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  • 24 May 2021 11:20 PM | Anonymous

    ISW, in partnership with PelMeds, IAGB, IMANE, TAGB and many other community organizations, held a Covid Vaccination camp on May 2nd and May 23rd at the newly opened ISW India Center. With volunteers manning the desks and a crew of doctors administering the vaccines, the center was busy from 9 am to 3 pm. Nearly 300 people took advantage of the opportunity including community members from across MetroWest and eligible youth as young as 16.


  • 24 May 2021 11:18 PM | Anonymous

    By Tanvi Gahlot, ISW Youth Reporter

    I interviewed Mr. Sandeep Shah, the CEO and Founder of Skyscape, a telehealth company. Mr. Shah has been a pioneer in mobile access of healthcare information ever since the release of the first mobile devices. He has now developed an app, released last year, called Buzz which helps healthcare workers communicate. He gave great advice for high school students who are interested in technology and telehealth in the modern era.

    Tanvi Gahlot: What inspired you to create your company “Skyscape”?

    Mr. Sandeep Shah: Well, while my wife was in training to become a physician I saw the struggles she faced. This was taking place right around the time mobile technology was making its first appearance around 1993. I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to marry technology that could be carried and the information needed by a physician because they can’t always consult a book right when they may need some of the information. Although, through their extensive education, doctors already learn a lot of the things necessary, information is constantly changing and the field of medicine is constantly modernizing. The idea of such accessible technology would be really helpful. When we started, our mantra for the company was that this platform should not affect the workflow of physicians. The idea was that if you had a question, you should be able to get an answer quickly, almost within 10 seconds; and the information should be valid and up to date.

    Tanvi Gahlot: Telehealth has been gaining popularity, especially during COVID; how do you believe Skyscape is contributing to this trend?

    Mr. Sandeep Shah: Telehealth is something that many companies have been trying to deploy. However, due to the pandemic everything has been moving quicker because there was a need for healthcare during such a difficult time. Last year we had actually created a new product called “Buzz”, this product is the next step in telehealth evolution. It is used by healthcare providers to get relevant and up to date information instantly. Buzz is an app where healthcare providers can communicate with colleagues, patients, and other healthcare providers. Even before the pandemic we noticed that the healthcare cost in the US is almost 3.5 trillion and approximately a third of it is considered to be a “waste”. This occurs mainly because of lack of communications or fragmented communication. Although technologies are abundant in hospitals and it works for groups in a particular hospital, when different hospitals have to communicate, they run into problems. This is where our product comes in, creating a universal platform for hospitals to communicate, not just internally, but also with other hospitals.

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

    Mr. Sandeep Shah: So there are two aspects I would look at, one being the person's training and the other being how the person looks outside their application. Although we do look at academics and other things that are filled out in the application, in reality, the person’s personality matters more than a piece of paper. Considering they are straight out of college, we also look at how interested the person is in what we offer and how passionate they are to learn new things. Moreover, we look for what the person has accomplished outside of their academics.

    Tanvi Gahlot: What advice would you give to high schoolers who are interested in having a future career in business/healthcare technology, like you?

    Mr. Sandeep Shah: I think at the end of the day it boils down to one’s passion for what they do. The primary question one should ask themself is “are you passionate about the subject you are embarking on?” Your journey should not be because of someone else's ideas or suggestions. For example, if you're not into cooking, but someone tells you “Hey, a restaurant is a great business, why don’t you start it?” I think you would fail, not because you are incapable, but because you have no interest in cooking and you are not passionate about it. The thing is, you could acquire a lot of skills along the way, but you should have that inner ambition to learn and move further. The other aspect to this is, you must be a team player. All jobs require contribution and you won’t get very far on your own because at some point or another you're going to need to get someone's opinion or help.

    Tanvi Gahlot: What hobbies do you have that allow you to get your mind off work?

    Mr. Sandeep Shah: I have lots of hobbies! One of my major hobbies is mountain climbing; I have climbed 20,000 foot mountains in the Himalayas. After coming to the US after a pause I’ve started doing it with my family. The most recent climb was right before the pandemic. When we had gone to the Everest Base Camp, it really got my wife interested. For the past few years we’ve been doing all sorts of hiking and climbing in different parts of the world. That brings me to my other hobby my family and I have, which is traveling; we’ve travelled to over a 100 countries. These trips act almost like a reset, and when we get back we’re really motivated to dive back into our work. My other major hobby is photography. I usually take pictures while on trips. However, sometimes I also take pictures of nature or pictures at a party we might be attending.

