Posts Tagged India

How India managed to become free and establish formidable, secular democracy under conditions of extreme complexity and challenges

Today India celebrates independence day. I want to use the occasion to recall the circumstances under which India attained this hard fought freedom. 

Before 1947, India was ruled by the British and Indian people citizens were relegated to second class status; they suffered great inequity under the British colonizers. And yet the leaders fighting for an independent India never resorted to bribery, greed or succumbed to temptations of easy money. It was the spirit of patriotism that was overflowing in every freedom fighter. All leaders like Gandhiji, Nehruji, Bose, Patelji were united and focused on the singular objective of achieving freedom for the nation.  Today we differentiate between them use them to sow seeds of divisiveness. We forget that these very same leaders stood shoulder to shoulder and achieved our independence. There must have been arguments and debates among the leaders but for the good of the nation, they resolved, compromised and in the end presented a united front. Countries like India and the USA stand out as unshakable democracies precisely because the founding fathers in these countries spoke with unity and created a phenomenal, forward looking constitution that is still providing marvelous guidance on all sorts of issues. India particularly deserves a mention because at the time when India attained independence, there was extreme poverty, low standards of education, more than 15 official languages, more than 32 official dialects, and many religions, sub-sects, diverse attire, rituals and mannerisms among people.  While India was fighting for independence from colonial rule, it wasn’t clear, towards what? Prior to colonial rule, in India, there were many states ruled by kings and queens and princes. So now should India be handed over to the progeny of the kings or will the newly birthing country have the gall and the commitment to  carve a new path towards democracy?

While the princely states were clamoring to go back to their kingdoms, then came another curveball when Jinnah who was until then involved in the freedom movement alongside India’s founding fathers, now at the dawn of independence, made a fresh demand for his own independent country, that would later become Pakistan. The complexities were becoming very apparent to the British and suddenly they were in a big hurry to depart, knowing well that if the entire country gets thrown into the chaos while they are still at the helm then it would drag them into huge disgrace. Even without this level of complexity, there are several countries in the world that have failed to establish and sustain a democracy, after the colonial powers left. It’s not just Pakistan but countries like Kenya, Peru, Bolivia, Sri Lanka, Ethiopia have been thrown into chaos, after the colonizers left. Many people judge and criticize that the freedom fighters did not resist the partition. But it is easy to be critical in hindsight. However, at the time, When Jinnah demanded a separate Pakistan, if it had not been approved by India’s founding fathers, then the whole plan of the British leaving the colonies could have been jeopardized. India’s peace-loving, democracy-minded leaders came together and accepted it. 

However, freedom was still not within easy reach. Yet another complexity and challenge had to be tackled. As the colonizers were leaving in a tearing hurry they did not see through to the process of partition for it to take place in a safe and systematic manner. Even on the dawn of independence, it was not clear where the boundaries of the countries would be. Some states were given the right to choose the country they would join, others were partitioned, the provinces of Assam, Bengal and Punjab were divided in half and even there the boundaries were not clearly drawn. On the morning of 14th and 15th, when people woke up from sleep, many came to know that they wished to be in one country but were in another. On account of people not knowing the boundaries of both countries prior to the partition, at the dawn of independence began the massive movement of people between India and Pakistan. As hundreds of thousands of angry, thirsty, hungry mobs of people gave up their homes and their livelihoods and began walking in both directions, at some point extreme carnage and violence began. Untold numbers of women were raped, countless homes and areas were set on fire, and countless lives were lost. Even at that time the freshly minted leaders of our brand new secular democracy, stayed united and established peace. There was not a single leader who considered taking advantage of the situation for personal goal and sought to provoke the people for personal power. The leaders stood united and cajoled, inspired, scolded, begged and fasted until the violence stopped and inspired people to remain calm and maintain peace, prudence and respect towards each other.

It is easy to fight, whether it’s for our personal freedom or for our rights or to conquer or win over someone or something, whether it’s against an individual, within a family, or for the sake of religion or even for homeland. But establishing peace is not easy because to attain peace, we have to give up something, to give in somewhere, we have to compromise and be willing to lose a little. In India, we have a joint family system where many members of an extended family live together. Some do so, unhappily and out of necessity. But there are many happy and peaceful  joint families. I have often talked with them and it is very illuminating. From the main patriarch or matriarch to children and grand-children, every member is likely to say that often they have to make sacrifices for the sake of others but they do so willingly and in return achieve deep bonding and mutual love and support.

In the middle of such chaos, without even a prior country to go back to, amidst so many challenges and under such complex circumstances, India succeeded in forming a secular democracy that has sustained to date. It is on account of India’s founding fathers who respected each other and stood united to forge a new path for the country. In doing so, sometimes they sacrificed their bodies, sometimes their family life, work life, and sometimes even their principles in favor of the larger goal of establishing secular and sustainable democracy in India and to put the country on the path of greater prosperity and progress. The Indian constitution that came into existence three years after independence also shines a light on how with unity and forethought they created such a forward looking and visionary document that to date it continues to provide guidance and road map. There is tremendous beauty in our diversity. While the current winds of divisiveness are sowing seeds of mistrust and chaos, perhaps we can remember our legacy, the sacrifices of our freedom fighters and the inspiration provided by our founding fathers to move ahead with unity in our diversity. In this day and age, young people often travel to other countries to learn about different cultures and their unique customs. In India, we have the diversity of several countries, all within our borders. Can we dare to hope that we may learn to move forward not by suppressing our diversity but by adorning it, by making it our glory, by celebrating our differences and leveraging them and making our differences, our strength. 

