Desi Talk - page 15

– that’s all you need to know
15
May 8, 2015
CITY VIEWS
By Sunthar Visuvalingam
– NAPERVILLE, Ill.
ndo American Community
Services (IACS) hosted its fifth
South AsianWomen’s confer-
ence here at the Marriott,
April 26. Focused on gender
equality and women’s empower-
ment, the hall was packed with
leaders, all women, of corpora-
tions, community development
organizations, woman-owned
enterprises and those seeking to
build connections. Three
exhibitors showcased their respec-
tive businesses and products out-
side.
Emcee Saily Joshi and Chandini
Duvvuri respectively kicked off the
event and introduced the three
panelists from distinct back-
grounds: Amy Best, SVP human
resources, Exelon; K. Sujata, CEO
and president, Chicago
Foundation forWomen (CFW);
and Sarita Rao, president AT&T
Wi-Fi services. Each presented
their educational, family, career
background, and challenges faced
in maintaining work-life balance.
Everyone acknowledged the gen-
der-based wage disparities in the
male dominated corporate and
business world.
Invoking predictions of wage
disparity leveling out by 2079, 2065
for Illinois, Sujata said “the irony is
that the majority of us will not live
to see that day.” Solutions include
on the job opportunities to boost
confidence in matching men, she
said, listing CFW initiatives to help
women, who already contribute to
both household prosperity and
the corporate bottom line. She
dwelt on the equitable distribution
of home responsibilities, for exam-
ple her husband doing the cook-
ing because of her long work
hours. She insisted on treating
daughters and sons equally, also
by way of expectations and condi-
tioning.
Best spoke of taking calculated
even unpopular risks, how she
began her career by moving and
adjusting to a new environment
without impacting her family. A
key factor is communication of
success, need for growth, support,
mentoring and other such issues.
Unless women speak up they can-
not progress, she said, emphasiz-
ing teamwork, shared credit,
transparency, innovative solutions,
agility, resilience, willingness to
learn with a good sense of humor.
“The right to speak is earned
rather than coming with the job
title,” she said. She warned against
working in silos and too many
unproductive meetings.Women
need mentors and also (behind-
the-scenes) sponsors in the work-
place. Recounting her cross-func-
tional role at AT&T in a deadline-
driven and highly stressful merger
and acquisition project, Rao
shared three takeaways: be your-
self, develop your own personality,
earn the respect of colleagues by
expressing well-researched opin-
ions fearlessly; think diversely,
working across groups to expand
horizons; and thank collaborators
and supporters in a personalized
(e.g., handwritten) manner. Rao
sees a great need for support
groups, community organizations
and networking groups such as
IACS.The Q&A revealed that South
Asian women, several of whom
intervened with a strong immi-
grant accent, a doubly disadvan-
taged. Moreover, their priorities
are not the same, as often family
and children come first. They were
assured that in addition to com-
pensation grades available in the
public domain, Illinois law allows
requesting salary information to
ensure equity. Hispanic and Black
workers seem to have more com-
munity support because Indians,
as late comers, are more politically
divided, even by their temples.
Niketa Jhaveri, CEO and co-
founder of Brave Champs present-
ed her entertaining monopoly-like
game that helps children identify
and appreciate the range of avail-
able professions and prepare for
their future. Not integrated with
any smartphone app, the deliber-
ately gadget-free Brave Champs is
targeting schools and especially
children with special needs.
Deepa Salem is founder and
CEO ofWotNow, a free smart-
phone app that synchronizes
select events from preferred
organizations within a unified cal-
endar interface. About 500
Chicagoland organizations have
already partnered to push such
notifications toWotNow users.
Artist ManveeVaid is founder
and curator of Deccan Footprints,
an online catalogue that exhibits
and sells the work of contempo-
rary and folk artists in living in
India at U.S. art galleries. Profit,
Vaid said, is currently not her
motive given the investment
required and costs of coordination
and logistics.
IACS president Sreenivas
Katragadda gave the vote of
thanks. Panelists were presented
mementos by sponsor Loment
CEOVekat Majeti. Other sponsors
included Grainger, ITW and L&T
Infotech.
