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  • 12 Apr 2021 6:47 PM | Anonymous

    Interview with Dr. Siddhartha Shah,
    Curator South Asian Art and Director of Education and Civic Engagement,
    Peabody Essex Museum

    By Devishi Jain, ISW Youth Reporter

    Part I

    Siddhartha V. Shah joined the Peabody Essex Museum  in 2018 after a long career as an entrepreneurial art professional with wide-ranging interests in South Asian art. Most recently, he curated the installation of the PEM’s new South Asian Galleries shedding new light on the museum’s renowned Chester and Davida Herwitz Collection of modern Indian Art. We learn more about how he embarked on his career in this fascinating interview by ISW Youth Reporter, Devishi Jain.

    Can you tell me a little bit about where you’re from and where you grew up?

    I was born in Lake Forest, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago, and my family is from Gujarat, I grew up going back [to India] really often. We spoke Gujarati almost exclusively at home. My mother does not wear Western clothes and they’re very, very Indian in that sense. I grew up in a very white suburb. At the time, Michael Jordan from the Chicago Bulls wanted to be a part of the country club in our town, and they would not let him in because he was black, so it was quite a white, elitist town that I grew up in.

    I traveled a lot as a kid. I studied abroad my junior year of high school. I moved to a small village in Belgium when I was 16 and did part of my senior year there as well and then came back to Illinois and went to college. I traveled around a lot. I lived in Baltimore when I went to college and then I moved to California. I moved to Thailand for a little while, and then New York, London, and Salem, Massachusetts. I have lived in a bunch of places and had a crazy life in some ways and now I’m here and I’m the curator of South Asian Art at the Peabody Essex Museum and in August, I was appointed the Director of Education and Civic Engagement also. I have at least two jobs at the museum. Sometimes, it feels more like three or four different jobs!

    Wow, you’ve lived almost all over the world! You mentioned speaking Gujarati growing up, so do you still speak Gujarati?

    Yeah, so I spoke it as a child. In college, I studied Sanskrit for a year, and then did a masters in Hindu Philosophy and Psychoanalysis and then did Sanskrit for another year. At that time, I taught myself how to read and write Gujarati. I knew how to speak it but I taught myself how to read and write the language. I also studied Hindi and Urdu in grad school. Those are all the South Asian languages I have learned but I’ve been speaking Gujarati since I was a kid. Learning to read and write was- I still trip up with some of it - was hard because spoken Gujarati is so different from written Gujarati. It’s so formal and the tense in written Gujarati is really, really tricky because it’s not a tense that you would speak. And the vocabulary, also. I would ask my mom, reading a newspaper in India, “What does this mean?” and she would give me a more colloquial word for that in Gujarati, but writing uses very formal words.

    Since you have lived all over the world, you have experienced many different cultures. But in America, would you say it was hard to grow up with two significantly different cultures, Indian and American, and what were some of the challenges of managing that?

    I don’t know if it was as hard when I was younger as it is nowadays, but there would be moments. I would have friends over and the smell of Indian cooking would just be disorienting to them. Or that I was vegetarian. I would go to friends’ houses and their parents would say, “Oh, you’re vegetarian?” When I moved to Belgium, it was hard for them because I was in a village, and they even asked me, “How can you walk?” There are moments when you realize there’s a difference, but I don’t walk through the world realizing I’m different. You don’t look at yourself when you’re in the world, you’re just living your life. It’s when other people say things like “Are you from Saudi Arabia?” or “How old were you when you moved here?” That’s a common one, “How old were you when you moved here?” and I would just answer, “I didn’t.” I let them figure it out because I did not move here. So, those moments were harder but as a kid, it didn’t feel that hard. Growing up, it’s been harder because you start to get really frustrated - I’m almost 43 now - by people regularly reminding you that you’re not “passing” for American. A black person will “pass” for American more than I will. Or a Latinx person can “pass” as more feasible as an American identity. I’m not saying we have it harder, I’m definitely not saying that, but I’m saying we don’t pass as Americans. In fact, we become the target for whatever brown group the country is having a problem with. Just like any Asian, any East Asian, regardless of where they are from. Like now, we are upset at China because this is a “Chinese Virus.” 

    I was wearing a mask, just minding my own business in Salem, walking down the street, and this woman just fixated on me and said, “Are you Arabic?” and I just stared at her, not in a friendly way, and I said, “No, Arabic is a language.” That’s not even a type of person, but I don’t think they understood that.

    You said it was harder for you now than it was when you were growing up, but do you have any advice for kids, especially teens, who are growing up now with two different cultures?

