Feb 16, 2015

Cleveland Thyagaraja Aradhana 2015

Cleveland Thyagaraja Aradhana Festival, the “largest Indian classical music festival outside of India” and in its 38th year, will be held in Cleveland, Ohio from April 1-12, 2015.  Ticket cost per person varies between $20 to $40.  Season passes to the festival cost $200.  

Cleveland Thyagaraja Aradhana will reportedly include over 200 celebrity artistes in over 85 concerts; including Carnatic Symphony, a fusion of Western music orchestra with Carnatic music presented by about 100 talented children of various nationalities and conducted by renowned K.N.Shashikiran.  Registration is now open.  Now, the festival registers children starting at age 10.

Music and Bharathanatyam dance competitions will also form part of this Festival; which will also bestow various music and dance awards, like Sangeetha Rathnakara, Nrithya Rathnakara, Sangeetha Kala Sagaram, Nrithya Kala Sagaram, etc.; and organize educational programs, including “The Glory of Lord Venkateswara”.  It is pertinent to understand the reality about the imaginary Lord Venkateshwara that Thyagaraja wrote about and you should read this.
Cleveland Thyagaraja Aradhana
Cleveland Thyagaraja Aradhana Festival Packets
The Cleveland Thyagaraja Aradhana Committee, a non-profit organization responsible for organization of this Festival, includes R. Balasubramaniam, V.V. Sundaram, Gomathy Balasubramaniam, Roger and Jaya Natarajan, K. Venkataraman, Sunitha and Ashok Grandhee, Radhika Balasubramaniam and Gopi Sundaram, Shankar Sundaram and Karthik Venkataraman, Venkat Narayanaswamy, Arvind Balakrishnan and Mony Iyer, Kanchana Sundaram and Lavanya Krishnan, Nigamanth and Divya Sridhar

Dec 20, 2014

Asian Indian Businesses Face Racial Slurs, Intimidation and Danger

Cleveland businessmen of Asian Indian (and Arab) origin face racism, ethnic intimidation and dangerous customers

On October 5, 2014, 34 year old, Sachin Rana from Punjab, India was shot dead at Home Town Grocery store at 5611 Woodland Avenue, Cleveland.  He lived in Parma Heights.

In April, 2014, 41 year old, Babu Kumer Saha from subcontinental India (Bangladesh) was shot dead at In Prime Gas Station on Granger Road in Maple Heights.  He lived in Parma.

National Spelling Bee
 Cory Shaffer of Northeast Ohio Media Group provides in this revealing article the business customer conditions that immigrant businessmen have to deal with in Greater Cleveland. 

Sachin Rana pepper sprayed a 31-year-old man, who was arrested in July after Rana's wife caught him sticking a 44-ounce can of Colt 45 into his back pocket, according to a police report. Patel confronted the man, pulled can from his pocket and told him to leave.  The man told Patel he had a gun. Rana pepper sprayed him and pushed him out the door, angering him. He then threatened to shoot the couple. He reached into his waistband and pulled out what looked like the handle of a gun.  The man ended up pleading no contest to a misdemeanor open container charge, and was fined $100.  Police were called to the store in April after a 36-year-old man said Rana threatened him with a gun. Then the man bought some beer, and got into an argument with Rana as he left.  The man said Patel was staring at him as he walked through the store about 10:30 p.m. When he asked her why she was watching him, Patel said she was watching for people stealing. The two got into a heated argument, according to police.  Rana and Patel said the man threatened to go get a gun and shoot Rana, and threatened to slap Patel. That's when Rana pulled out his gun and kept it by his side, he told police.  Police reviewed surveillance footage, and sided with Rana and Patel, the report said.  No charges resulted in that case.
That wasn't the case in July 2013 when a customer shouted racial slurs at Rana. A 36-year-old Cleveland man was charged with ethnic intimidation and assault after he came into the store as it was closing, about 12:30 a.m. When Patel asked him to leave, the man spit on her face and left.  The next day, the man returned to the store several times, was told to leave and threatened to come back each time. Finally, he came back about 12:30 a.m. July 25, and immediately began screaming at the victims.

"You Arab monkeys have taken over my hood," the man said. "I'm going to kill you all! I'm going to burn this place down!"