Jai Hind, Jai Bharat, Salam India!!


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Any country that had banned should REMOVE BAN on Salman Rushdie’s book Satanic Verses

In history, great progress has been frequently tied to penmanship. But writers have frequently faced great challenges. Around 1600s Galileo almost faced death and was accused of heresy and his work was banned by the Church because the church did not want people to believe that the earth went around the sun, even though Galileo had gazed upon the solar system from his telescope. In 1958, in Alabama, a children’s book, Rabbit’s wedding was banned because the wedding was occurring between a black rabbit and a white rabbit and some people feared that this cute children’s book would be a precursor to race mixing between people. In 1988, #SalmanRushdie’s novel #SatanicVerses was banned in India because it was believed to be critical of a religion.

Right to free speech and penmanship must be protected. I believe that even badly written ones or books with malicious intentions shouldn’t be banned. Wouldn’t we rather have people take out their frustration with a pen than in deeds? Especially books should not be banned — also considering the fact that writing such long works takes time and therefore often includes thoughtful or at least detailed analysis of a subject and many people who wish the books to be banned have not read a single page from the book. Also, there is every opportunity for others to write an equally strong critique, articles or books. World needs to send a strong message that authors cannot be harmed if people don’t like what they have to say. No country should be able to rile up millions of illiterate people to harm authors of great works. India SHOULD UNBAN Salman Rushdie’s BOOK Satanic Verses immediately & honor this great writer and thinker and assert everyone’s right to free speech. Let us hashtag & tweet #SatanicVersesUnbanIndia & #UnbanSatanicVerses – also this below is some information (summarized from Wikipedia) for those who would like to know about the book.

The book has received favorable reviews from literary critics and it was a 1988 Booker Prize finalist (losing to Peter Carey’s Oscar and Lucinda) and won the 1988 Whitbread Award for novel of the year. In a 2003 volume of criticism of Rushdie’s career, the influential critic Harold Bloom named The Satanic Verses “Rushdie’s largest aesthetic achievement”.[8] The book is about immigrant experiences of identity, alienation, rootlessness, brutality, compromise, and conformity. These concepts confront all migrants, disillusioned with both cultures: the one they are in and the one they join. Yet knowing they cannot live a life of anonymity, they mediate between them both. The work said to be “albeit surreal, record of its own author’s continuing identity crisis and Rushdie himself confirmed saying that the book was not about Islam, “but about migration, metamorphosis, divided selves, love, death, London and Bombay.” References to religion are at best tangential and fictional and at worst, may reflect author’s personal beliefs and no one deserves bodily harm for having a different set of personal beliefs. Any country, including India, should REMOVE THE BAN on Rushdie’s novel Satanic Verses and let the writers and their works enjoy full freedom of expression.

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Tehrir – Premchand Munshi’s Godaan serial review

“Godaan” is a famous Hindi novel by Munshi Premchand. Published in 1936, this novel is counted among the greatest novels of Hindi literature. Before talking about this novel and the series that is based on this novel and is streaming on Youtube, let’s talk a little about Munshiji. Munshi ji’s place in the world of Hindi literature is among some of the most outstanding writers. The novels he has written include famous and popular books like Godaan, Karmabhoomi, Gaban, Mansarovar, Idgah. He has written more than 12 famous books and over 300 short stories and his books have been translated into English and other foreign languages. I have written reviews in Hindi and Gujarati and will post them as well.

In 1963, a Bollywood film was made on “Godaan”, starring Raj Kumar, Kamini Kaushal, Mehmood and Sashikala. 

In 2004, Tehrir, directed by Gulzar, based on Munshiji’s Godaan, was aired on Doordarshan, starring Pankaj Kapur and Surekha Sikri.

Farmer ploughing field Rural farmer of Indian ethnicity ploughing field using wooden plough which is riding by two bullock. Farmer Stock Photo

This is a masterfully told story focusing on the lives of farmers in rural India of 1930s. These poor and largely uneducated farmers are caught in a cycle of poverty and debt. Various members of the upper classes including, jamindars, thakurs, members of the Panchayat, and brahmin priests take advantage of the fact that the farmers look up to them and deeply respect them. For real and imagined transgressions, fines are levied on the farmers, their animals (and sometimes their farms) are seized in return for loans given at exorbitant interest rates, receipts are never given of loan repayments leaving it to their will how much to extract from the poor farmers and thus continues the cycle of poverty for generations. Sometimes these farmers even become a target of the members of their own class, on account of jealousy. And when a farmer is fully driven into debt and there is nothing left to extract out of the poor man who has lost his youthful spirit and is well into his middle age, then he is cajoled into marrying his beloved young daughter to old man, twice her age, but one who is not likely to demand a dowry and may help the family financially. 

