IAGB Youth Directorial column
June 20, 2021
Diversity is what makes each of us unique and special. This is what we are taught throughout our lives. However, in our lives, differences can be hard to accept if we don’t fully understand them. They can seem bizarre and “abnormal,” yet when our exposure to these differences increases and when we strive to learn more about them, then true acceptance is on the way. June is pride month, and in it we celebrate the diversity of love, gender, orientation, and expression. For those who have not grown up with such open exposure to the LGBTQ+ community, the road to true acceptance may be a long one, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth the effort. The first step may be to recognize the innate differences in people. The second step would be to understand the different terms that are used (the Genderbread Person can be a helpful tool in beginning this process) in order to realize the scope of possibilities. The next step is to gain confidence and be comfortable with openly discussing the themes of sexuality and gender identity. The final step is to understand that a person’s sexual orientation is only a part of their identity. They shouldn’t need to identify themselves as a member of the LGBTQ+ community to everyone they meet. We want to work towards a society where we don’t assume people are one way until they tell us they are otherwise. They could be anything until they tell you their pronouns or who they are dating. And even then, these things may change as the person learns more about themselves. Perhaps this is a goal that will not be attained in the next 5 years or 10 years or 20 years, but my hope is that it will be realized in the near future. And it starts with people, with exposure, with understanding.
~ IAGB Youth Editorial Director, Aarushi Pant
IAGB Youth of the Month
June 22, 2021
This month’s youth spotlight is Mahathi Gopinathan, a rising senior at Shrewsbury High School. Her interests, both in and out of school, lean towards brain sciences, mental health, and computer science. Combining all these passions, she co-created an app called The Kindness Calendar. This app, which is coded in Swift for iOS, displays a different kind act on each day of the calendar. Performing acts of kindness benefits the receiver as well as the initiator due to the linkage between helping others and emotional and physical wellbeing. For this app, Mahathi won the 2020 Congressional App Challenge, the most prestigious prize in student computer science. Hosted by the U.S. House Of Representatives, the challenge seeks to inspire students to pursue careers in computer science. Mahathi’s Kindness Calendar app has been put on display in the U.S. Capitol Building for one year. Additionally, Mahathi is active in music, from Carnatic vocal and veena to classical piano and viola. As a violist, she has been able to play at events such as Central Massachusetts Districts, Governor Baker’s inauguration, and throughout venues in the Czech Republic. She says “I am grateful for the opportunities I have been given and am excited for what the future may bring.” IAGB congratulates Mahathi Gopinathan on being the June 2021 Youth of the Month.
~ IAGB Youth Editorial Director, Aarushi Pant
IAGB Art and Music Spotlight
This month for our Art and Music Spotlight we have a poetry submission from Ruhi Shroff!
A beautiful picture
They say don’t wear revealing attire
They say sit like a woman
They say don’t speak with authority
They say act like a woman
They say don’t be this, or don’t be that
They say don’t be indifferent, be a woman.
They see the world as it is, minus the women
They say “not all men” instead of celebrating all women
The truth in question is the fear
of their tyrannical domination coming to an end.
A blank canvas in the beginning
And by the end of the beginning there could be a beautiful picture
embodying all the happiness and the melancholy
A fantasy if you will, but more powerful than anything seen before.
A beautiful picture emerging from a blank canvas
of a dictatorship
overthrown by a woman.
But she won’t keep it all to herself
Greed has no place in her world
She will strive to build a place for all
A place free of judgment
A hard task, but certainly achievable
She will show them where they came from
IAGB Youth Opportunities Column and Raising Awareness
IAGB Youth Spotlights:
Who: 25 and under
When: Submissions are due by July 15th.
Nomination form: https://forms.gle/yNMAZNBDeNB9c14SA
Inviting nominations for the next IAGB Youth Spotlights! Each month, the IAGB youth initiative spotlights talented local youth who have demonstrated outstanding contributions to art, sports, or the community! Nominees must be 25 years of age or younger, and they must have lived in the New England area.