    I think it makes sense for us, myself included, not just teenagers, to feel like we are bicultural and it is Indian and American. But our identities are not that simple. You’re not just Indian and American. You also have a religious identity, whether you are practicing that or not. You also have your particular interests, talents, and skills. The sooner young people can realize and accept that they are deeply complicated beings and be proud of how complicated you are, the better off you will be. We think it’s hard to live between two cultures, and it is, but it’s not about being multicultural or being multigenerational. It is also hard to be a teenager in an adult world. It is also hard to be a homosexual in a largely heterosexual world. It’s also hard to be left-handed in a world that’s predominantly made for right-handed people. It is hard to be from two different cultures, but we’re complicated beings and we should take pride in how complicated we are. Fortunately, or unfortunately, you are more than just two things. I have started to realize that only since like last month.  I have always felt when I go to India, and I go regularly for family and for work, to [be able to] just look around and see a bunch of brown people everywhere and to actually feel like you look like people is really nice because we don’t experience that typically. Even when I’m in India, I don’t fit [in] because I am an individual. I don’t fit in anywhere I go because of the way I act, dress, think, or speak and that’s why I’m special. So, this is what makes you realize you are exceptional.

    What made you choose a career in art, especially as a curator, and is art something you’ve always been passionate about?

    I don’t know if art is something I’ve always been passionate about, but I have always loved beautiful things. I’m a very visual person, so I’ve always loved nice fabrics, nice colors, nice jewelry, nice paintings, nice bedsheets. In my sophomore year of high school, art history was offered as a class. I’ve never liked science and I’ve never liked math and of course, that’s what people always assume Indians are good at. My father is a doctor and my brother is a physician. I refused to dissect anything, so I never took biology. I made it through high school never taking biology. I took chemistry for a semester and I got a B+ and I was furious because I didn’t like B’s. I’m one of those people. So I dropped it and took art history instead. It changed my life! When I was 15, I felt like I just wanted to study art history. [As] I never took biology and only took one semester of chemistry, my guidance counselor said, “How are you going to get into college?” I didn’t take the “normal” route. I told her, “I’ll be fine.” I tried to be more realistic because, of course, my parents said, “You can’t just study art history, you need to do something more professional. So, I went to Johns Hopkins for my undergraduate and I went in thinking I would do International Relations. I took one semester of Political Science and it was so boring, that I ended up becoming an Art History Major. I just did it. I remember my parents saying, “What is that? What do we tell people in India?” and I said, “It’s the history of art,” and they said, “Well, why would anyone study that?”

    So, I graduated from college with an Art History degree and I ended up working in an art gallery. I sold art in an art gallery for three or four years and became a gallery director. I then started my own business and was an art dealer and spent about 15 years selling art. The curator thing happened by accident. I did my Ph.D. in Indian Art and I was planning on becoming a professor when this job opened up and my advisor, who’s kind of the godmother of Indian art history, said to me, “This job has come across my desk and I think you’re the only person who could do it. Would you look at it?” I did and I applied, and I got this job as a curator. I had curated other exhibitions before, but those were selling exhibitions whereas now, in a museum, there’s no selling at all. I am curating the collection that we have.

    Is there a particular reason you chose South Asian art?

    That’s a really good question. I never studied it in college. I studied Ancient Greek art and 19th-century French painting because there was no offering in South Asian art. Johns Hopkins is now one of the best places to study South Asian art, but at that time there was no Indian art. The reason I think I ended up studying it was because when I was selling art, I was specializing in Nepalese art. I [would] go to Nepal regularly and focus on art of the Katmandese Valley. During the 11 years, I was studying that art, I learned a lot about and found a passion for it. I was already familiar with Hindu Mythology and Hindu Iconography but then over ten years, I really got into it. That’s why it felt like that was my profession because I was known as a dealer of Nepalese art and Indian art. So, it made sense to choose Indian art for my Ph.D.

    Interview Part II

    Click to View Video

    Can you explain what being an art dealer is?

     When you have an art gallery, you have someone who is a director and runs the gallery, and then you have the salespeople or the consultants. My job at a gallery would be to talk to people, get to know them, and try to sell them. Your income is based on commission. But you are also trying to just help people understand [things] because art is intimidating. It is like wine or poetry that people think is just inaccessible. My job in the art gallery was to just help people get more comfortable buying art. As a dealer, I would find artists I had good relationships with, and I would either buy work from them and sell it. Or it would be on consignment which meant if you were an artist and you had a bunch of paintings in your studio, you would allow me to take them and sell them. We [would] have an agreement about the percentage the artist got and the percentage the seller. It makes sense because it’s often hard for artists to talk about their own art and say, “Look how great this is! Look how great I am! I did such a good job!” I can do that easily by saying, “This is the artist, they’re really talented, and this is what they do.” I know how to negotiate and sell. The dealer is the person who is the intermediary between the maker and the buyer. As a Gujarati, we’re known as being businesspeople, so I felt like it was in my blood to do this. I no longer sell because it would be unethical and a conflict of interest because I work in a museum.

    What kind of support did you receive from friends and family when you decided to pursue a career in art?