The serial is specifically centered around a farmer, Horiram and his wife, Dhania and their three children. Performances by Pankaj Kapur as Hori and Surekha Sikri as Dhaniya are absolutely flawless. The serial is heart-rending, flawlessly made with superb performances and engaging story, beautifully told. I watched it in Hindi but since Munshi’s stories are translated in other languages, I highly recommend that you try and find it and watch if possible.

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Daughters of Destiny – Serial Review

At a school for poor children in India, price of attendance is paying it  forward | PBS NewsHour

Daughters of Destiny is a serial documentary that features a story of one school trying to make a meaningful difference, change the world, and bring hope where none exists, where destiny is pre-carved; in a country, with a population of over a billion people.

Doctor Abraham George completed his education in the United States and found and sold a company. Having made his fortune, he set about trying to change the world. He started a school, Shanti Bhavan, with a mission to improve the lives of the families in the lowest caste in India, the untouchables. While India has made significant strides in creating wealth, most of the wealth has been created in the top 10%, while there are 300M people considered to be Dalits or untouchables, often trapped in a cloying cycle of poverty. The school started with a bunch of kids that included boys and girls in equal numbers. The idea was to remove them from their homes and immerse them into a unique cultural and educational system, to shape them into becoming future leaders, each of them expected to commit to bringing along at least 100 others out of a cycle of injustice and poverty.  Only one child per family was selected.

While telling the story of the school, the documentary focuses on a few girls and their struggles, opportunities and challenges. Thenmozhi, seven, is a sweet, talkative girl aspiring for a job called science but finds that education holds her interest on and off.  As the documentary proceeds, Manjula, a 14 year old will be expected to help her family come out of the spiralling debt. Preetha could be any ordinary teenager anywhere in the world. She loves music and aspires to have a career in music and is repeatedly advised to choose traditional subjects for her college degree so she can become financially independent. Shilpa nurtures the dream to become a journalist and carries a big weight on her shoulders to give voice to those who may not be able to speak for themselves. And Karthika wants to become a human rights lawyer and help and empower poor people to seek justice and equality, under the law.

It's GRADUATION time at Shanti Bhavan! » Blog Archive » Shanti Bhavan  Children's Project

This is not an easy road to accomplishing their dreams. Each of these girls encounter various challenges. After getting used to living in clean surroundings of the school where their only job is to study and keep their dorms clean, twice every year, they go back home, where their struggling parents are living in huts, doing back breaking laborer’s jobs, sleeping together on the floor, have meagre rations, and their siblings who have demons of their own, who haven’t been the ones selected to go to Shanti Bhavan, who are still trapped in the same familiar pattern of child labor, lack of education options, likely early marriages, and same cycles of poverty, living out their destiny with whatever is predetermined and written on their foreheads by destiny.  These girls are prepared at the school to be patient, humble and understanding when they are back home.

While childhood is easy, more challenges begin when these children graduate from the schools and enter into colleges of their choice (continuing education is paid by Dr. George at Shanti Bhavan). Now they live in a broader world of haves and have-nots, mingle in a world that harbors preconceived notions about cast and wealth and status and station in life. Moreover, as their responsibilities towards their families come closer and into sharper focus, the differences between who they have become and the families they have left behind, become clearer. Questions emerge. “What if it was not me but my sibling who was selected? By 14 then I would be married and maybe even have a kid”. “I got a lottery but do I really belong in this world? Do I belong in any world? Can I ever live at my home again”?  “Was it worth it to be transplanted like this from one world to another and what was the meaning of it”? Some children hold deep guilt about how their siblings’ lives turned out, as compared to theirs. Some ask, “can one really transcend history, their past and destiny”?

As children navigate the challenges, negotiate their careers, and dream ahead, one can see that in hustling bustling teeming India, a small history is being made through the accomplishments of these children. In wealthier nations like America, there are albeit other paths besides education, to live a more fulfilled life, to live with equality, freedom and pride. But in India, there is one sure path to live a life of dignity and freedom and it is through meaningful education. But these future leaders at Shanti Bhavan also receive emotional support, cultural education, civic lessons and are let loose into the world with a boat load of expectations to carry forward their debt to society. A girls says towards the end that as per Indian philosophy, if one gets one’s lot in the world according to their karma of past life and therefore if karma is something that already occurred in the past then “I must be able to shape my future”. Though it is challenging for these children to blend their two realities of the world they came from and the world they are actively creating, we can see that for many, everything comes together as they mature and develop wisdom to accept both and yet are not fully shaped by either.

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નિયતિ ની દીકરીઓ (Daughters of Destiny) – સીરીયલ સમીક્ષા

સફળતા શું છે?