This is the youth opportunities column! Parents, please consider highlighting the following opportunity to your children!
Free Summer Biology Class:
Who: Students aged 12-15
When: July 2 – August 13, Thursdays from 4 to 5 PM
Sign up form: https://tinyurl.com/2fxdvvk2
Get excited for Summer Biology! Running from 4 to 5 PM, Thursdays, starting July 2 and ending August 13, this free class takes a trip through the science of life—from cells to DNA and genetics! Held over Zoom and hosted by high school students, this class is intended for students aged 12-15. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.
Jaipur: The finest jewelry ever created on earth, where king was the jeweler and bricks his gems.
Jaipur, India’s “Pink City”: there’s much more to this royal Rajasthan’s capital than its pink peach buildings and historic splendor. The impressive cuisine, unmatched architecture, and royal natural beauty of the Rajasthan countryside would be enough to make Jaipur into a world class place. Jaipur is my favorite Indian destination, a place that is magical and vibrant…just the mere thought about Jaipur brings a smile to my face and my heart flutters with joy of its beauty!
Jaipur is known as the Pink City because of the terracotta pink color buildings that are in the area. Although it is named as Pink, you can say that it is more towards Peach or Orange color, nevertheless they look stunning. This adds to the wonder, placing you in a fantasy as you wander around, gazing up at the historical architecture. This exalted home to erstwhile royals is complete with old-world fantasies surrounded by colorful markets and chaotic streets.
Jaipur is both traditional and modern at the same time, The old side of Jaipur has more culture but the new also provides some of the 21st century comforts like shopping malls, bars, modern restaurants etc. There are so many amazing monuments and places to visit in Jaipur, and in my opinion most of them are a must see in Jaipur.
Let me share few recommendations of picturesque places of Jaipur:
Amber fort is one of the most visited spots of Jaipur. This Fort is situated on a Hill and offers a beautiful, unbelievable view of the city.
Next beautiful place which I have in my mind is Hawa Mahal of Jaipur. Hawa Mahal or the palace of wind, is one of the most iconic places of Jaipur. The romantic pink sandstone fortress cascading over the streets of Jaipur, was originally built in 1799 as a vintage point for the ladies of the royal household. Hawa Mahal is famous for its windows or ‘Jharokhas’ which enable free circulation of air within the building. Hawa Mahal, lights up with the sun. Right on the main road, all you need to do is wake up early for a perfect start to your day to see this gorgeous building shadow against the rising sun.
City palace is another place to visit in Jaipur, it is situated just behind Hawa Mahal, it is the centerpiece of the city and the heart of founder Jai Singh II’s reign. City Palace is a reflection of royal influences of Jaipur. Its architecture is a combination of Mogul, Rajput and European styles. The main thing which is iconic here is the royal archway doors which are situated in the center, these doors gained popularity when it was featured on the cover of Lonely Planet for their Rajasthan publication. City Palace has a great cafe and you can also see some puppet shows there as well. City Palace has a room where artists show their artworks, the artworks include various handmade woodwork, carpets, jewelry and paintings.
When thinking about Jaipur, another place that comes to my mind, which is not that old built, but still has a cultural reflection of Jaipur and Rajasthan is Chokhi Dhani. It is a model village resort in Jaipur. Chokhi Dhani is like a never-ending festival without the normal chaos. A meal here is a must try for anyone visiting Jaipur and along with that you can enjoy some spectacular traditional performances. Chokhi Dhani definitely gives you a mode to absorb all the cultural aspects of Rajasthan.
