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2014 – Year-end Review ——- Theme: Confront Reality & Get Things Done!

English: Biosafety level 4 hazmat suit: resear...

English: Biosafety level 4 hazmat suit: researcher is working with the Ebola virus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Year 2014 is coming to a close.  As I see it, it has been a year to confront the reality and get things done.  Affordable Care Act became law in January, increasing the accessibility of healthcare, in the US.  TIME declared Ebola as the defining issue of the 20th century. It was no more in remote regions of Africa but in the capitals and it landed in the USA.  The reality is that we are living in a global world.  

And then President Obama reminded us that even though some of our neighbors entered the border illegally, they have made their home here, are working hard, supporting their families and they should have NOT amnesty, but an opportunity to make it right with the law, and live here temporarily, AND pay their share of the taxes, because people can’t live in the shadows, in a global world of visibility and accountability.   Long overdue immigration reform will enable many people to come out of the shadows and add to the national treasury – a win-win – what’s not to like?

The same applies to our gay neighbors.  They should not have to live in the shadows.  Majority of the states this year, legalized same sex marriages and US supreme court refused to hear appeals from states seeking to keep same sex marriage ban in place.  Many states also legalized marijuana.  But what about our veterans living in the shadows?  Department of Veterans Affairs got more resources (as house passed the bill, at the end of the year, averting shutdown), and it now has to get its act together and make it right with those who defend our freedom and values.

And what about skin color?  We are confronting the reality that more than 50 years after Dr. King laid out his vision for color-fair society, people are still being judged on the basis of the color of their skin and paying with their lives.  This does not just happen when young men turn 22 but prejudice hits in childhood and it splinters society.  We can heal and move ahead, but scars made by history, and distrust can only heal when there are no new wounds, when there is real dialog, when each side gets to even briefly experience the reality that the other lives with, and have compassion.  We are confronting the reality and lot of dialog is happening.  Much work remains to be done but the issue can’t be ignored any longer.

And then the lowest of the low, terrorists and those plotting terror.  How do we deal with them?  Report on CIA’s use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” in the post-9/11 era reveals that “CIA detainees were tortured”.  When we lose sight of our values, when the boundaries between moral and immoral gets blurry, then we lose, regardless of what we were seeking to gain.  This is a true moment for national soul searching. (the fact some people may be only suspected of being terrorists is whole other story).

Globally, also we are confronting realities.  World’s largest democracy, India, elected controversial Mr. Narendra Modi as Prime Minister.  Mr. Modi has reached out to leaders across the world and declared campaigns to clean up India.  My birthplace has so much to offer to the world and if it cleans up its act, under the helm of Mr. Modi, I couldn’t be happier.  Our neighbors need to clean up their act too, even as they rightfully blame the US for its insatiable appetite for drugs.  Capture of “El Chapo” Guzman in Mexico was a HUGE victory that got overshadowed later by disappearance and ruthless murder of 43 Mexican college students.  “#YaMeCanse12”!  Abduction of 270 high school girls by Boko Haram in Nigeria #BringBackOurGirls and scores of Yazidi women bought, sold, raped, and murdered, underscores the need to define rape during conflict as a war crime and not a woman’s issue.  By some estimates, more than 7 million (50% are children) are displaced by war in Syria (200,000 are killed) and 100,000+ Yazidis are displaced by ISIS.  Let us continue to keep theses issues in the spotlight.

The year is ending on a rather sad note of the children who lost their lives in #PeshawarSchoolAttack in Pakistan.  Here is my short poem in their memory – .  It was heart warming to see India support its neighbor in the hour of grief as #IndiawithPakistan was a popular hashtag on twitter. And also deeply heartwarming to see Pakistan echo the sentiments when #PakistanwithIndia and sepecially #PakistanwithIndiaNoToLakhviBail became trendy topics on twitter as overwhelmingly Pakistani people reacted negatively to their government’s decision to give bail to Mumbai terror mastermind Lakhvi.  May the balanced sentiments always prevail over extremism, because the reality is that we live in a global world and terror can’t be nurtured and targeted because sooner or later it would hit home.  Global world also demands secularism.