                My parents always supported me, though they always questioned my choices. I think they supported me because they knew how incredibly stubborn I was. I was lucky that I was 15 when I felt in my body what I wanted to do. I work with high schoolers and college students and you meet people who know exactly what they’re going to do and I just think, “You don’t even know yet.” Until you get to college, you don’t know what’s out there. How many high schools have Sociology as a department? You don’t really know what these things are until you’re doing them. I was lucky that art history was what I wanted to do and that [while] my parents questioned it, they still supported me. The other kind of support I got was really the support from friends. I started my own business when I became an art dealer and I was about 25. I had friends who just helped me run events or cater so that I could have an opening. Help me set up or take things down. Or help me figure out how to do a price thing on Excel spreadsheets because I didn’t know how to do that. I had friends who really supported me in making my business possible.

    I also had really good mentors. My college advisor from my freshman year of college has written every recommendation letter for me since I was 18. He has been my reference for every job. I’ll cannot tell you enough the importance of maintaining good relationships with your teachers and professors. This professor was in his first year of teaching when I came as a freshman. He then became the chair of the department, and then the dean, and then the president of the college. Right now he is the president and CEO of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Now, as someone who also happens to work in a museum, the fact that my biggest champion is the CEO of the biggest and most important museum in the country is all because we got along when I was 18 years old. He took me under his wing and I made efforts to always check in with him over the past more than 25 years. That is my piece of advice. Maintain good relationships with your teachers and mentors because they do support you a lot.

                When I was teaching at Columbia, there was an undergrad who remained in contact with me, and I wrote his recommendation letter for his MA and his Ph.D. We have a relationship now and it’s been five years. These things are important. It is important to have mentors who aren’t just your parents, because your parents have their own agenda, even if they have the best intentions.

    How would you explain being a curator to someone who isn’t familiar with it?

                A curator’s job is to create a story or tell some sort of story through objects. That is what a curator does. At the Peabody Essex Museum, I am responsible for and manage 12,000 objects that comprise the South Asian Collection. This is what I have, so what are the stories I can tell with these objects? That is the basic job of a curator but, in this day and age, a curator’s job is not just to tell a story but to tell a story that is relatable and accessible to as many people as possible. I don’t just make stories about South Asian Art that only South Asians would understand. It needs to be that anybody who does not understand India or South Asia can at least have something of their own personal experience reflect back at them through objects that are distinctly South Asian.

    Can you elaborate a little bit on “stories?”

                I can mention partition and 1947 and a lot of South Asian people will know what I’m talking about. I’m talking about the moment of independence when India and Pakistan are divided. But, I could say “partition” to a rando in Salem and they would have absolutely no idea what I’m talking about. The way that I tell the story about partition is to speak about a nation that’s divided. There is this moment where a nation is divided with different belief systems, different values, different identities, and the goal was that this land could come together and that people could live peacefully. But that didn’t happen. That’s still the dream. When partition happened Pakistan was supposed to be “The Islamic Dominion of Pakistan”. It was meant as an Islamic State. India was meant to be a secular and democratic nation. As a secular nation, there’s still this dream that people of all faiths can live peacefully but that dream is not happening. I speak about it in terms that an American could think, “Oh, that is sort of like us!” America is divided by race, political beliefs, and values, and certainly from an economic standpoint. So how do you tell a story in a way that people will understand?

    The Mahabharata is also another example. It is the longest, most complicated epic in human history, and in the museum, we have a small section devoted to that. How do you tell the story of the Mahabharata to people who don’t know? I just say, “It’s a battle between brothers. Two factions of one family. It becomes a metaphor for the partition where Indians and Pakistanis, or Hindus and Muslims, are born of the same land but they are fighting against each other. It is a battle that nobody can win. Even the winners don’t really win.” It is how you tell the story in a way that people will understand.

    How would someone prepare for being a curator? What’s the first step?

                You gotta take art history! You don’t have to be a curator in an art museum. There are curators in natural history museums or many different types of museums. But if you want to work in an art history museum, you have to study art history. You have to learn to look at objects. I could show you any object and you will notice something about it, but since I have studied art history, I would say, “But there’s this aspect to it too.” There is a basic way in which people need to learn to look at objects in order to excavate new stories from them. If you don’t learn how to look, then you don’t know how to see or find these stories. We take in so much information from our eyes all the time, even more than from touching. We need to know how to process what we’re looking at. This is why learning to look is very important and art history is where you start if you want to be a curator.

    Like what is a painting you know? Name anything.

    Alright, the Mona Lisa.

                Ok, the Mona Lisa. To actually look at that, we all have a sense of what she looks like. But to look very closely, and to see that she’s got this very transparent piece of fabric that is lightly over her head. To actually study the landscape that’s behind her. To actually look at what she’s wearing. People think about her smile. [But] what is she saying with her eyes? What do you think she’s saying with her eyes? What does it mean to paint a woman like this, not a man, but a woman? What does it mean for a woman to be painted with a whole area of land behind her? Why is she there and not inside a house or a kitchen? Or doing something that women do? You have to start asking these questions, you start to get more information, and you read about it. It is learning to look at these objects, that is really important.