Shanti Bhavan (@ShantiBhavan) | Twitter

કાળી મજૂરી કરતી અને માથા ઉપર પાણા ઉપાડતી વિધવા મા ની દીકરી જયારે ભણીગણી ને વકીલ બને ત્યારે આપણે તેને સફળતા માનીએ ખરું ને? પણ ત્યારે કોઈ તેને કહે કે અમે તેને સફળતા નહિ ગણીએ તો આપણને વિસ્મયતા થાય। સત્ય ઘટના ઉપર આધારિત ડોટર્સ ઓફ ડેસ્ટીની ઉર્ફ નિયતિ ની દીકરીઓ નામની સીરીઅલ માં આ વાત નું વર્ણન છે.

ડૉક્ટર જોર્જ ભારત થી અમેરિકા શિક્ષણ માટે આવ્યા અને ત્યાર બાદ એક કંપની શરુ કરી. ખુબ સફળ એ કંપની વેંચીને પૈસા બનાવ્યા બાદ તેઓ પૈસા લઈને ભારત પાછા ફર્યા અને શાંતિ ભવન શાળાની સ્થાપના કરી. બાળકો ભણવા આવે અને પાછા પોતાના ઘરે જતા રહે તે તેમની સ્થિતિ માં શક્ય જ નહોતું. ઘણા બાળકો ઝૂંપડામાં રહેતા હતા, ભણવા માટે એકાંત, વીજળી વગેરેની વ્યવસ્થા નહોતી, ઘણા બાળકો ઉપર સાત, આઠ વર્ષે માતાપિતા ના કામ માં મદદ કરવાનું દબાણ રહેતું. અને તે ઉપરાંત આ બાળકોને કોઉન્સેલિંગ, મેન્ટરીંગ અને એક્સટ્રા કૅરીક્યુલર એકટીવિટીસ ની પણ જરૂર હતી. આજુબાજુના સૌથી ગરીબ દલિત બાળકોને સર્વોત્તમ ભણતર, સાંસ્કૃતિક શિક્ષણ સાથે તેમના રહેવાની વ્યવસ્થા કરી. પછી ઝૂંપડીમાં જઈને ગરીબ માં બાપ પાસે તેમના બાળકો ને શાંતિ ભવનને સોંપી દેવાની વિનંતી કરી. એવા માતાપિતા જે કોઈ પણ સમયે પોતાના બાળકોનું ભલું ઇચ્છતા હોય છે તેમણે પોતાના દિલ ઉપર પથ્થર રાખીને તેમના નાના નાના ભુલકાઓને શાંતિ ભવન શાળા માં ઉછેરવા માટે સોંપી દીધા. બાળકો વર્ષમાં બે વખત પોતાના ઘરે વેકેશન ગાળવા જતા અને તે સિવાયનું બધુજ શિક્ષણ અંગ્રેજીમાં લઇ અને પછી શાંતિ ભવન ના ખર્ચે કોલેજ માં ભણવા ગયા. અને ત્યાર બાદ તેમને સારી સારી નોકરી ઓ મળી. ત્યારે ડોક્ટર જોર્જે બાળકોને કહ્યું કે તમે આ તમારી સિદ્ધિને સફળતા નહિ માનતા.

તમે જે ભણતર અને નાગરિકી શિક્ષણ પ્રાપ્ત કર્યું છે તેના દ્વારા માત્ર તમારી જિંદગી માં તમે વ્યવસાયિક અને ભૌતિક રીતે સ્થાયી થાઓ, જિંદગીમાં ક્યારેય ન પ્રાપ્ત કર્યું હોય તેને મેળવી શકો તે તમારા નસીબ અને અમારી ખુશી. ભારત માં તો કહેવાય છે કે વિધાતા લેખ લખે તેને કોઈ ટાળી નથી શકતું. અને છતાં પણ તમને મદદ મળી ત્યારે તેમાં તમારી અખંડ પરિશ્રમ નું મિશ્રણ કરીને વિધિએ લખેલ લેખ ને તમે બદલી શક્યા। તમારી ખુશી અને આ આનંદ ના પ્રસંગે અમે તમારી જોડે જોડાઈએ છીએ અને આનંદ અનુભવીએ છીએ. પણ અહીં અટકતા નહિ. આ સફળતા નથી. અમે તમારી ખરી સફળતા ત્યારે ગણીશું જયારે તમે ઓછા માં ઓછા બીજા સો બાળકોને જિંદગીમાં આગળ લાવો અને તેમના નસીબ ને બદલવામાં મદદ કરો.

પેલી વકીલ છોકરીએ શું કર્યું? તેણે વકીલાત શરુ કરતા જ સૌથી પહેલો કેસ લીધો તેની વિધવા માં માટેનો અને તેની સાથે 30 વર્ષ થી પથ્થર ની ખાણ માં પથ્થર કાપતા અને ત્યાંજ રહેતા બધા મજૂરોનો। દરેક કુટુંબને તેના હકની જમીન, મકાન, દાક્તરી સગવડ અને બાળકો માટે શાળાની સગવડ માટે ની કોર્ટ માં અરજી કરતો તે કેશ આગળ વધી રહ્યો છે. જિંદગીમાં સફળતાનો કોઈ માપદંડ નથી અને કોઈની સફળતાને આધારે કે તેની સરખામણી કરતા આપણી સફળતા નક્કી નથી થતી. બલ્કે જિંદગીમાં આપણી સફળતા શું છે તે તેની અસર ને આધારે અને આપણા સિદ્ધાંત પ્રમાણે આપણે જ નક્કી કરવાનું છે. આ સીરીઅલ નેટફ્લિક્સ માં જોવા મળી શકશે.