Jaipur’s uniqueness comes from its fascinating and spell bound history which are reflected in its marvelous architecture. Jaipur royalness is mesmerizing, its history has a lot of impact on its mouthwatering cuisine as well. Jaipur royal rulers focused a lot on the tradition and quality of the food in their kitchen. As Jaipur is surrounded by desert region, so the cuisine has a lot of usage of beans and berries, ker-sangri is one of the famous dishes of Rajasthan made with beans and berries. There are many known spices that get exported all over India. Red chilies and fresh turmeric are some of the famous spices produced in Jaipur. Jaipur has many authentic dishes like Dal Kachoris, Phenis, Ghevar, Laal Maas etc. Each of the dishes have a unique and royal flavor. Jaipur is a destination with a sweet tooth, and you can find these goodies served up at restaurants or food stalls throughout Jaipur. Some local favorites include mawa and ghevar.
It’s been years since I have visited this beautiful destination, but the memory of this royal place is still fresh in me. I absolutely love Jaipur and it reflects Rajasthani culture with a touch of modern lifestyle. Jaipur indeed offers a vibrant, colorful vibe and an experience you can’t forget. If you haven’t been to this most popular tourist spot in India, then do plan to visit to the gorgeous city of Jaipur on your next visit to India.
“Working towards better health outcomes combining Behavior science and Artificial Intelligence”
In writing this article, I wish to bring to your attention lesser known facts regarding childhood cancer in India. The reason I really feel so intently writing about this is, I feel there is a need to increase awareness around childhood cancer success rate. By bringing recognition to this significant issue of childhood cancer, I believe we can turn the picture around. Turn night into day, grey clouds into beautiful rainbow, create opportunity for the little seedlings to grow into stronger trees and buds into beautiful flowers.
There is a lot of awareness around breast and other types of cancer but how many people know only 3% of all cancers occur in children. Childhood cancers are curable, the cure rates are 80 to 95% and go even as high as 99%. Unfortunately, these numbers are only translated into reality in developed countries. Sadly, this is not the case in India. The disturbing reality we face in India is one where 4 out of 5 Indian children do not survive cancer. On top of that India has the highest prevalence of childhood cancer given 30 per cent of India’s population is below 14 years.
In an interview with India Today on why the cure rate of cancer among kids is extremely low in India, Oncologist Vivek Agarwala said: “Probably, the government and society at large are not considering it a big problem as it is just around 5 percent. We are always campaigning for breast and cervical cancers. We must remember this 5 percent of cancer is majorly curable if given proper treatment.” He further added that, the cure rate is high in children and these kids could lead a productive long life, making the effort in treating them even more worthwhile and fulfilling.
Now a little story on how I got interested in collecting data and facts around this issue… I was always invested in donating for institutions helping kids, our future generation. I sincerely believe no kid should be denied Education and Health on this planet and we all should do whatever is in our capacity to make that a reality. I had been donating to such causes and had donated for Access Life, its co-founder is an old friend of mine. I knew they were doing great work. On one of my trips to India I happened to visit the Access Life Centre. There I met this little boy Pranav (pictures below) who had battled cancer, made a strong recovery and was heading back home. The facility where the boy and his family stayed was clean, neatly kept, and had responsible caretakers filled with love and care. It was amazing to see that my donation was directly empowering kids like Pranav with the gift of life. After witnessing the impact of a simple donation on the life of a child, I was immediately invested in learning more about how we could help these kids, as I learned more it became evident that India was far behind in the cure rate. It was extremely disappointing to find out 4 out 5 Children don’t make it and usually these kids are underprivileged coming from rural areas all over India to Tata Memorial. These kids lose their lives not due to cancer but due to other factors some of which are no place to stay and hygiene.
As Americans, we enjoy a reliable health care system that will support the citizens of its country. It is easy to forget that many cannot enjoy the same blanket of security we enjoy here. In India, children with cancer must travel long distances to receive their treatment. If they cannot afford a place to live for its duration, which can often last 6 -7 months, they can be seen living outside on the unhygienic, impoverished streets outside the hospital. Going through cancer treatment is hard enough on a family, and nobody deserves to go through the treatment without a proper place to live. So many families abandon the treatment or suffer negative outcomes with other infections.