    Then, I would say things having good mentors and trying to do an internship at a museum or get involved in some way. A lot of museums have teen counsels. I am working on starting one at the museum right now, where we are asking young people to get involved and tell us how they would do things differently, rewrite our labels, develop tours that are geared towards teenagers and what they’re interested in. That’s how you start. 

    Photo: Bob Packert, Peabody Essex Museum

  • 12 Apr 2021 6:23 PM | Anonymous

    अक्सर मेरा मन करता है

    चाँद छुपा लूँ नयनों में,
    अंजुलि में सागर को भर लूँ।
    धरती नापूँ दो पग से मैं,
    अम्बर को उंगली पे धर लूँ। 
    बादल उलझाऊँ बालों में,
    तारों को झोली में ले कर, 
    कदमों के तले कलियाँ हों बिछी
    उन्मुक्त फिरूँ मैं इधर उधर।

    अक्सर मेरा मन - - - - -
    बाहों में बाँधूं मौसम को,
    नदियों को कर लूँ काबू में,
    सूरज को आदेश करूँ,
    कुछ ऐसा असर हो जादू में।
    शीतल बयार बन बह निकलूँ,
    दुलराऊँ जल थल और शिखर
    स्पर्श स्नेह का बाँटूं तो,
    मेरा जीवन जाये और निखर।

    अक्सर मेरा मन - - - - -
    कभी चिड़ियों सी मैं उड़ान भरूँ,
    और छम छम नाचूँ अम्बर पे
    उस क्षितिज से जा कर यह पूछूँ,
    क्या छुपा हैं तेरे अंतर में।
    पुष्पों की सुगंध हो तन मन में,
    झरनो की बूँदों को पी लूं
    अनुपम संगीत में सराबोर,
    दो-चार घड़ी मैं भी जी लूँ।

    अक्सर मेरा मन - - - - -
    इस प्रकृति की रचना में डूबी,
    तन्हाई से रहूँ कोसों दूर,
    अपनों सपनों के रंग में रंगी,
    आल्हाद से जीवन हो भरपूर।
    जीवन की थकन को कम कर दूँ
    संतप्त हृदय शीतल कर दूँ ,
    मुरली की मीठी तानों से,
    कानों में अमृत मैं भर दूँ।

    अक्सर मेरा मन - - - - -
    हर आँख से आँसू पी जाऊँ,
    दुर्बल का सहारा बन जाऊँ,
    कोमल मुरझाए चेहरों को,
    मुस्कान के रंग से रंग जाऊँ।
    सुख शांति की शीतल किरणें हों,
     और प्रेम का उजियारा दमके,
    कोई बैर न हो कोई गैर न हो,
    रहें आपस में सब हिलमिल के।
    यही मेरा तो मन करता है.!


    Often I wish in my mind that:

    I steal and hide the moon in my eyes
    Fill the ocean in my folded hands
    Measure the earth in two steps
    Keep the sky on my finger tip
    Fill the clouds in my hair
    After placing the stars in the pouch of my long cloth
    I freely move here and there
    On the flower buds scattered  under my steps

    Often I wish .... 
    Bind the climates in my arms
    Control the rivers
    I order the sun
    Need a magic with the effect that
    Like cool breeze I sway
    And softly touch the earth, water and mountain peaks
    I distribute the touch of love
    My life become bright and spangled

    Often I wish....
    Sometime I fly like the birds
    And dance in the sky and ask the horizon
    What is hiding inside beyond your limits
    The essence of the flowers be in my self and in my thoughts
    I drink the drops of the cascade waterfall
    Wet and filled by matchless music
    I also live fully a few moments

    Often I wish....
    Sunk in the make of the beauty of nature
    Be I miles away from the loneliness,
    Existing among my colored dreams and among my people,
    The life be of extremes of happiness,
    Reduce the tireness of my self,
    Cool my tormented heart
    With the sweet music of the flute,
    Filled the immortal nectar in my ears,

    Often I wish...
    I absorb the tears of every eye,
    I help the poor and weak.
    The soft and sad faces,
    I fill them with colorful smile,
    There be the light of peace and happiness.
    And shine of love be all around,
    There be no enmity, and no strangeness
    All people live with cooperation and love
    This is my wish.
    Often I wish......

    Asha Singh, Teacher, ISW Cultural and Language School

  • 12 Apr 2021 6:18 PM | Anonymous

    By Ragoo Raghunathan,

    One of the most popular topics at get togethers or professional networking events is Visa and work permit. Often dependents who accompany their spouses are wondering if they can take up a job, start earning to settle down and start their family. Here I have taken a few paragraphs from to highlight and offer a quick refresher on some of the visas and requirements. 

    To work in the United States, you must obtain a work visa to be employed in the country legally. There are several different types of work visas available for foreigners who are interested in working in the United States. A few categories for these permits include temporary work visas, exchange worker visas, and seasonal work visas.