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RIP John McCain & RIP Atal Bihari Vajpaiee

World lost two leaders this month, in world’s two greatest democracies, India and the USA, and were fondly remembered in many tributes. RIP #JohnMcCain & RIP #AtalBihariVajpaiee . Regardless of the party and ideology, these conservative career politicians remind us that democracy rests on the shoulders of men and women who dedicate their lives for making a case for their principles and then accepting the verdict that comes from people and serving with grace, regardless of the outcome. These men sought to unite the people under their leadership, served with integrity, and chose to be guided by their conscience and tried to build bridges, when they could. Some highlights from the lives of these two men – specifically their centrist moves — something that is inevitable in a democracy and something we need an ardent reminder of, in these polarizing times.

Image result for atal bihariAtal Bihari Vajpaiee: Under ABV, BJP moderated its extreme conservative Hindu nationalism. India conducted 5 nuclear tests during his time in office but Vajpaiee simultaneously softened hard stance towards Pakistan, inaugurated Delhi-Lahore bus service and in fact traveled to Lahore by bus and made a push for full scale diplomatic peace process. Unfortunately Pakistan’s incursion into India’s borders, into LOC (line of control), led to bloody Kargil war during his time. Pakistan was forced to withdraw, after suffering heavy losses. ABV took oath for the office of Prime Minister of India 3 times and served thrice in that capacity for varying lengths. Indian airlines flight was hijacked when he was PM. But the biggest political disaster hit his government in 2001 when there was destruction of Babri Mosque & VHP wanted to lay foundation for a temple at the site. Thousands gathered but it ended peacefully. In 2002 however, when Hindu pilgrims were killed in a train returning from protests in Ayodhya, the resulting anti-Muslim sentiments led to intense violence and deaths of thousands of Muslims and destruction of their homes and property, in the state of Gujarat.  In his last years in the parliament, ABV made last efforts to achieve peace with Pakistan, he also visited China and China-India relations improved greatly. ABV’s government introduced many domestic and economic and infrastructural reforms to encourage foreign investments, reduce governmental waste and encourage R&D and privatization of government owned corporations and introduced efforts to improve quality of education. ABV was recipient of Bharat Ratna, India’s highest award for exceptional service.

Beverly HIlls, California, USA; May 28, 2008; Republican Presidential Candidate John McCain speaks during a press conference at the Beverly Hilton.John McCain: Although generally a conservative, McCain disagreed with his party, when guided by his conscience to do so. Most recent example was when he voted against the repeal of #Obamacare. He was a member of bipartisan “Gang of 14”. McCain made campaign finance reform one of his signature concerns that eventually led to passing of the McCain–Feingold Act. McCain also chaired the Senate Commerce Committee and opposed pork barrel spending. McCain lost his party’s nomination for president once to George W. Bush and once he lost his bid for the highest office to Barack Obama. McCain invited both his previous opponents Bush and Obama to give eulogies at his funeral. That is a mark of a man who does not hold grudges and seeks to build bridges. When McCain served in the Vietnam war, he endured fractures and almost drowned and was then captured by the enemy in 1967. He was held by the enemy forces for over 5 years. When his father became commander of US forces, the enemy offered to release him but McCain refused saying “I will accept neither parole nor special favors from the enemy”. As a prisoner, he endured severe solitary confinement, had dysentery, was repeatedly tortured, severely beaten (once on a schedule of every 2 hours), and planned to commit suicide when he reached his breaking point. McCain survived, became a vocal opponent of extreme torture, and later joined politics. McCain married his first wife Carol, adopted her two children and had a daughter. But after his return from Vietnam, both had changed, he had extra marital affairs for which he took full responsibility and later he and his wife amicably divorced and he married his second wife Cindy in 1981. Cindy and John had three children and later adopted a girl from Bangladesh and named her Bridget. McCain was recipient of several awards. McCain’s many contributions and his often choosing to be guided by his conscience rather than by party and politics were mentioned and remembered today by his many friends, as he was laid to rest.

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India Trip – Kerala, Gujarat, Maharashtra: People, places, possibilities, pant suits & palazzos – Oct-Nov, 2017

IMG_20171109_163518289.jpgThis time my India trip was all about people.  I had many discussions around religious beliefs, stayed in many homes, debated and discussed what needs fixing (and there is a lot and mostly I did not bring this up) and what works and why and of course enjoyed world’s most incredible diverse range of cuisine available; enjoyed gawking at incredible, ever evolving, new fashionable clothing like gowns, pant suits and palazzos, and breathtakingly gorgeous jewellery.  