Rana pepper sprayed the man in the face, and he left. He returned about 30 minutes later with a towel wrapped around his shoulders, saying he had taken a shower. He again began to scream at Rana and Patel. They called police and he was arrested.  He eventually pleaded guilty to attempted ethnic intimidation and aggravated menacing charges, and was sentenced to six months in prison. He is currently in jail on felonious assault charges, accused of trying to stab a woman at a party.

Other reports show customers and former employees have struck Rana in the head with a beer can and threatened to shoot Rana and sexually assault Patel in separate incidents. In 2012, Rana found a bullet hole in his car in the parking lot.

Nov 8, 2014

Jainism's Bullshit and The Nice Jain Girl

The Problems With Jainism is an anonymous article of which this is an excerpt, While the “non-violence” aspect is admirable, Jains still believe in plenty of bullshit:
  • Jains believe in a never-ending, cyclical time cycle, with phases of “rising” and “falling” happiness. Each phase lasts several thousands of years. This is all fiction, of course.
  • Jains believe that they can accumulate and shed karma and this impacts their future lives (reincarnation). There’s no evidence of this.
  • Jains support being free of materialism — not because it can be destructive in and of itself, but because it’ll allow you to more easily break free from the cycle of reincarnation. They’re doing a good thing for the wrong reason.
  • Jains don’t believe in a god, per se, but they do believe in supernatural beings who have broken free of the reincarnation cycle to attain Nirvana. In fact, there are 24 beings who have done that… and we know their names. We memorized their names as children. Though there’s no evidence any of them ever “attained Nirvana.”
  • Jainism encourages an 8-day-long (or worse), unhealthy fasting during the holy time of the year. During the fast, you may only consume water that’s been pre-boiled.
  • The Jain rules regarding a vegetarian diet seem like they’re made up on the spot. Eggs are bad, but milk is ok. Potatoes and other food from the ground are bad, but there are exceptions depending on the day. Alcohol is forbidden, but young Jains go to bars all the time. The rules make hypocrisy rampant… but almost unavoidable.
An article profiling a Jain “nun” by Morgan Wilson in the Houston Chronicle shows just how absurd the faith can be:
“There are plenty of difference between Hinduism and Jainism; the biggest being the gods” said [Jainesh Mehta (no relation), vice president of the Jain Vishva Bharati-Preksha Meditation Center]. “Essentially, we don’t believe in the same things; we share eight demi-gods with Hinduism but even then we don’t worship them like a Hindu would. But we do have similar faith traits, that being giving up world materials to achieve Nirvana.”

“The karma you accumulate in this life and previous lifetimes will determine your condition for your next lifetime,” Mehta said. “We associate karma to be like a black cloud. The more karma you have the more ignorant you are; the less karma you have the more aware you’ve become.”
Demi-gods, nirvana, “next lifetime,” karma? Those beliefs sound like something out of Scientology. But Jains take them very seriously.

The funny thing is that so many Jains go into scientific fields, and yet, I never hear Jains say this stuff is untrue. They find a way to compartmentalize it and ignore it. When you ask them what they believe, they’ll say “Non-violence”… but they won’t mention the several levels of Hell and multiple levels of Heaven.
They’ll do research in a lab one day, and then sing a chant praising prophets, saints, and “liberated souls” the next, without ever realizing the two worlds ought to be colliding. (I sang that particular mantra every day growing up. Can you imagine how I felt when I finally figured out what it actually meant?)
As far as religions go, Jainism isn’t the worst one you’ll find. But there are plenty of lies that it spreads that we need to call out. Young Jains should be concerned with the truth and they ought to know that the religious leaders in the temple are trying to lead them away from it — as most religious leaders everywhere do. The fact that even the most outspoken atheists put on kid gloves when dealing with it is upsetting.

It’s always nice to see a religion that advocates kindness and respect, but that shouldn’t make it immune from criticism when it’s warranted. Jains are very bad at being self-critical, and it has plenty of beliefs that are untrue. I’d love to see a Jain organization, or blogger, or adherent offer up the evidence for their supernatural beliefs because I’m convinced there is none.

Note to my parents (who’ll probably never see this, anyway):
This is why I never had a desire for you to set me up with a “nice Jain girl.”

