Profiles of the famous & the infamous, ordinary & the extraordinary people
“As many of you will come to know in the weeks and months ahead, the door to my office has a sign for all to see every time they walk through my doorway. The sign says, ‘Can’t Is Not an Option.’
These are the words of Nikki Haley, nee Nimrata Randhawa, the feisty new Governor of South Carolina, the Indian-American daughter of Punjabi immigrants. Haley, 38, has gone from being an obscure Southern legislator to a nationally known rising star on the Republican circuit.
She was a captain in the US Military, has served in the war-torn hell-hole of Iraq and been awarded several honors, including the Bronze Star – but she has never fired a shot. She was in the combat zones of Northern Iraq for 12 months, surrounded by the cacophony of bombs and mortar attacks – yet she has never carried a gun.
She says simply, “My defense is God.”
Today we have thousands of Indian women lawyers, both in India and the Diaspora. But how lonely and frustrating must it have been to be the first and to try and change society?
At the start of this new year, we pay tribute to the one who started it all, and won the right for women to stand up in court and argue a case. Cornelia Sorabji- India’s first woman lawyer.
Prashant Bhargava 1973-2015
Deeply sad to share this news – it’s a loss for all of us. Today the world has lost a wonderful human being and filmmaker – Prashant Bhargava, 42. We remember his brilliant filmmaking, his great potential and his unfinished stories. He gave us many gifts, from ‘Patang’ to ‘Radhe Radhe’ and the last, ‘Ammaji’ – a small meditation on the power of love.
The aspirations behind ‘Patang’ made everyone a part of Prashant Bhargava’s world, his humanity and his caring.
If you’re brown, come from Asia and practice a different religion, you’re often seen as exotic, sometimes as strange and almost always as a curiosity by the mainstream, and these misconceptions are often triggered by the stories that are written about ethnicity in the media.
Ever visited Planet Shankara? You don’t need to journey as far as Mars or Pluto and you don’t need a rocket to get there but you will fly to a place of total musical bliss!
Planet Shankara is coming to you, right to the Lincoln Center Performing Arts Center and you’re in for a mind-blowing musical experience when three mighty talents come together – Anandan Sivamani – the magician of percussion, Anurag Harsh whose powerful voice transforms words into a direct conversation with the Almighty, and Stephen Devassy, the amazing keyboardist who has performed so often with AR Rahman.
A solo performance by even one of them would be heady enough but when all three are unleashed together on the stage, it is a joyous ride for the listeners, a musical monsoon to get thoroughly drenched in.
The Meet Brothers, known for their catchy music from ‘Baby Doll’ to ‘Chittiyaan Kalaiyan’ were in Manhattan to record with singer Poonam Khubani, also known as Poonam Kay. So here we were at the Hudson Eatery chatting with the Meet Brothers about their collaboration with Poonam. whose song ‘Ek Look Ek Look’ was featured in the Bollywood movie Aryan, and who’s made several popular pop videos since then.
The US has several Indian-Americans doing important work in academia. Meet Beheruz. N. Sethna, President of the University of West Georgia with a budget of $ 100 million and 100 programs of study through the doctoral level.
He’s a Parsi who’s got some important firsts affixed to his name: he is the first person of Indian origin to ever become the president of a university anywhere in the US. He’s also the first person from any ethnic minority to become president of a predominantly white or racially-integrated university or college in Georgia.
Home and exile are two of the most evocative words in the English language, and they are seared into the work of Zarina Hashmi, noted printmaker and sculptor, who was born in Aligarh in India. Zarina, who goes by only her first name, has been a nomad, a transient who has taken many journeys, crossed many borders. The floor plans of past homes, the many stories of dislocation and the sweet lost language of Urdu are embedded in her prints.
Having worked in relative anonymity for 35 years from her small loft in Manhattan, NY, Zarina, 75, is now suddenly on the international art world’s radar. The prestigious Guggenheim Museum is showcasing “Zarina: Paper Like Skin”, the first retrospective ever of an Indian woman artist, featuring 60 works dating from 1961 to the present.
Advertisers really know how to pull on your heartstrings, and sometimes they get it right.
The work of mothers is so undervalued – it carries no pay, no certificates and no awards. Yet daughters are so strengthened by the unconditional love, the drive and determination of mothers to make the lives of their daughters so much better than their own. A touching tribute to mothers everywhere.
If you’re a mother or a daughter, you’ve got to watch this emotional video. It will make you want to call your mom immediately. Enjoy!