I learned that AccessLife has a mission dedicated to fixing this problem. They provide families a place to stay, love and transportation to hospital. My friend told me how Anuska, then 7, was one of the first brave-hearts who came for treatment and stayed at their Centre. Anuska has since then been visiting us in Mumbai for her follow-ups and is now a beautiful 14-year teenager who has been through many struggles but emerged victorious. She is a confident young lady who exhibits courage, hope and the grit to overcome all obstacles and take life head on. What an incredible journey!
My goal is to help bring India’s childhood cancer success rate equal to other developed countries. There are many Anuska’s and Pranav’s in India and I strive to help them all. Feel free to email me if you want to do the same at email@example.com.
You can find out more about Access Life on their website: https://accesslifeamerica.org/
Senior Director of Engineering at Lirio
Creating artificial human behavior and intelligence
The pandemic has challenged human behavior and intelligence to no ends. After a year of being confined by the unknown, we all have discovered patterns and behavior in ourselves we did not know of. But yet humans have been creating intentional behavior patterns in machines for quite a few years now. As I was dwelling on this, I decided to talk to one such person whose tag line is “Creating artificial human behavior and intelligence”. If you know him, this line is overloaded. He not only creates it in machines but humans too.
This month’s spotlight is on Dr. Subrata Das, a scientist by profession and a theater director/playwright by passion. I had the rare opportunity to sit down and chat with Subrata Das about something beyond theater, costumes and acting.
Subrata Das hails from a village called Patuli, about 120 km from Kolkata, and has traveled through the continent of Europe and finally landed in the US. As soon as I mentioned his village, his face lit up and he shared stories of growing up as the youngest of 9 siblings, of his father who was an excellent soccer player and very well respected in his village, of his mother whose unconditional love makes him teary eyed every time he even talks about her, of his friendship with his sister who he lost at a young age. Subrata da says that imagination was his biggest tool since growing up he did not have much materialistic things at his disposal like most people who grew up in that time, and how math being all about imagination was his favorite subject. He was the top scorer in his high school when leaving, excelling in mathematics and then went to a university in Kolkata for his under graduation. In the 1980s, when computer science was still an upcoming field, he bagged one of the spots of 25 people in ISI Kolkata for MTech. In a few years, he was on his way to Britain to do his PhD, for which he had secured a very competitive scholarship. At this point I asked him if he was a genius or what and he shyly said “I have just had some successes in life”. After finishing his Post Doc at the Imperial college in London, he came to the US for work. That is how he ended up in the Boston area. He started his own company in 2011, which he eventually sold off and is now enjoying his scientific work, taught at Villanova, and now teaching at Northeastern and following his passion. In between I heard him mention writing some books, so I went and looked up his LinkedIn and found that he has authored five technical books! I feel Subrata Das gets 30 hours a day. Not fair!!!
But Dr. Das couldn’t stop at the professional successes. He always yearns for more and I say this from personal experience working with him in several plays, including portraying Sita in Ramayana and gender-bending role Paravasu in Karnad’s The Fire and The Rain. He told me that every person that grows up in Bengal has a natural affinity to the performing arts and he is no different. He experienced the stage from an actor’s perspective after acting for the first time in a “yatra” in his village at the age of 10. He continued that through his years in London. In 2003, he assembled the theater “avengers” and formed SETU. Since then SETU has produced numerous productions under the supervision of him and co-founder Jayanti Bandyopadhyay, and almost everyone in the New England community has been fortunate to witness at least one of the plays. I asked him why and how did the theater bug become so big in his life that he became a founder of a community theater group. How did the “sangam” of Artificial Intelligence and Arts happen? That is when he told me how he started relating AI and cognitive science and theater. He drew an interesting parallel – “In AI, you create a robot, basically you are trying to create an artificial human. This is what you do in theater too. You choose a character and bring it to life. The structure of memory humans use for acting is similar to AI.” Subrata Das is a method actor and says that “an analytical mind does help you as an actor because you are more inclined to study a character in details. It is similar to the way you dissect a problem when you study a character. Breaking down a scene is similar to breaking down a problem.”
