their unique version of inner strength, stamp their own signature in their world, with bold strokes of personal choices. Calligraphy is not a play about A significant event but about high emotional stakes of ordinary living and these get amplified with beautiful acting by talented cast. I love Mia Tagano in all the diverse roles I have seen her perform. Kudos to Theatreworks Artistic Director, Robert Kelley for enabling ordinary life issues to take the form of art. Calligraphy will be running till March 29, 2017.  For tickets, go to www.theatreworks.org .

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દીકરી તો પારકું ધન – ગુજરાતી કહેવતો અને મોટેરાની દીકરીને શિખામણ – Daughter is another’s wealth – poem


On this women’s day, I am reblogging a poem I wrote earlier in Gujarati, this time with English translation below. This poem is actually a compilation of a bunch of sayings (so it may appear disjointed) about a daughter and is a tribute to my mother. My mother was not educated and lived at a time when daughters were considered a huge burden of which parents would be relieved when they marry her off- these below sayings is what she was told. But my mother told me that she prayed to have daughters.  After a long gap after her sons, when she got two daughters, she was thrilled and she resolved to give them all advantages in education – very unlike what these expressions below say about girls. All it will take for the world to change and for women and men to stand together as equal partners is for mothers (like my awesome mama) to vow to make it better for their daughters. Mama, you not only gave me precious life, but gave me dreams and equipped me with resources to make my dreams come true.  English translation is below the Gujarati poem.

 

Image result for Indian village girl with motherમારી માં મને કેતી, ઘર ચલાવતા શીખ
દીકરી તો જાય જ્યાં વિધિના લેખ

હું કહું, શું માં, ઘર કઈ ગાડી છે જેને ચલાવવાની
કઈ દવ છું હા, હું કોઈના ઘર માં નથી જવાની

દીકરી તો પારકું ધન ને અમારે માટે સાપનો ભારો
તારા ઘરે જઈને શોભાવજે તુલસી નો ક્યારો

અરે તું જે ઘરમાં જાય તે જ તારું સાચું ઘર
અમે તારા રખવાળા, પણ આમ તો પર

નીરાત એકવાર થાય કે તને તારા ઘર ભેગી કરીએ
છોકરીને અને ઉકરડાને વધતાં કઈ વાર ન લાગે

ખીચડી હલાવી બગડે ને દીકરી મલાવી બગડે
હૈયું બાળવું તેના કરતા હાથ બાળવા સારા

ઘરનું ઘરેણું થઇ ને રહેજે, પારકા ને પોતાના કરી
પિયરની પાલખી કરતાં સાસરિયાની સૂળી સારી

એટલે તો કહેવાયું છે, દીકરી ને ગાય
ગમ ખાઈને રયે ને દોરે ત્યાં જાય

તું જે ઘરની વહુ બને, તેને દિપાવજે
સાસરે, સાસુજીના ઢાળમાં ઢળજે

કહેવાય છે કે વહુ જ્યાં ઉઠે પ્રભાત પહેલા
તે ઘરમાં અંધારુ ક્યાંથી છવાય ભલા

સુજે પતિના પગ દાબીને, સાસુની સેવા કરીને, છેલ્લે
પણ જાગજે સુરજના જાગ્યા પહેલા, સૌથી પેલ્લે

બરાબર ઉછેરજે, જો તારા કમભાગ્ય હોય અને જન્મે દીકરી
ભાગ્યશાળી હોય ને મોટા ના આશીર્વાદ હોય તો મારી છોડી

Image result for boy made of goldતારા નસીબે લખાણા હશે જો દેવ ના દીધેલ દીકરા
તો લહેરથી ગાજે, મારા છગન-મગન બે સોનાના, ગામનાં છોકરાં ગારાના
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Daughter is another’s wealth 

My mother told me learn to run a home for sure
Daughter must prepare to go where fate guides her

I rebelled, home is not a car that I can run
And I’m not going to to a stranger’s home

For us daughter’s like a pile of snakes, that’s our measure
She can decorate her own garden, for she’s another’s treasure

The home that you marry into is your true residence
We are your guardians but otherwise strangers

When we get you to your own home, we’ll feel relief
Daughter and trash dosen’t take long to grow  beyond belief

Too much love spoils a daughter
Too much attention spoils the broth

To luxuries of parents’ home you should prefer miseries of your own home
Become a piece of jewel & win others over with love at your home

It’s said daughter and cow goes where guided
They eat their hurt and swallow their pride

 

Bring light to the home you wed
Get molded in your MIL’s mold

It’s said where DIL wakes before dawn
Darkness never comes to that home

Tend to your husband and MIL and sleep last
Before the sun’s rays hit, wake first

Bring up your daugher well, if your bad luck delivers you one
But if you are lucky and get a son then my precious one

If fate delivers you sons straight from God
Then sing, other kids are made of dirt, my two from gold

 

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“Airport Insecurity” – Play Review


Current play “Airport Insecurity” written and directed  by Vikas Dhurka is NAATAK company’s (www.naatak.org, Twitter @naatak) 56th production and features a comedic yet horrifying tale of an Indian immigrant on work visa, who loses his passport, wallet, and mobile phone at the airport, in a foreign, unfamiliar country, while in transit.