    Often the visa depends on the type of occupation you will perform in America. Some other factors that affect which visa is best for you can include whether you have a relationship with an employer, how long you’ll be employed in the United States, and what degree of skill it takes to perform the job.

    Which U.S. Work Visa is Right For You?

    Any foreign national can apply for a U.S. work visa. There are many different options for individuals seeking temporary employment in the States depending on the type of work performed.

    US work visa options include:

    • L-1 visa: for foreign workers and owners wishing to transfer to a new or existing U.S. business
    • E2 and E1 visa permit: for investors and traders.
    • H-1B visa permit: for specialty occupations
    • H-2B visa permit: for non-agricultural workers
    • EB-1 Green Card: Outstanding Researcher or Professor immigrant visa classification
    • EB-2 Green Card Permit: Based on Exceptional Ability.
    • EB-3 Green Card Permit: Professionals, Skilled and Other Worker
    • EB-4 Green Card Permit: Special immigrants including religious workers

    US Work Permit Requirements

    • Passport(s) valid for 60 days beyond the expiration date printed on the immigrant visa.
    • Form DS-260, Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration Application.
    • Two (2) 2×2 photographs.
    • Civil Documents for the applicant.
    • Financial Support. At your immigrant visa interview, you must demonstrate to the consular officer that you will not become a public charge in the United States.
    • Completed Medical Examination Forms

    Embassy or Consulate Requirements

    You will be required to visit your local embassy or consulate for an interview. Each applicant should bring a valid passport to the interview, as well as any other documentation above not already provided

    Processing Time for US Work Permit

    The processing time for US work permits range depending on the type of visa you are applying for and where the application is processed. 

    For example, if you are applying for an H-1B visa and it is being processed through the California center it can take 8 to 10.5 months. If you applied for the same visa out of the Vermont service center it would take 6.5 to 8.5 months. 

    It is always recommended that you consult with an immigration professional to get a better estimate of how long your US work permit application will take.

    What About an Employment Based Green Card?

    Permanent residents, also known as green card holders, are non-US citizens who are authorized to live and work permanently in the United States. Many people obtain their green card through a family based green card or employment based green card. Each year many applicants are awarded green cards in employment-based categories. These groups are divided into five sections EB-1 thru EB-5. 

    Working in America on a Student Visa

    Students studying in the United States on a student permit may work on campus, but they are not authorized to work off-campus during their first academic year in their program. After their first academic year, foreigners on US student visas can engage in three types of off-campus employment:

    • Curricular Practical Training
    • Optional Practical Training (pre-completion or post-completion)
    • Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Optional Practical Training Extension

    The best starting point to learn and find updated info about Visas and immigration is at

  • 12 Apr 2021 6:14 PM | Anonymous

    by Shubh Agrawal

    SAYAA (South Asian Youth Activists and Allies!) joined the April 10th IYG meeting to host a fun and interactive "Kahoot!" trivia game about the interconnected histories of South Asian and Black people and their pursuits for justice! IYG members also invited their parents to join in on the game which only made the experience so much more fun. Through this experience families had a chance to learn about the shared histories we have in advocating and fighting for racial justice. IYG and SAYAA look forward to collaborating soon on these important conversations and educating ourselves on how we can be better advocates for racial justice and stand in solidarity with our peers in this work!

    Try your hand below at some of our trivia questions to test your knowledge about our history!

    1. Race has no biological basis. True or False?

    2. What word was used to describe Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. when he was introduced to school children during his visit to India in 1959? a) Hero b) Black c) Freedom Fighter d) Untouchable

    3. Bhagat Singh Thind was involved in the monument court ruling in 1929 that: a) Gave South Asians the right to vote, b) allowed South Asians to serve in the military c) Ruled Indians ineligible for U.S. citizenship, d) Barred South Asians from land ownership


    1. True  2. 3. C

  • 29 Mar 2021 10:03 PM | Anonymous

    By Tanvi Gahlot, ISW Youth Reporter

    When entering high school, it’s as though a question of “what do you want to be when you grow up?” is engraved into your mind. Following this question, I decided to interview people in different professional fields. The first of these interviews was with Dr. Sudhir Agrawal, a renowned research scientist, and the founder and president of ARNAY Science LLC. He is also the co-founder of Idera Pharmaceuticals in Cambridge, MA. He has also mentored many people in the field of research. He has always had a passion for research, and drug discovery. Dr. Agrawal was awarded the Fellow of Royal Society of Chemistry, UK in 2015. He has over 400 patents world-wide, and out of those, 148 are issued in the US.

    Tanvi Gahlot: What would you say sparked an interest in science, for you?

    Dr. Sudhir Agrawal: Knowing the unknown! You can start asking those questions. As a researcher it’s always about curiosity, and then by starting to ask the right questions, you see results and data by researching it; and that has been my passion.