Kerala: Diversity of fruits, plants and foliage all growing together and jostling for space and thriving alongside each other in Kerala is just astounding... And amidst vast tea plantations, valleys full of cardamom trees, are bamboo, jackfruit, coffee, Cocoa, plantains, banana, cloves, tons of green peppercorns, cloves, supari, papaya, guava, sitafal, mango and more. And all these teaming with equally diverse animal life including taher mountain goats, elephants, possums and vast vast varieties of birds like maina, bluebirds etc. My friend who accompanied me was like a walking encyclopedia on all native plants and pointed out each variety as we passed them by.  Enjoyed chilling in house boat at Alleppey and enjoyed touring amazing Thekkady, Munnar in “God’s own country”, Kerala.



God-crazy India – Slightly with a sense of alarm and slightly lovingly, I wonder if India has gone God crazy.. I  found that there is a segment of Indian population that has clearly become more secular and refuse to partake in religion fueled divisiveness. Then there is a substantial segment that has become clearly much more religious. In the early morning of the day I landed and went to a small eatery, the waiter went and poured tea on a nearby tree and when questioned by me, explained that first tea has to go to the tree. Gods, rituals, and shrines keep multiplying in India and practically every Indian has a real ghost story. In one city, the government installed artistic statues of deities in the middle of four way streets to beautify the place. Very soon people began to go there and started praying there. I found catholics fiercely differentiating themselves from their closest siblings, the protestants.  A Shiya Muslim cab driver was staunchly asserting that Hindus don’t understand the differences but all terrorist acts are always carried out by Sunnis and unequivocally stated there can never be peace between Shiyas and Sunnis. When my friend asked the cabbie to stop at a spirits store to purchase a bottle of alcohol, he said we should have said it earlier and then he would not have accepted us as passengers because it was against his religion to enable people to drink.


A Hindu woman protested the assertion by Jains and Buddhists to be counted as separate religions because according to her they are all offshoot of Hinduism. Jains fear being swallowed and losing their identity in the amorphous and boundaryless system of Hinduism and equally staunchly assert their identity. And finally, as a most interesting experience, a Jain woman asserted how important are the differences between two sects of Jainism. One of the outward difference between the two sects of Jainism is that God keeps eyes open in one and halfway closed in the other. When I said it was a superficial difference, she explained how significant it was that the God kept the eyes halfway closed (never mind, that the statues are made by people).

I came away feeling more like Ron Reagan Junior (an active atheist). One atheist famously has said, “most people are atheists anyway about most religions, I just go one religion too far”.

Clothes Crazy India: Somehow I came away feeling like all of India and not Paris should be dubbed the fashion capital of the world. Incredible innovation in clothing styles and jewellery has made every Indian woman a fashionista, be it a cleaning woman, a beggar on the street or one living in a big mansion. There are incredible styles of clothes available to suit every pocket, everyone’s choice of color, style and size. In amazement, I stared at billboards and loved gawking and people watching at airports, hotels and on streets.

Enormously hospitable and friendly India – During this trip to India, I stayed in many homes, connected with my cousins on mother’s side, father’s side, with friends and neighbors from early childhood and from school and college days and with friends visiting from California and their families and friends in India. My cousins, friends, neighbors, friends’ friends and families and strangers in whose orbit I came, accepted me as their own, and at the same time, gave me the best things, fed the best items. My heart was filled with love and gratitude in each home that I visited, and in each interaction. Even when people held different beliefs than mine, even when I questioned and debated, in the end, I was in their orbit and I was accepted based our similarity as humans.  Over and over people told me that they loved to have me because I was so genuine and adaptable and I responded always that how can anyone not adapt when surrounded by such love and hospitality? I left eagerly for my homeland, but I left my motherland with a heavy heart. As I reminisce, I don’t miss the noise (it seems in India, there is a competition to rise above the din, bells in the temples are loudest, cars and scooters honk for no reason, people burst reams of firecrackers that last full 2-3 minutes when you cannot talk with the person sitting next to you inside a home, and even babies cry louder here). I don’t miss the air pollution (I yearned for a deep breath of fresh there). I don’t miss the dirt and grime (though there is considerable improvement in that). But I do deeply miss and remember people and their love, possibilities that exist, palazzos and pantsuits, gorgeous gowns, sarees and fashionable blouses that I wasn’t able to take my eyes off, the potential that India holds.





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Toba Tek Singh: Play Review (

Toba Tek Singh is yet another example of NAATAK company’s efforts to bring bold and audacious plays in Indian languages or with Indian theme, on stage.  Very special credits for this amazing production go to brilliant director Sujit Saraf who adapted the original story for stage, to brilliant producer who wears multiple hats, Soumya Agastya and to brilliant music director, Nachiketa Yakkundi. Based off of the original story written by Saadat Hasan Manto, Toba Tek Singh focuses on exchange of inmates in a Lahore asylum, after the partition of India and Pakistan in 1947. The ensuing conflict between India and Pakistan displaced nearly 15 million people and nearly 1 million people died during the migration, leaving behind a bloody legacy. The story of Toba Tek Singh is not only a powerful satire on the events that transpired in the aftermath of the violent division but when observed through the eyes of a madman, one can’t help but feel that he was the only sane person questioning the ridiculousness of the entire situation, in a sea of complete and utter lunacy.