Enjoy the joy of Holi, the festival of colors, with this delightful video from Hindustani vocalist Ila Paliwal. This beautiful Indian raga embraces the world with its power of celebration and inclusiveness. Indeed, Holi is increasingly becoming a reason to dance and connect with color in many parts of the world and this video by Bharat Bala shows that dance and music have a way of erasing differences and accentuating what we humans have in common.
“My first performance was at Birla auditorium at the age of 5,” recalls Poonam Kay. ” I had to stand on a folding chair and sing a duet with my mother’s male duet singer, Jethalal. The song was Yeh parda hata do, zara mukhda dikha do.” Many years later she is a recording artist, producer and TV personality. This year she released her new album ‘Nachle Ve’ with music composed by noted Bollywood film music director Anand Raj Anand. Yet she has another avatar, that of business entrepreneur.
She is Bollywood’s Sweetheart for everyone in the cinema halls, from front benchers to the elite. But don’t let those dimples fool you – Preity Zinta is one of the smartest women in Bollywood who takes on tough challenges, is fearlessly outspoken and is the proud co-owner of the IPL Kings XI Punjab, along with ex-boy friend industrialist Ness Wadia.
The two are very much in the news, due to the FIR lodged by Preity Zinta, accusing Ness Wadia of molestation. The media is agog with all the details. While all that works itself out, I thought I’d share a chat I had with her some years back.
If you thought Miss America had to be blonde and blue eyed, you have to meet Nina Davuluri, the current Miss America. Not only did her dark almond shaped eyes and dusky complexion showcase her Indian roots but she also won big with her rousing Bollywood dance number from ‘Om Shanti Om.’Yes, Miss America is of Indian origin – and proud of it!
Indeed, this Miss America is the first with Indian roots and really shows what’s special about America: you can be of a different heritage, speak a different language, pray to a different god, yet you are American. A chat with Nina Davuluri to find out how’s she’s doing.
It’s the City of Dreams, of Make-believe.
The strivers, the strugglers keep coming but Hollywood’s gates are often closed. Can their stories ever be told, if they are a minority, an outsider? Writers of color are often underemployed in cinema.
Recently the Writers Guild of America, an influential Hollywood entity, set up the Features Access Project to rectify this by encouraging diversity in writing.
Among this year’s eight multicultural honorees, three trace their roots back to India – Radha Bharadwaj (Final Boarding), Nayan Padrai (Billion Dollar Raja) and Tianna Majumdar-Langham (Guns and Saris) who won the honor with her co-writer Chris Bessounian.
Imran Khan comes from a famous film family – he is the grandson of director-producer Nasir Husain, creator of some of the most rocking musicals of the 70’s. He is also the nephew of actor Aamir Khan and director-producer Mansoor Khan. He acted as a child star in several movies, disappeared to America, and then re-emerged as a romantic hero in Jaane Tu, Ya Jaane Na which won him the Filmfare Award for the Best Male Debut.
Bollywood loves his romantic ‘chocolate hero’ image in films but chatting with him, you realize he’s not just about style and stardom – but about substance. Here he muses about life, family, love and social activism.
“First commitment as CEO: I won’t wait four years between tweets!” tweeted Satya Nadella, the newly appointed CEO of Microsoft, whose last tweet was back in 2010. There is indeed a hunger out there to learn more about him; he’s tweeted only 27 times since 2009 and yet has a whopping 108,000 followers.
While most of Nadella’s tweets are about Microsoft and Bing, two old tweets give us the desi angle: “Great evening to be watching some good old fashioned test cricket!” Another tweet will sound like deja vu to most Indian achievers: “I may break my continuous work day record!” Family friend and retired Microsoft executive Vijay Vashee recalls the time Nadella, who’s passionate about cricket, watched the 20-20 cricket match from midnight to 6 am at and then went straight to a full productive day of work.
The Lassi Awards?!! No, no, I would never be so presumptuous! I’m not exactly giving out the Oscars but it’s a humble recognition of five people who are special, people whom you’d definitely want to have a beer with, or at least a lassi. They have all the wonderful qualities that we wish we had, have overcome difficulties to succeed in a complex world, and in turn made it a more humane world.
Well, here are five of these special people – Sheena Iyengar, Jasmin Sethi, Eboo Patel, Pratima Dharm and Leila Janah. As the year ends, it’s worth revisiting their inspirational stories and realizing that even with just the power of one, each one of us can make a difference.