    Tanvi Gahlot: I noticed that you have an interest in nucleic acids therapeutics. Is there anything specific you like about it?

    Dr. Sudhir Agrawal: As you know, drugs are mostly small molecules or antibodies. Nucleic acids are genetic material in our own body. Biological learning progresses from the genes to DNA to RNA and then [finally] to the protein. About 30-35 years ago we started to think, “Can we use nucleic acids as drugs or target drugs to nucleic acid?” We created a platform called Antisense when two DNAs come together to form a duplex. A duplex can be made in the lab, which is a very short piece. This piece will go into the body and bind to only one target and shut its protein production. Although it sounds simple, it took many years to figure it out. There were many parts which we had to first figure out. We had to research what happens in cells, what happens in animals, and what happens in humans. Today there are about a dozen drugs based on this same platform that have been approved. However, the most exciting thing is that with this approach, one can design a drug for a genetic disorder within one year! Once you figure out basic science then you can apply it. This allows a number of patients who have a very rare genetic defect to be treated, since there is no drug for them. This platform can be used to create drugs only for single patients. This allows us to create precision medicine for each person.

    Tanvi Gahlot: What advice would you give high schoolers who are interested in having a future career in science, such as yourself?

    Dr. Sudhir Agrawal: Follow your passion! Science is a very broad subject. I was a chemist by training. I initially had a passion for chemistry, but as I went from my undergrad to masters degree, I got more interested in organic chemistry. However, when I went into research, I became a nucleic acid chemist and during my postdoctoral research I became a synthetic nucleic acid chemist. That has been my field of research since. But similarly, one could follow your passion in biology, molecular biology, or biochemistry. The field is very broad and it is really about finding and continuing to learn and to work with people who are doing research. When you work with them, you see people doing different types of research in the lab. That’s how you realize “Oh, I’m interested in this subject and not that subject.” Research is very broad. I have worked with people in the lab who had different passions. They enjoyed doing certain things and not others. They were open to learning. So, it is really finding what is your passion.

    Tanvi Gahlot: How important do you think it is for a student to have a mentor in whatever field they have selected?

    Dr. Sudhir Agrawal: Research is a subject where, as a high schooler, it's important to find summer internships in research labs. It is important to learn early on how research is done. Having a lab where there is a lab chief and different levels of people from juniors, graduates, masters to post doc. You get to learn how this research is done, who's doing what, how they plan their experiments, how they interpret the data, how they discuss the data with the team. Sometimes, at least in an academic environment, research is very focused on certain topics. Whereas in industry, research is a team play where everyone works for the same goal. The environment in academia and industry is different. It's good to find out which subjects you find exciting and then to really look for researchers in that space. Whether it is at a university or at a medical school or other places, approach them and share your interest with them. They will definitely give you a chance.

    Tanvi Gahlot: What would you say was the turning point of your career?

    Dr. Sudhir Agrawal: I believe that it is a step-by-step process. Initially, when we thought about this approach, we felt it is a good scientific theory to solve. Then when you start doing experiments, start publishing results and start talking about it in conferences, the goal is much bigger than you had initially embarked on. Your goal now is to share this information with others, to enlist them in the same mission, as they follow your work in their own labs. Slowly it becomes a much bigger mission. You started it but now there are many people doing it. It also takes a lot of time. For example, it took 25 years before we started to see the approval of drugs. Overall, it starts with small experiments which build up to the next level, and next level, and so on. That’s why each step of the process is like a turning point.

    Tanvi Gahlot: If you were hiring a recent college graduate what are some things you would look for?

    Dr. Sudhir Agrwal: A passion for science and an interest in research. Especially in the industry, we look for a team player who is open to learning and assisting. Transparency is especially important! For example, both positive and negative results are important when doing an experiment. Negative results tell us what not to do or what this means. Is it very important to have true data and its interpretation. Having that transparency and honesty is particularly important. Once you have done the experiment and it is published, there is no time to take it back. That’s why it should also be published in a way that whenever it is repeated by anyone - today, tomorrow, or 20 years later - the experiment yields the same data and result as the original. Research has the responsibility to be sure that what we are seeing in our experiments, is true. Repeating them in trials is also important to make sure that the experiment works, because then your data is driving someone else’s research and experiments. Other researchers will use your data and move the science forward. It is important that they trust that data. If you lose that trust, then you lose your credibility with your peers and that’s not good.

    Tanvi Gahlot: Right, so scientists build up on each other’s work so if the first step is wrong then it destroys the foundation. You started off as a scientist and always has passion for science then you moved up to higher roles. What are some similarities and differences between being a scientist and then moving onto the business side of drug research?