Image may contain: 10 people, people smiling, people standingPerformed with live music and phenomenal dances by women in colorful costumes, the lunacy of the bloody events feels even more stark. Toba Tek Singh is the largest production in Naatak’s 22 year history.  It is amazing and delightful to see the huge entire cast perform their roles flawlessly. But it is the live musicians, under the leadership of Yakkundi and amazing dancers under the leadership of choreographers, Shaira Bhan and Snigdha Singh that this special story was transformed into a grand musical.

Image result for partition, india, pakistan
When the British
left India divided and splintered, clear borders were not announced until after the division, throwing millions of people into chaos and confusion. In an immediate aftermath, there began one of the greatest migrations in human history, as millions of Hindus and Sikhs began the trek towards India and millions of Muslims in the opposite direction towards Pakistan in the West and East. While millions and millions were displaced and left homeless, nearly a million never made it as people were massacred during migration, some were abducted and many were raped, forced into sexual slavery, and left disfigured and dismembered. But lunetics housed in the mental asylums were safe from this madness.

Image may contain: 3 people, people sittingThe story of Toba Tek Singh begins in 1948, a year after the partition, when the governments of India and Pakistan decide that the lunatics living in the mental asylums must also be exchanged so that Muslim lunatics in India may be sent to Pakistan, while Hindu and Sikh lunatics in Pakistan may be sent to India.  One of the lunatics is a Sikh inmate named Bishan Singh who is to be sent under police escort to India from Lahore. Bishan Singh wants to remain in a country where his home village Toba Tek Singh remains and he asks several people where Toba Tek Singh is.  He is alternately told it is in India and then told it is in Pakistan. When he finally believes that his hometown Toba Tek Singh will be part of the new Pakistan, he refuses to go to India and lies down right in the middle, in the no man’s land.

When you watch the play, you somehow feel that Bishan Singh is the only man true to his feelings, unlike Naidu or Jinnah or Gandhi or Nehru or Mountbatten or Edwina or Godse who are all caught up in their own self serving versions and visions of the event.  Each one of the other characters use multiple tactics and strategies, plot and craft to manipulate and maneuver the events to fit their vision. Bishan Singh simply wants to live in a place he has known as home because home is where the heart is and to get uprooted from homeland is like getting  your heart ripped out.

Toba Tek Singh will be running in Woodside, CA till July 29, 2017. Get your tickets at .

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2016 Year-end Review – Theme: Devastating Losses & Memories to Savor

Every year, I write end of the year review. However, this year has been for me, a year of devastating loss, and it has been hard to write the review of 2016.  Well now into 2017, I have finally decided to write year-end review of 2016.  As we bid sad adieu, let me first say, thank you Mr. Obama, Mr. Biden and team for leaving an awesome legacy to serve as our guide going forward.

The deepest of my personal loss is that of my mother who left this world and went on to explore newer shores, on December 30, 2016.  My mother was my rock, my inspiration, my greatest champion and I miss her so very deeply.  Prior to that I also grieved deeply at the election loss of Hillary Clinton (you may contest my counting her as a personal loss and I accept if you mourn with me). I also lost my love, my jelly bean as I called her, my daughter Neesha who colored my life with many gorgeous hues from the time she was born.  She is gone to study at U Penn and I am proud of her accomplishments.  My son Neil continues to work at Cisco and is thankfully living closer to me. As I write this on the eve of historical impending change hanging in the air, I am however also grieving with many of my friends, the loss of an incredible team of talented, bright, compassionate, good hearted people at the helm of our country. Not just our nation but many in the world will miss Mr. Obama, Mrs. Obama, Mr. Biden and the entire team.  Adieu and good luck.

The year was indeed sprinkled with many beautiful events, situations, and deep ties that left indelible marks and created a tapestry of beautiful memories.  I spent beautiful 15 days with my mamma in India and just a week after my return, she peacefully passed away.  During my stay, my spunky, adventuresome mamma was in the best of spirits and loved our twice daily outings. Every morning I gave her oil head massage and a bath and then took her in the wheelchair for an hour in the neighborhood. Every afternoon, we went for a car ride and every evening I brought hers and her sister’s favorite ice cream. I will treasure those wonderful memories.  Our nation will cherish the legacy of President Obama, now leaving White House with very high approval in the country and in the world.

Hillary Clinton nearly shattered the glass ceiling, and from the grief and determination is emerging a pantsuit nation of women warriors, committed to preserving her legacy and her memory with the power of action, in favor of respect, unity, and diversity.

In addition to several road trips and other vacations, I also had a wonderful theater filled vacation in Ashland.  My trip to Morocco, walking in the markets, sipping mint tea, riding the camel, and holding little goats will be one of the most memorable vacations.  Later in the year, after I visited mom, I enjoyed a vacation with my cousins and their children at Pondicherry and Trivendrum in Kerala, India.