Women’s Conference Homes in onWorkplace Gender Equality
I
The three invited panelists pose with the IACS organizing team just before the fifth Indo American Community Services South Asian
Women’s conference at the Marriott in Naperville, Illinois, April 26, from left, Amy Best (panelist), K. Sujata (panelist), Sharda Bharatula,
Lakshmi Nagamohan, Chandini Duvvuri, Suman Alur, Saily Joshi, Sarita Rao (panelist) and Sarita Mahapatra.
By Sunthar Visuvalingam
– AURORA, Ill.
P
opular Kathakali dance-
drama “Kalyana
Saugandhikam” was co-
hosted by iCarnatic here at the Sri
Venkateswara Swami (Balaji)
Temple April 19. Composed by
KottayamTampuran (17th C.) and
presented by septuagenarian B.V.
Balakrishnan, this Mahabharata
episode recounts how at the
behest of enamored wife Draupadi
(Sadanam Srinadhan), ferocious
warrior Bhima (Balakrishnan)
embarks on an initiatic quest for
an auspiciously (kalyana) fragrant
(saugandhika), heavenly, flower
and thereby confronts, unawares,
Ramayana superstar and elder
half-brother, monkey-god
Hanuman (Bhasi), who ensures
his immediate success and also in
the impending great war. They
were accompanied by percussion-
ists Ramakrishnan (chenda) and
Devadasan (maddalam), vocalists
Shivadasan and Kalamandalam
Rajesh.
Rarely seen in America, espe-
cially performed by such accom-
plished artistes, this dance-drama
style fromKerala immediately fas-
cinates even those who do not
understand its Sanskrit or sanskri-
tized Malayalam by way of its
exotic makeup, elaborate costume,
stylized gestures and powerful
movements inspired by the
regional martial arts.
This sacred form of storytelling
was addressed even and especially
to illiterate folk, who already
understand its visual vocabulary
and know the tales from child-
hood, thus readily immersing
themselves in its aesthetic experi-
ence.
For us, however, the accompa-
nying narrative and dialogue was
projected onto both sides of the
stage, to ensure comprehension of
how the gestures (abhinaya)
simultaneously convey external
physical descriptions, complex
interaction and subjective feelings.
The challenge posed by the tower-
ing mountain, for example, was
depicted through gestures such as
straining to look upward, lifting a
heavy weight, etc.
The principal aesthetic senti-
ments (rasa) developed were the
mutual love that impels the brash
Bhima to immediately undertake
the dangerous adventure, the
heroismwith which the fearsome
warrior tears down the dense jun-
gle obstructing his ascent up the
mountain, wonder at the charac-
teristic behavior of peacock, ape,
lion, elephant and python he
encounters, serene devotion of
Hanuman still steadfastly meditat-
ing on Lord Rama within, the aged
monkey’s humor at fooling his
beloved junior to teach him a les-
son in humility and universal serv-
ice, and joyful fulfillment at suc-
cess greater than anticipated.
Hanuman transforms into an
aged ailing dozing carcass block-
ing his hurried way. Bhima
attempts to use his club as lever to
lift the tail, only to keep falling
over in the fruitless exertion.When
elder brother reveals his true iden-
tity, the humbled supplicant
pleads to see the massive form
that Hanuman assumed to fly
across the ocean to the island of
Lanka.
Bhima completely faints, much
like his valiant younger brother
Arjuna does later when Krishna
obligingly reveals his universal
form on the battlefield.While pro-
viding much scope for humor, this
confrontation reveals the common
symbolic framework shared by the
two national epics.
Hanuman promises to reside
in the fluttering flag at the head of
Arjuna’s chariot, as the monkey-
mascot that ensures victory over
foes.
While entertaining the masses,
Kathakali, like other regional clas-
sical dance forms, thus transmit-
ted esoteric ideas encoded into
Hindu mythology.
All troupe members have their
institution “Sadanam” prefixed
before their names. Costumes and
makeup (chutti) were by
Srinivasan withVijayan as makeup
assistant, with greenroom (ani-
yara) assured byVivek.
Mahabharata Episode Depicted Through Kathakali Performance
Warrior Bhima (right) is taken aback when elder brother Hanuman (as if leaping from table) reveals his universal form in the Kathakali
dance-drama “Kalyana Saugandhikam” performed at Balaji Temple, Aurora, April 19. Accompanists, from left, Devadasan (maddalam),
Ramakrishnan (chenda), vocalists Shivadasan and Rajesh Menon.
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