    Dr. Sudhir Agrawal: When you get to a point where you are seeing your science has application to creating drugs, then you need to create the infrastructure to do so. Discovering a drug is one part of it. The next step is to test it on animals, smaller animals, larger animals. You now need to hire more people, and this starts to add up and become expensive. Once you find everything is working the way it is supposed to, you can start testing in humans. That is a much bigger exercise. You need people with many different talents. All of them are scientists, but they come from different angles. They take the results from the animal testing and decide what it is going to take if you are to test it in human trials. This adds a much higher risk. To support this risk and expense you need to build the company and pitch to investors. You have to share the story with investors, tell them what we know and what we don't know, what are the risks and the benefits. This changes your role from a scientist to a leader that is bringing the team together.
  • 29 Mar 2021 9:56 PM | Anonymous

    स्नेह और विश्वास के रंग से
    रंग दो ये दुनियॉ सारी,
    अभिनंदन हम करें सभी का
    महकायें  केसर क्यारी
    मन से क्रोध, विकार मिटायें
    निर्मल हो यह सृष्टी सारी,
    उत्साह प्रेम का रंग बरसे
    और भीग जाये हर नर नारी।
    अपनेपन का गुलाल मलें
    मोहक लगे मुख की छवि प्यारी,
    पावन पर्व ये रंगोत्सव का
    सबको हो मंगलकारी
    प्रेम भाईचारे के पर्व होली की रंगारंग बधाई और शुभकामनायें


    O God I pray,
    May the colors of love and faith

    Fill this world
    May everyone be greeted
    With the essence of saffron

    Let us remove anger and ill will from our mind
    Let the universe be serene
    May the fervent color of love rain down
    And drench men and women everywhere

    By rubbing color (gulal)
    Makes the face more enticing
    This holy festival of color
    Makes everyone happy

    Colorful greetings and good wishes of love and brotherhood on this auspicious Holi festival

    Asha Singh, Teacher, ISW Cultural and Language School

  • 29 Mar 2021 9:50 PM | Anonymous

    By Smrithi Krishnaswamy, ISW Youth Reporter

    Holi has been celebrated in India for centuries, with poems and scriptures describing the festivities dating all the way back to 4th century CE. These age-old traditions are still celebrated around the world today. This year, Holi begins on March 28. The date changes every year, but it is always celebrated in March, because the Holiday corresponds to the 12th month of the Hindu calendar year.

    There are varying stories explaining Holi’s origin, mentioned in several works of ancient Indian literature. According to one popular version of the story, an evil king, named Hiranyakashyap, became so powerful that he forced his subjects to worship him as their god. However, the king’s son Prahlada continued to be a devotee of the Hindu deity Lord Vishnu. The angry king plotted with his sister, Holika, to kill his son. Holika, who was immune to fire, tricked Prahlada to sit in a pyre (fire pit) with her. When the pyre was lit, the boy’s devotion to Lord Vishnu allowed him to survive while Holika, who the festival is named after, was burned to death despite her immunity.

    The symbolism of the story and holiday is the triumph of good over evil, but the holiday means different things to different people. I spoke to a few family and friends to find out what Holi meant to them. According to one family, they regard Holi as a day to express their gratitude and love for one another and their good fortune. Another friend explained that it is also a celebration of spring, and the life that blooms with the change of seasons.

    The celebrations of the festival in India share similarities and differences to how it is celebrated here in the US. Here, families are limited to only celebrating in their homes with friends, but in India strangers and family alike celebrate by throwing packets of color powder (called gulal) at one another. Many families go to the temple and have a bonfire the day before Holi. On Holi, people generally wear white clothes but go home covered in all the colors of the rainbow. One tradition that does not change is the delicious food. Everyone eats a delicious meal with lots of sweets for dessert, regardless of living in India or not.

    Holi is a colorful celebration around the world and is quickly becoming a well-known holiday. It is wonderful to see centuries old traditions continue to live on. Holi is a celebration with an important message, and it was wonderful for me, someone who does not celebrate Holi, to learn more about this beautiful holiday. I hope you learned a little bit from this exploration too. Thank you for reading.

    Image credit: holi-mythology-min.jpg

    Photo credit: John Thomas on Unsplash
  • 29 Mar 2021 9:40 PM | Anonymous

    by Yash Chauhan, Freshman at Northeastern University, Boston

    Whether it be debating between taking the SAT or ACT or attempting to figure out the so called “formula” that admission’s departments use, the American college admissions process is already an overly complicated task. However, it is made far more difficult and strenuous when there is a lack of open communication between parent and student. This is especially true for individuals with parents who were brought up in India and, as such, are not as familiar with the American application process. In such a situation, the student should realize that when their parents ask them questions about certain aspects of the application, it isn’t due to them attempting to criticize the student or micromanage them, but usually just because they are genuinely curious about the process. Conversely, parents too should understand that this is a process that is primarily incumbent on the student. Although parents should always provide guidance and encouragement, they should never just take over. The skills that students develop during the application process will serve them well in the future, but only if parents let go a little and allow them to go through this experience. Even though parents should not take over, keeping an open dialogue throughout the process such as discussing what the family can afford, allows for students and parents to get the most out of the process while mitigating future conflicts. Finally, it is important to keep in mind that what matters more than where you go to college is what you do during your time there; so aim high, but remember that wherever you end up going, you still have the opportunity to accomplish great things.