So, as I was chatting with Subrata da, I wondered who inspired this man. He has mentioned to me before that he is a fan of Ramanujan and Swami Vivekananda. He learned about Ramanujan in his school days and always drew a parallel with him given the passion for mathematics they both had, how his youth was structurally similar to that of this brilliant intuitive mathematician of all time who grew up in Kumbakonam, about 2200 km apart from where he grew up. Subrata da has given a talk on Ramanujan at the Central Square theater when he performed in that role. He read a lot about these two men and saw them in a very human light, after he learned about their weaknesses too. That is what inspires him more than saintly figures. “Now that I am exposed to the performing arts, I get inspired by a lot of actors, the ones that don’t care about money but use their power to do bigger things in the world.”
At this point I wanted to know more about both his worlds but decided to find out more about his company and future plans as a scientist. He simply told me “Making money isn’t my primary goal. I am now enjoying theater more and have started thinking of life in a different light. I enjoy science, academics, writing books and of course SETU, these things give me more satisfaction than money.” That is when I thought who am I to question such noble intentions?
Amongst all this, I realized he had carved time for some romance too. He told me his parents wanted him to marry before he went to Britain but fate had something else for him. He met Janique, who hails from the Burgundy region of France and was working as an au pair in Edinburgh, at a party, and took her phone number like the other 5 men who did the same. Little did he think he would actually strike gold. She agreed for a date and they watched the movie “Moonstruck”. All he wanted to do on his first date was kiss her but it did not happen until a few dates later. His love for Janique is unfaltering. “Janique is my rock. She is always there with a smile, never leaving my side. Without Janique, I am reduced to nothing.” I was curious how Janique reacts to his theater madness. He told me that she has taught him compassion, to never be jealous of someone else’s success, no gossip, just positive thinking. “I have learned to be impartial from Janique’s influence.”
Now I wanted to know more about his theater work. What was his favorite thing, least favorite thing and most challenging thing. “I like the entire production process including directing of course, but most favorite is being back stage and seeing the actors perform well. The ability to contribute to someone’s personal satisfaction is priceless. And obviously least favorite part is when any production is not well attended. It is my obligation to give every actor the right amount and kind of audience. As for the hardest part, getting audience is. Even professional theater groups struggle with this.”
I asked him about his vision for SETU and where he sees it in the next 5 years. “I definitely want to take two plays to New York and New Jersey for an off-Broadway style production. And I am confident it will happen and will be a success.” I was curious to know his thought process for choosing a play. He told me that he always strives to combine the pure art form with some popular stunts. “Sometimes a play on its own can become very intellectual, so I dilute it to make it more fun for masses. I like to take a middle ground.” His favorite productions of SETU are ‘Shahjahan”, “Devdas”, “Fire and Rain” and of course “Kamala”.
I was exhausted just hearing all this, so I wondered out loud how he made time for everything. “A supporting partner is key. And I work very hard. I exercise a lot and that pays off. I manage my time smartly, though not always successful. Work and family is always my priority. In my opinion, commitment is key.”
So what about post-pandemic world for theater? Subrata Das is confident that the theater world will go back to normal as we all have realized that virtual theater is not sustainable.
That brought me to my final question – How can the community help SETU?
“Come and watch our plays. That is the bottom-line. This is an appeal not only from me but from everyone in the performing arts business.”
After all, SETU is for the community, by the community and of the community.
Dr. Subrata Das lives in Belmont with his lovely wife Janique. He talked very fondly about his two grown up kids – Sebastien, who luckily gets his soccer skills from Subrata’s father and the French blood. Kabita, who is an artist and gets her name from Subrata’s late sister.
SETU stands for “Stage Ensemble Theater Unit”.
to learn more about SETU, its mission and upcoming productions.