Other bitter-sweet events of 2016 include thawing in US-Cuba relationship and Chicago Cubs overcoming their World Series curse.  In an effort to root out black market corruption and terrorism financed by black money, India took an unprecedented, bold step of demonetization, wiping out nearly 80% of its currency in circulation, giving the citizens only days to exchange the money in their possession. Indians and the world will closely watch its long term impact. Let’s end on an uplifting note – the fact that women of color made history on election night in the US, as the highest number got elected from their respective states. Certainly, all signs point to the coming year being marked by optimism, activism, dynamism, liberalism, and humanism at the grass roots level.

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Jobs – August, 2015

Please see below some of my immediate opportunities.  Post doc and contract opportunities are for candidates located in the United States.  But there are some new opportunities below that are located in India, for anyone wishing to do a stint in India, in very exciting, cutting edge multinational.  When sending your resume, please include details on your current compensation and compensation expectations.  Also, include in the email a short summary of your background and your key strengths. Please send resumes to wd_darshana at hot mail dot com.

Post-docs – Engineering – ME, EE, Biochemistry, Pharmaceutical Sciences – CA & TX
Requires excellent and proven hands-on problem solving skills.

Immediate contract Engineering Opportunities – San Jose, CA

  • Electrical Engineering & Software
  • Analog Design
  • PCB Layout (FR4, Flex etc.)
  • ASIC Design
  • Embedded Systems
  • TI MSP430, ARM, Cypress
  • Software (Windows, Linux, C++, Android, iOS)
  • Sensors
  • RF Communications
  • Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, 3G, 4G, GPS
  • Antenna Design
  • RF Test Labs
  • Test Engineering
  • Test Hardware & Software


Architect – MRI System and Signal Processing Development (Pulse Sequencing) – Bangalore, INDIA

Job includes performing magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) system simulation & pulse sequence design for fast simultaneous MRI imaging schemes and developing MRI image reconstruction algorithms
Academic Requirements include: Ph.D. degree and 5+ years of R&D work experience or BS / MS degree and 10+ years experience,  Major in Biomedical Engineering, Bio-Information System Engineering, Computer Science, Optics Engineering, or related areas.

Required experience includes: 5 – 15 years experience in MRI signal acquisition and/or image reconstruction, Comprehensive understanding of MRI system and pulse sequence design.  Also required, knowledge in MRI system development, MRI signal acquisition & MRI image reconstruction.  Strongly preferred: Knowledge in Simultaneous/ quantitative MRI & Compressed Sensing MRI

Job responsibilities include: Developing ultra-fast MRI imaging technology, MRI system modeling, Pulse sequence design (signal acquisition), Image reconstruction algorithm development & Compressed sensing for MRI

Architect / TL / PL – Bangalore, INDIA

Requires 5-10 yrs exp in C, C++, (QT, Boost); image processing, visualization, algorithm development, signal processing, & UI development. Requires experience with tools like VTK, OpenGL, ITK, CGal, OpenInventor, OpenCV, OpenMesh ImageJ, DICOM; proven application development record in image processing & visualization; domain knowledge of MR (Stroke, Metastatis, Cartilege, Dementia related clinical applications); and experience working with clinicians for development of software applications.  C++ (QT, Boost, Design Patterns).

Visualisation Architect – Bangalore, INDIA

Requirements include experience & knowledge in:  C++ (QT, Boost, Design Patterns), Data Analytics, Algorithms, Image Processing, Visualization techniques.  Highly desired: Proven research record & high quality publications in image processing, visualization or related areas; experience in one or more of the following: VTK, OpenGL, ITK, CGal, OpenInventor, OpenCV, OpenCV, OpenMesh, SPM.  Academic requirements include: MS or Ph.D. in Computer Science or related with emphasis on visualization & image analysis & good software development experience. Experience in medical imaging applications in CT or MR is nice to have.

Roles and Responsibilities – Developing & supporting visualization platform, Clinical image processing algorithm development from concept to productizing, Integration of algorithm & development of end to end clinical application with the team, Support clinical collaboration with hospitals to do competitor bench-marking & validation of algorithms and clinical application and Support system integration & system verification issues for visualization platform & clinical applications.

R&D for Computed-Tomography Segmentation Algorithm Development – Banglore, INDIA

Job includes: Organ-specific segmentation technology development for computed-tomography (CT) clinical applications (image processing).
Requirements include: 5+ years experience in computed-tomography (CT) image processing, CT image segmentation, Feature extraction and Pattern recognition & Classification.  Also required: Specialized Knowledge in signal processing, digital image processing, probability & statistics, programming in C/ C++, MATLAB.

1) Segmentation Algorithm Development including developing organ specific segmentation, reinforcing segmentation applications, and CT image processing.
2) Feature Extraction Algorithm Development including Lesion area enhancement and extraction
3) Technology Development Based on Computer-Aided Detection including Developing pattern recognition algorithms & Developing classification algorithms

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