  • 16 Mar 2021 1:01 PM | Anonymous

    by Neeta and Sandeep Shah   Rendition of Ode

    क्या बात बने, जो हम सब मिल जाए

    लहरें रुके और पत्थर हिल जाए

    कुछ साल पहले जो था एक छोटा सा ख़याल

    … आज सबके पसीने से बन गया बेमिसाल

    Kya baat bane, jo hum sab mil jaye

    lehare ruke aur patthar heel jaye

    kuchh saal pehale jo tha ek chhota sa khayal

    ... aaj sabke paseene se ban gaya bemisal

    हमने भी देखा था एक छोटा सा सपना

    यहाँ वुस्टर में बन जाए एक घर अपना

    जहाँ हो हर हफ़्ते दिवाली हर इतवार को रंगोली

    आके सब पंजाबी, सिंधी, गुजराती, मराठी, द्रविडी ... मिलके खेले होली

    Hum ne bhi dekha tha ek chhota sa sapana

    yahan Worcester mein ban jaye ek ghar apna

    Jahaan ho har hafte Diwali, har itwar ko Rangoli

    Aake sab punjabi, sindhi, gujarati, marathi, dravidi ... milke khele holi

    बच्चे आके सीखे बुज़ुर्गों से रामायण और महाभारत

    और सीता, मीरा, झाँसी जैसी भारत की महान औरत

    यहाँ अमेरिका के हम रहेंगे भारतीय BROTHER और SI-स्टर

    जय हो जय हो जय हो INDIA सॉसायटी ओफ़ वुस्टर

    Bacche aake sikhe bujourgon se Ramayan aur Mahabharat

    Aur Sita, Meera, Jhansi jaisi Bharat ki Mahan Aurat

    Yahan America ke hum ranhenge Bharatiya Bother aur Sister

    Jay ho Jay ho Jay ho India Society of Worcester.

    An English Translation

    Isn't it great that when we join hands,

    we can freeze the ocean waves and move mountains?

    What a few years ago was a small idea

    ... with all our efforts has turned into unmatched reality today

    We had a modest dream - to make our cozy home in Worcester.

    Where we could celebrate Diwali when we wish, paint Rangoli (colorful art) at will.

    And fellow Indians – from Punjab, Sindh, Gujarat, Maratha, Dravid (as in our national anthem)

    Could come together and play Holi (festival of colors)

    Our kids will come to learn from their elders, of the meaning of Ramayan & Mahabharat.

    And also, about Sita, Meera(bai), Jhansi, and other great and powerful women of India

    In the US we are bonded as India’s Brothers & Sisters

    ... Jai Ho Jai Ho Jai Ho (Long live) India Society of Worcester

  • 16 Mar 2021 12:47 PM | Anonymous

    ISW Events Proposed Dates

    Shiv Ratri - Actual date - 3/11/21 Saturday, March 20, 2021
    Collegeconnect/Let's talk! Keeping the lines of communications open Saturday, March 20, 2021
    Collegeconnect/College Essays Saturday, April 17, 2021
    ISW Art Competition Saturday, April 24, 2021
    Ram Navami - Actual date - 4/21/21 –  Sunday, April 25, 2021
    Kahoot game/South Asian solidarity/ Black civil rights movement Saturday April 10, 2021
    WEW Intelectual Multitasking: Connecting Passion to Profession  Thursday May 06, 2021
    Antakshari Prelim - Day 1 Saturday, May 8, 2021
    Antakshari Prelim - Day 2 Sunday, May 9, 2021
    Antakshari - Final Saturday, May 22, 2021
    Collegeconnect/College Financial Planning Saturday, May 22, 2021 11 am
    Graduation Satsang Saturday, June 20, 2021
    Collegeconnect/Standardized Testing Saturday, June 12, 2021
    No Fire Challenge (Culinary Art)  
    Collegeconnect/College process HS July TBD
    India Day Aug 6,7,8
    Collegeconnect/Negotiation Aug TBD
    WEW Summer Reflections: Travel, Reading, Gardening and Wellness  Thursday, August 19, 2021
    Janmashtami - Actual date - 8/30/21 –  Sunday, August 29, 2021
    Ganesha Idol Workshop (2 days) Saturday, August 28, 2021
    Ganesha Idol Workshop (2 days) Sunday, August 29, 2021
    Ganesh Utsav Sun, Sept 12
    Navratri Oct 8
    Navratri Oct 9
    Diwali – Actual date - 11/4/21 -  Saturday, November 6, 2021
    Worcester Art Museum Sunday, November 7, 2021
    Diwali Saturday, November 13, 2021
    Tower Hill Diwali Event Saturday, November 20, 2021
    Christmas Saturday, December 11, 2021

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