Posts Tagged www.naatak.org

“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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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  http://bit.ly/15EInJ4 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 – http://bit.ly/1wfp47D .  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.

Personal

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 http://bit.ly/1sYL5qs.  This year I also started travel blogs and you can see my many blogs at www.darshanavnadkarni.wordpress.com.

And finally, here are links to some of the most amazing things that I blogged about, this year.
Best movie – “Last Days in Vietnam” http://bit.ly/1qFIL28
Best play – “Truce” http://bit.ly/1trGhEG and “Andhera Hone Tak” http://bit.ly/1Aij5Rz
Best book – “The Glass Castle” http://bit.ly/1fchcIo
Best biomedical technologies — so many exciting technologies in early to mid stages of development for — treatment of ALS http://bit.ly/1AP2Yd0, for technology for early detection of cervical cancer http://bit.ly/1jalqEz, technology that aims to deliver drugs via inhalation for AFib, point of care solution to minimize prescription filling errors http://bit.ly/1jdfmgr

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) http://www.bio2devicegroup.org, http://www.eppicglobal.org, http://www.citylights.org, http://www.thestage.org, http://www.theatreworks.org, http://www.naatak.org, http://www.enacte.org, http://www.iwings.org .

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On Writing a Blog Part II – Why you should write a blog


This blog is part ii of series or 3 blogs.  In part I, focused on “When NOT to Write A Blog” – http://bit.ly/13MqJFh.   In this part II, I will focus on When to write a blog and what you gain from blogging, and in part III I will focus on “How to Market A Blog” and will be posting it in few days.

Top 10 reasons, you must start blogging.

No. 10 – You have ongoingly information to share that will resolve a pain point for consumers/ buyers/ sellers etc.
If you are knowledgeable about some technical aspects that could help people make better decisions for the products they want to buy, or regarding food choices, regarding their health etc. then you should blog.  If you have technical information that can help people solve their technical challenges and you are able to demonstrate that effectively with step by step directions then you should blog.  Similarly, if you have information about cars, cameras and more that can help people and you can clearly write about it then please consider writing a blog.

No. 9 – You absolutely cannot help yourself.
If your need for self-expression is so strong, you absolutely need to share, then you should become a blogger because this is an easiest medium to share your perspectives.  For instance, one day early in the morning, I had put on some music and was dancing, rather vigorously and I bashed into my living room wall, and broke my toe.  The pain was immediate and intense.  I sat down and then crawled to my desk and with the support stood up and sat on the chair.  Then I was thinking if I should call a friend, yell to wake up my daughter, hobble to get ice and through it all the humor of how it happened struck me.  Instantly, I though of a poem http://bit.ly/XOemzn and I had to write it and post it on the blog. The urge to write and share a poem became stronger than the impending need to alleviate the pain and stop the swelling that was fast ballooning.  You may not be world’s best writer, but if you must share then blog is the best medium J and you can ignore everything else said in part 1 about When NOT to write a blog.

No. 8 – Your urge to share your perspectives is consistent and frequent.
Sometimes, you see a wonderful movie and you want to share how absolutely delightful the movie was or you visit a gorgeous site and you want to share with others and tell them that they must visit the site and that may make you feel that you need to blog about it.  For instance, I had to share about #lifeofpi – http://bit.ly/XizQZL or #BhaagMilkhaBhaag – http://bit.ly/1cUwG4o .  However, if this only happened once in a while, then blog may not be the best medium.  Or, you might be delighted but you may express it lamely in writing then writing may not be the best channel.  But for the most part, if you are yearning to share your experience, then you should consider writing a blog.

No. 7 – Your access to materials worth sharing is frequent.
For instance, if you love to write movie reviews and want to blogg about it then you should be watching a lot of movies.  If you want to write book reviews on your blog then you should be reading a lot of books; if you want to write about technology, then should be constantly accessing/ researching newer technologies and so on.  I attend a lot of conferences and talks and write previews of upcoming talks or reviews of the events and talks at www.bio2devicegroup.org, www.eppicglobal.org, www.jpmorgan.com, www.tiecon.org and so on.  I also love live theater and write a lot of play reviews and attend shows at www.theatreworks.org, www.cltc.org, www.sjrep.com, www.shadyshakes.org, www.naatak.org, www.thestage.org and so on.  You might focus exclusively on sharing your own perspectives but share them with creativity and originality.

No. 6 – You are not targeting your friends to be your primary blog audience.
You have to target more broadly, outside of the circle of your friends.  Even if you are a great blogger, all your friends will not have the same interests as you do.  Although, your good friends will read, comment, give feedback, and will encourage you, so do share with your friends, but without pestering them, where they feel compelled to read your blog.  I am forever indebted to my friends for bringing so much joy in my life that enables me to create a space for writing and here is my gratitude blog – http://bit.ly/ZaXuYj .

No. 5 – You have plans to market your blog.
I will write more on this in the last segment on how to market your blog.  But remember that writing a blog is not like writing a diary.  You want people to read and take interest in what you have to say.  And only way people can do that is if they have access to what you have to say.  As I have already said earlier, targeting your friends solely as your blog audience, is not a good strategy for long term health and vitality of your blog.  (By the way, if you wish to follow me, my twitter handle is @DarshanaN and tweet the links to all my blogs).