As a ray of light and hope, Malala Yousafzai, courageous young lady from Pakistan, spearheading girls’ right to education and Kailash Satyarthi from india, a brave and dedicated activist for children’s rights and against child labor, shared the Nobel Prize, sending strong messages that fight to honor children’s rights will continue.


wpid-20140920_173123.jpgHard as it is to confront the reality that one’s parents may not be there forever, I was very happy to spend wonderful time with my mother and my aunty (her sister).  I tried to focus on giving them a break from their routines and enable them to have some fun, some unusual experiences.  Isn’t it amazing that when a mother gives, she gives with her heart and soul, but when she receives from her children, she receives with a feeling of enormous debt and gratitude!  Both my children are focused on their careers; wpid-20140805_201145-1.jpgNeil is working with Cisco in IT and Neesha is finishing college this coming year.  Both are my pride and joy :).  It has also been fun hosting my daughter’s friend from UCSD, originally from Palestine, during the holidays, and alternately being “naughty” with the girls, and playing aunty-mom to two daughters :).wpid-20141221_150415.jpg

wpid-20141221_161442.jpgThis year, I also visited Japan (we were hosted by many amazing friends and you can see all details in my travel blogs), an amazingly polite and most efficient culture, with world’s most interesting toilets  This year I also started travel blogs and you can see my many blogs at

And finally, here are links to some of the most amazing things that I blogged about, this year.
Best movie – “Last Days in Vietnam”
Best play – “Truce” and “Andhera Hone Tak”
Best book – “The Glass Castle”
Best biomedical technologies — so many exciting technologies in early to mid stages of development for — treatment of ALS, for technology for early detection of cervical cancer, technology that aims to deliver drugs via inhalation for AFib, point of care solution to minimize prescription filling errors

Wishing my readers, family & friends, and my clients and colleagues, peace and joy in the year 2015.  Best wishes to my many friends in fantastic groups that I am routinely affiliated with (each of them enhance life for many, personally and/or professionally),,,,,,, .

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Andhera Hone Tak – (Wait Until Dark) – Hindi Play Review

NAATAK company has exceeded all expectations in its production of “Andhera Hone Tak”, hindi version of Frederick Knott’s classic thriller, “Wait Until Dark”.  The play is performed with English subtitles projected above the stage, and that makes it a must-see play, for a wider range of  audience.

Stage versions of thrillers are rare because suspense and elements of a thriller, including murder, robbery etc. are hard to create on stage.  Producer Surender Singh has made a bold attempt in bringing this production and the suspense filled thriller does not disappoint on any count.  Clearly, Mukund Marathe has once again proved that he is simply one of the most brilliant directors.

Suneeta Saxena (Sareeka Malhotra) is a housewife, who is also blind, and is married to Sameer Saxena (Puneet) and they live in Shivaji Park, Mumbai.  Sameer becomes an innocent transporter of a doll stuffed with contraband, when he brought it home, at the request of a woman, who is now surfaced as dead.  Soon thereafter, Sameer is traveling again for business and Suneeta becomes target of three con-men, looking for heroin hidden in a doll.  The doll is nowhere to be found because unbeknownst to anyone, a little girl, Aneesha, living in the apartment upstairs, has stolen the doll. The trio play initially manage to get Suneeta worried that her husband will be suspected of murdering the woman and the only way to protect him would be to enable them to have the possession of the doll.

Wait Until Dark

Wait Until Dark (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sareeka Malhotra’s performance as a blind heroine, is brilliant, both vulnerable and at the same time courageous and determined.  The three con men, played by Varun Dua, Sanjay Apte, and Amit Sharma are so good at being bad that their performance holds you at the edge of your seats.  Aneesha Nema, the little child star gives a phenomenal performance as a bratty but precocious kid.  The set design is superb, easy for a supposedly blind person to navigate and yet complex for her to figure out the movements of the intruders.  Juhi Mohan has done a great job with lights, helping create the perfect “dark”, that would give Suneeta an edge against the intruders.

Every theater season, I give my recommendation of a “must-watch play of the season” from among South Bay Theater companies, including (NAATAK – www,, CityLights –, San Jose Stage –, Theatreworks –, EnActe Arts – etc.) and this season, unequivocally, I recommend NAATAK’s “Andhera Hone Tak”, as the “must-watch play of the season”.  While the play is performed in Hindi, the English sub-titles, projected above the stage, make it easy for all to enjoy.  So remember, you don’t need to understand Hindi to enjoy the suspense, heart stopping tension, spooky lighting, and climactic end, all delivered by flawless performance, in real time.