Image result for airport insecurity, naatak
No one wants to be stuck in an indefinite limbo in transit, but Vijay (
Varun Dua) has especially urgent need to return home to the US where his wife Priya (Devika Ashok) is about to deliver in what is turning out to be a high risk pregnancy.  Vijay gets caught in a complex bureaucratic labyrinth where he cannot travel anywhere without a passport, US is not responsible for his “situation” since he is not a US passport holder, Germany will not allow him entry since he does not have a passport on which a temporary visa can be stamped, and his home country India requires that he travel to India where a new passport can be issued to him. In order to travel to India without a passport, he has to jump through multitude of forms and submit to background checks that can take upwards of 30 days or more, while spending days in Lufthansa lounge at the airport and spending nights in the airport travel area.  

As Vijay makes several calls to the Consulate General of India offices in various cities and while he encounters usual tactics of evasiveness, comments regarding inconvenient timing, Vijay then encounters a kindly Indian official from the CGI who meets Vijay at the airport and explains to him, “here are some forms to fill out; most of them are necessary but not important”. India has inherited such a stupendous bureaucratic procedural system, a legacy of the British rule, that navigating one’s way through the system can be a nightmare but also creates a comedy of errors and that regaled the audience. Indeed, India has made a huge progress but we still have ways to go. I will describe my own experience of losing my passport below.

Meanwhile, Vijay also meets kindness and compassion along the way.  In the end, the solution comes from his own ingenuity and from a country that relies on fairness and swift solutions, where you don’t need to know someone important to get a resolution, where compassion is built into the system, where no one needs to suffer endlessly without reason. I may have misspoken — err solution came from a country that was all that and more but in its quest to make itself “great”, it may lose the status of being the best; a country where an Indian immigrant techie caught in the current hate rhetoric is now more likely to lose his life in a little bar in Kansas, and incredulous Indian parents may be less likely to enable their children to go a country where struggle may not be about climbing the ladder of success but about staying alive and finding tolerance.

This comedic tragic tale is also relevant in the context of what happened to many hundreds of people caught in wake of the current administration travel ban. Caught off guard, caught in transit, caught at airports that denied them entry after draining long journeys, many people encountered a surreal situation of being neither here nor there, of not belonging, unable to hug and find comfort and solace with their loved ones. Nation that evoked and inspired the best, left splintered families in a state of “airport insecurity” limbo.  NPR has discussed this not-to -miss play, relevant in the current context. See link https://ww2.kqed.org/arts/2017/02/24/silicon-valley-theatre-scene-bristles-with-political-edge-in-the-age-of-trump/ 

Great kudos to playwright and director Dhurka for showing one man’s incredible and true story with an appropriate dose of humor; kudos also to producer, Gopi Rangan and to NAATAK company for bringing 56 incredible plays relevant to the South East Asian community in the bay area. Over 60,000 attendees have enjoyed their shows, performed by over 850 artists. Get your season passes at www.naatak.org .  See below my own short story of loss of passport.

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The time when I lost my passport in India

I had meant to write a blog but it never happened. Here is a short saga of my own loss of passport. I had my passport and my purse stolen while traveling in India. It is a great  blessing to be an American citizen, if this were to happen to you. I traveled overnight to Mumbai and as I entered the American consulate, I stepped into an incredibly efficient and welcoming zone. I told them I wanted quickly a temporary passport that would enable me to travel back home. They issued a passport within 2 hours, while I waited in their comfy room. They also handed me a letter addressed to the Indian commissioner of Police stating that I had lost my visa with my passport and that India should immediately grant me a visa to leave the country and beseeched  them to “extend all cooperation for speedy permit to enable this American citizen to return home”.

That is where my saga begins. I was informed by the Indian office of police that they needed to do background check and it could take up to 30 days. I had to fill in all the forms online and then go to the office with forms printed in triplicate and wait for hours to get an appointment. When I asked why they needed forms online and in print and whether they followed automated system or manual system then I was informed that they followed “automated manual system). 