Apr 1, 2014

Sujatha Srinivasan's Bharatanatyam at Cleveland Museum of Art

Coming up, for Asian Indians in Cleveland and Akron is an opportunity to watch Sujatha Srinivasan and her talented students perform Bharatanatyam.  To celebrate the recent opening of the Asian Indian galleries at Cleveland Museum of Art, the Department of Performing Arts, Music and Film Development in conert with Sujatha Srinivasan has arranged for a FREE Bharathanatyam program, (on Sunday, May 11, 2014 at 2 PM).  
Sujatha Srinivasan, Bharathanatyam Dancer
Sujatha Srinivasan, Bharathanatyam dancer

In this program, scheduled for Mother's Day, Sujatha Srinivasan and a group of her talented Bharathanatyam students explore the relationship between the mother and child in Indian mythology by drawing from episodes of the young Lord Krishna and his mother, Yashoda.

Sujatha Srinivasan is an internationally known Bharathanatyam exponent, known for her classicism and creative choreography. She learned the art under eminent gurus and as a performer, she brings over 30 years of performing experience to the art.

She has won many awards and titles in India and has participated in major prestigious dance festivals in India, Sri Lanka, Paris, Geneva, Canada, apart from several cities in the US. She has to her credit many composer-oriented and thematic presentations.   Sujatha Srinivasan is the artistic director of  Shri Kalaa Mandir–Center for Indian Performing Arts, which is one of the leading professional dance institutions in Ohio, nurturing and creating budding Bharathanatyam dancers.  She teaches Bharatanatyam at Cleveland Shiva Vishnu Temple in Parma and Solon Community Church in Solon.   

Her daughter, Shriya Srinivasan is an accomplished dancer and an up and coming vocalist. Her son, Suraj Srinivasan has won scholarships at his school.  The talent filled family lives in Strongsville, Ohio along with supportive dad, Srinivasan Ranganathan.

Cleveland Museum of Art Southeast Asian Collection

Sonya Rhie Quintanilla is the curator of The Cleveland Museum of Art's Indian and Southeast Asian collection.  Dr. Quintanilla is responsible for completing the reinstallation of the Indian and Southeast Asian collection that opened in December 2013. 

Sonya Quintanilla's book
Dr. Quintanilla completed her doctoral degree at Harvard University where her dissertation focused on early Indian sculpture. The book that grew out of this work, History of Early Stone Sculpture at Mathura, ca. 150 BCE–100 CE, provides the first comprehensive analysis and chronology of the earliest known stone sculptures from an ancient cosmopolitan center in north India.

Cleveland Museum of Art's  Southeast Asian collection is rated as one of the leading collections in this area, both nationally and internationally.  It is a must see for every Asian Indian living not only in Cleveland and Akron but the State of Ohio.  Further, it is an excellent educational opportunity for young Indian Americans to see and learn about
Sonya Rhie Quintinilla, Cleveland Museum of Art
Sonya Rhie Quintanilla, Cleveland Museum of Art
their culture and heritage. 

The collection encompasses three areas:
  • India proper, 
  • the Himalayas, and 
  • Southeast Asia. 
The collection covers the period of the entire artistic activity on the Indian subcontinent from the earliest (Neolithic) period until the 20th century.  It consists primarily of sculpture (in stone, metal, wood, terra cotta, and ivory) and paintings (book illustrations as well as devotional paintings on cloth as seen in the Himalayan tangkas), but it also includes some decorative arts such as jewelry and armor.

Recent performances  that occurred as part of the Performing Arts Series of Cleveland Museum of Art are:
  • L. Subramaniam and ensemble; 
  • Pre-concert talk by Sonya Quintanilla 
  • Sufi Devotional Music: Asif Ali Khan 
  • Nrityagram Dance Ensemble by Surupa Sen and Bijayini Satpathy;
  • Pre-concert talk by Rajika Puri

Feb 3, 2014

Dalai Lama: Indians are corrupt, religious and educated

India is considered a religious country, but a lot of corruption is taking place in this country.  There are many corrupt people, and I think, the corrupt people are also highly educated.  They (some educated people) pray to God but the purpose of their prayer is to make their corrupt life more successful.

Indian cricket is a reflection of Indian
society-Rahul Dravid
 In western countries, secularism means being negative towards religion while in India it means respect of all religions, and India can promote religious harmony and 'ahimsa'.

Modern India is multi-cultural, multi-linguistic and multi-racial. It is like the United Nations. I feel the greatness of India. Its people are harmless, and it is an example to the rest of the world as people are living together happily.

- Dalai Lama at sixth convocation ceremony of the Martin Christian Luther University, Shillong, India