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“Merchant on Venice” by EnActe Arts – Play Review

EnActe Arts is as bold in its offerings as it is lofty in its vision of producing South Asian themed theatre, for universal audiences.  The company provides a platform for writers and playwrights from across the globe, and creates a forum for crucial South Asian themed stories to be heard, in the US.

Its current production, playwright Shishir Kurup’s “Merchant On Venice”, brings merchants of Hindu-Muslim diaspora, residing on LA’s Venice Boulevard, on stage, in an adaptation of Shakespeare’s classic.  A Hindu merchant named Devendra (Amasalan Doraisingam), requests the help of Muslim moneylender, Sharuk (Vijay Rajvaidya), to fund his friend Jitendra (Sonu Bains) in his matrimonial suit to Pushpa (Angelica Shah), a wealthy heiress of her late father’s fortune.  Underpinning their agreement, Sharuk and Devendra have a history of deep mutual distrust and dislike.  Sharuk insists that if Devendra fails to fulfill his contract and pay him back on time, then it would incur a severe penalty.  The penalty would be for Devendra to lose his manhood and for Sharuk to cut off his testicles.

Holi in india-5

Holi in india-5 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I found the second half of the play more engaging, than the first half.  The first half of the play, seeks to depict with humor and ironic wit, exaggerated cultural stereotypes of racism and bigotry, and the history of racial intolerance among the communities.  Despite well intentioned effort, most of the humor did not seem hilariously funny, and at times, it seemed too simplistic, annoying, and simply perpetuating the entrenched stereotypes.  The play seeks to adapt Shakespeare’s classic, with a complex plethora of characters, and in the process, also becomes confusing at times.  Indeed, Shishir Kurup seems to be a talented playwright, and at times the beauty of the dialogs comes through.  However, in the absence of the microphones and as plenty of new characters are introduced, and as some of their voices become softer and with missing dialogs, I found my interest diminishing, and my mind wandering.  Perhaps more experienced actors may be able to deliver with greater punch and emphasis, and change this perception.  Ranjita Chakrabarti as Tooranpoi, Sharuk’s disengaged employee, was hilarious and generated some good laughs and Angelica Shah’s and Vijay Rajvaidya’s performances were excellent.

After the intermission, the play becomes serious, and focuses on tackling the crucial issue of Hindu Muslim divide. Honest communication around these issues is important and therefore I would highly recommend this play.  The events reach a point where Devendra’s “deal in the making” with GSK has fallen through and he is unable to fulfill his contract with Sharuk, and must now accede to losing his manhood.   This case is heard in the court of SABU (South Asian Business Union), by a bunch of patriarchs, who insist on conducting Hindu prayers, before the case is heard, and insist that Devendra’s counsel, Pushpa who is dressed in pants, supposedly as a man, change her attire and come appropriately dressed as a woman, in a saree or a salwar.  Some of the distractions from the original story are meaningful and show the state of affairs (for instance, in secular India, it is a norm for Hindu prayers to be conducted before many business or legal or government proceedings).

Other distractions however, were useless distractions (including the celebration of Holi or court’s insistence that Pushpa change her attire, which she did).  (It alluded to the patriarchal aspect of the culture, and it seemed like an important stereotype that should have either been dropped entirely or focused upon more strongly.  It annoyed me that while racial stereotypes were being questioned, such blatant and outrageous gender stereotypes were simply showed to exist and then accepted!!)  In any case, the story veers from Shakespeare’s version and some of these distractions could have been dropped.  In fact, the play could have shed minutes and characters, and focused on the most pertinent issue it was seeking to highlight.  

While I don’t fully agree with the way in which the Hindu-Muslim issue is highlighted (would be a whole blog by itself), it is about time that these issues of racial divides get our attention.  The play provides a great starting point for future discussions, and raises important thought-provoking questions about religion, philosophy, human expectations, and behavior.  I would highly encourage South Asians to see this important production, that EnActe Arts has so boldly brought to stage.  For tickets, go to .












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