I was asked to first go to the police station in the locality where theft happened. When they said there was no one who can write a report, I requested that they give me the typewriter and I offered to write it up on their behalf and they allowed me to do that. Then I had to go the local police office in the area where I resided for 15 days as a tourist. Local office asked me to produce electricity bill where I resided. I had to request that from the owner of the property who took his own time to produce it. When I was asked to pay Rs. 3,000 in cash, I handed over a big bunch of Rs. 100 notes. They brought out a foolscap sheet of paper and asked me to write down the number of each note before standing in a line where they received payment. It took 7 days of going back and forth between police stations and offices before I was issued a small note that said it was okay for me to leave the country. Later at the airport, I noticed that the validity of this little document was expiring that very day. If for any reason I were to miss my flight or weather or technical or some other delay would occur than that little note obtained after such hard work would be invalid.

But then there were two things in my favor. I was an American citizen (brown skinned or not) at a time when America was still the best AND I wasn’t in transit, but rather in my home country, a country that I love and am proud that every day it is progressing in its quest to be better, more efficient, and more compassionate.

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“Disgraced” – Play Review


Ayad Akhtar’s Pulitzer prize-winning play “Disgraced” playing at San Jose Stage theater, takes the audience on a deep dive into the complexity of identity formation, change and dynamism of identity, and also identity destruction.

The entire drama plays out in a tastefully decorated, beautiful Manhattan apartment, occupied by Pakistan born, Amir Kapoor (Damien Seperi) and his caucasian wife, Emily (Allison F. Rich). Amir is quickly climbing the corporate ladder at his Manhattan law firm and has so wholeheartedly embraced the American dream with its trappings of wealth and success that in order to get a better acceptance, he passes himself off as an immigrant from India, when a partner assumes him to be from India. That is an early peek into the close cousin of identity and the complex arena of stereotypes, where Pakistan generates stereotypes of terrorism and India of engineers and education.  If Amir may be embracing fiscally conservative values, his wife Emily is a bleeding heart liberal. While Amir is hiding aspects of his identity and rejects everything Islam, Emily seeks out liberal causes and implores her husband to stand up and fight for what is just and on behalf of those falsely accused of terrorism related activities, in the aftermath of 9/11.

Image result for disgraced, san jose stageEmily and Amir are hosting a dinner party for their elite, high-powered friends, Jory (Kathryn Smith-McGlynn), a lawyer from Amir’s firm and her husband Isaac (Jonathan Rhys Williams), a curator at the Whitney Museum. Just as Amir denounces everything Islam, Emily constantly contradicts his criticism of faith and insists on finding “beauty and wisdom in Islamic tradition”. Her paintings draw on Islamic art and she insists that the Muslims gave the world a “visual perspective”. She has created an Islamic piece of art and is hoping that she will get her big break through Isaac.  Isaac is Jewish but critical of Israel’s military actions in the region. His wife Jory is African-American and is fully aware of the impact of racial profiling.

As the story advances, through various twists and turns, a complex picture and many questions emerge. Do people feel pressured to renounce their “other” cultural identities in order to gain mainstream acceptance and climb the ladder of success in America? Do people suppress rather than erase, sometimes with bitterness, their primary identity, even as they embrace mainstream values? Amir shares the story of growing up Muslim where his mother not only wanted him to embrace his culture and religion but also taught him prejudice against “others”. Albeit he embraced mainstream values but deep inside he felt rage.

Image result for disgraced, san jose stageThe fascinating aspect of this play is that it centers not just around Amir’s story. Jory has her own identity battle, as does Isaac and in fact, Emily has her own identity issues.  At an individual level, there are multitude of factors that contribute to a person’s identity, including geographic location where one grows up, one’s religion, one’s peers, parents, teachers, siblings, as well as one’s personality and temperament.  However, when others perceive an individual, they tend to simplify and often judge or assume someone’s identity based on one or two factors that matter to the perceiver. At societal level what creates infinitely amazing kaleidoscopic reality is how diverse identities of multitude of people collide and intersect at multiple levels, especially when invited to focus exclusively on identity, as in the current political environment.  

And finally, constant and extreme pressure to prove oneself, to suppress one’s innate identity and everything it meant in one’s formative years; real or imagined pressure to renounce one’s faith, religion or culture in order to fit in, to prove oneself, takes an incredible toll on a person. The stress can manifest in diverse ways including depression, addictive behaviors, violence, and irreversible adverse impact on health. At least one or two of these are manifested in this story.

San Jose Stage Theater (www.thestage.org)  has always brought bold and relevant productions and participated in raising important questions and promote crucial dialog in our society and this play is immensely pertinent in the current political, cultural environment. Great kudos to the production team, to Ayad Akhtar, to Director William Ontiveros and the entire creative team.  

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