No. 4 – You are actively accessing/ researching wide range of information.
One engaging discussion about some political topic and a perspective you want to share, may not make a good reason for starting a blog.  Yes, people do that sometimes.  But good blogs with wide viewership, come from bloggers who are doing wider research and share perspectives with more depth and value.  For instance, I felt strongly about the declining status of education in the US and finally I put in time to do some research, before I wrote the blog – http://bit.ly/AwLq7G .  You must enjoy reading and hearing different perspectives to be able to share your own thoughts effectively and authentically.

No. 3 – You are religious about not compromising on content and quality.
You can compromise on frequency but never on content.  If you provide sloppy content, wrong facts, or poor quality material then eventually your readership will diminish and disappear.  To keep up frequency, you can invite guest bloggers who can provide equally good content, as you.

No. 2 – You are not obsessive about privacy
Privacy violations are scary in the digital age.  And we all need to take appropriate steps to protect our privacy.  However, as I said earlier, if you want to reach a broader audience for your blog then you have to allow them a way to reach you.  You need to decide the channel and the boundaries that work for you to manage your more visible public profile.

No. 1 – You want to focus on intentional living and self-development
It is my belief that blog writing gives clarity in thinking and brings greater intentionality and purposefulness to life.  My writing has enabled me to pursue my disparate love for theater and for conferences on new technologies.  I read books with greater focus, listen to speakers without ever falling asleep, and see little rhymes in life’s adversities and challenges.  Writing a blog has helped me to prioritize my lifestyle, cut down activities that suck a great deal of time and bring little pleasure, and has enabled me to create more time, with minimal lifestyle.  I credit my blog writing for enabling me to have a wonderfully engaged life, as an emptynester.  I am generally a happy person but writing makes me happier.  It is at once a social activity and yet a private activity.  It helps you to retreat from people for some personal meditation space and it helps you to more meaningfully engage with the world.

So now go ahead and start your blog, give it a go, and in next part I will discuss how you can market it.

Blog With Authenticity Without Getting Fired

Blog With Authenticity Without Getting Fired (Photo credit: Search Engine People Blog)

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“Bhaag Milkha Bhaag” – Bolywood Movie Review


“Bhaag Milkha Bhaag” (run Milkha run), shouted Milkha’s father, as he lay dying, at the hands of the militants, and Milkha kept running, all the way across the Indian border, from his village in Pakistan.  The devastation and carnage that resulted when the British left a deeply divided and broken county, displaced an estimated 12 to 15 million people, and over 1.5 million people are estimated to have lost their lives, in the mass violence.  It probably left wounds so deep, trauma so inexplicable that one cannot imagine how people put their lives back together.  Here is one story of Milkha Singh.  The movie unfolds, against the backdrop of tragic massacre of Milkha Singh’s family, who chose to stay in their homeland and fight the enemy, rather than run.  The movie is based on a true story and you can google the details of how young Milkha (Jabtej Singh) and his sister (Divya Dutta) with her family, manage to escape, how Milkha got into trouble with the law, but then found inspiration in love, which propelled him to a career in the Indian army, where he took up running, eventually winning scores of medals on behalf of the country.  (A little side note, both Jabtej Singh and Divya Dutta have done an awesome job in the side roles of junior Milkha and his sister, respectively).

Eventually, Milkha Singh, superbly played by Farhan Akhtar, faced a dilemma that would bring him face to face with his past.  India’s most inconic athlete who ran away from Pakistan and had been running ever since, was summoned by the President himself, Mr. Nehru, to return back to Pakistan, to lead his team in running.  Indian officials implored, cajoled, and pleaded Milkha Singh to represent India, in Pakistan, during the friendly games, to mark the occasion of coming together of both countries.

Based on a script written by Prasoon Joshi, the film is produced and directed by Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra.  It is albeit a bit long and I would have liked to see it a little short.  However, the cast is superb, the songs are beautiful and the true story of Milkha Singh, known as the “Flying Singh”, a moniker given by Pakistan’s General Ayub Khan, is tragic and inspiring.  The devastation of India Pakistan breakup, the roads littered with broken limbs and broken dreams, left such deep wounds, that countries and people sought to burry the tragedy and forget about it, rather than talk about it and learn from it.  It is only now that this subject is getting attention.  Recently, San Francisco Bay Area’s local NAATAK company (www.naatak.org) produced an incredible play “Jisne Lahore Dekhya Nahin Vo Janmya Hi Nahin”  http://bit.ly/11PhK5q and 1947 Partition Archives http://www.1947partitionarchive.org/, a non profit group, is building an archive of true life stories impacted by the partition.

Always buried in the tragedy, there is a story of inspiration, love that was transforming, a character that was built, achievement that was remarkable, past that was revisited and reconciled with.  Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, is one such story and Milkha is said to have publicly opined that the movie is a fairly accurate depiction of his life up to 1962, where the movie ends.  Don’t miss it.  I give it a 4.8 on a 5 point scale, with 5 being excellent.

English: Flag of Indian Army

English: Flag of Indian Army (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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