  • 10 May 2021 8:10 PM | Anonymous

    By Ragoo Raghunathan

    Professionals are constantly required to present their ideas, sales, reports or even a subject matter slide deck to an audience. While some are talented presenters, most people are nervous. They say gifted speakers are born, but effective speakers are made! So, you have to practice. Today, speaking is a competitive skill. It gets you the promotion, the job offer, the raise; it is a leadership skill, and a must-have.

    While listening to Diane DiResta on a podcast recently, I made some notes on a few tips and tricks that she highlighted which made a lot of sense to me.

    Often people tell others too much. Realize who is your audience and what they need to know. Sometimes less is more. If they want more info they will ask. Give them what they need to know and not everything you know. It is important to realize that when you give them little, they retain it better.

    Engage them in a short conversation before you start talking so you can customize what you deliver. Your talk must be listener-centered, not speaker centered! Lead with what’s important to them. For example, instead of saying “I have this great idea….”, you can start by saying “I have a way we can be more productive in this department.” This gets the listener’s attention and then you can lead them down the path. It is paramount to know yourself, know your audience and know your message well before you start speaking.

    Start by getting their attention – their dream, their goal, etc. Then address any roadblocks, and eventually bring in the recommendation or solution. You must present the solution to their problems rather than your problems. She recommends not to start with details. Keep it for the middle, not the beginning. Like a sandwich – bread is on top and bottom. The interesting juicy, tasty details are in the middle.

    You cannot be nervous when you talk; if you are, you are being self-conscious. You are being afraid that you will fail, or trip or forget something. If that happens, you cannot focus on the present and be there with the audience. Come back to the present by focusing on your breathing. Assuming you know your message, the rest is mindset. Go out there and do it. It is ok to be nervous, the adrenaline gets you ready for the performance.

    Often, we think the audience is against us. Actually, they are not. They want to hear you out and be on your side. Do not assume that the person in front of you is ignoring you. For example, if someone is typing on the phone or computer when you are talking – tell yourself that they are taking notes. It is better than assuming they are bored. Feed off the positive signal of an audience who can engage with you.

    If something did not go well, learn from it so you do not repeat it next time.

    Another important thing is to see how you come across visually – pay attention to it as well, especially if you want to have an executive presence. Make sure your body, tone and words are giving off a consistent message. Work on it so you can build credibility, trust and confidence. Body language is important when you speak. Video record yourself and see what you can improve.

    Make sure you make an eye-connection. For example, look at a person for part or most of a line you are saying. It builds relationship and trust. Gestures are also important. Hands above the waist and within an imaginary gesture box. If you are sitting at a table, keep your hands above the table. Gestures are important, but do not be perpetually moving. Find a resting position for your hands within the gesture box – above the waist and below the chin.

    Project your voice – it is second to the body language. Match your tone to the audience and the message being delivered. If the audience is quiet, you match it; if they are excited, match it too. You must be in sync with the audience.

    Use the right language – convincing language when you are presenting an idea or expecting someone to buy. If you are in a conflict resolution situation – use the phrase “you may want to consider”. Size your audience, meet them ahead of time if possible, pace them and speak their language. Mirror the audience.

    How do you know if you are prepared? Of course, you need the material. Get to the location early and practice at the location if possible. There is more to the presentation than your slides. Think about what could go wrong and think about alternatives. Have some one-liners and adlibs ready if things go wrong. That is a good recovery technique.

    Handling difficult situations – don’t fake it. Remember nobody knows everything. If you do not know something, let them know that you are not sure about it and will get back to them. If possible, deflect it to a person on the stage but only if you are confident that they might know the answer. In the worst case scenario, answer what you know . For example, say something like “I’m not a 100% sure about that, but what I know is…..” and fill in with what you know.  

    For more tips and suggestions, please look up Diane’s book Knockout presentations.
  • 10 May 2021 5:02 PM | Anonymous

    By Smrithi Krishnaswamy

    Tamilians worldwide celebrate their New Year on the first day of the Chithirai month. Referred to as Puthandu or Varsha Pirappu, this year, Tamilians celebrated the Puthuvarsham (New Year) on April 14, 2021.

    People across the globe look forward to New Years day with the hope of new opportunities, and it is no different in this case. Puthandu is the day that marks a new beginning. It is that day for celebrations, feasts and get-togethers. Everyone will wear new clothes, pray, and eat delicious food.

    One dish in particular, called mangai pachadi, is a staple for this holiday. It is made of grated raw mango, jaggery, salt, red chillies, neem flowers, a pinch of turmeric and oil. The raw mango symbolizes sourness, while the neem represents bitterness, jaggery signifies sweetness, while chillies mean pungency. It is one of the most important dishes because the contrasting flavors reflect the emotions and challenges people experience. This delicious recipe suggests that life is full of surprises and contrasting events. Therefore, it encourages and inspires people to enjoy life regardless of what it has in store for them.

    In India, traditions are very similar, with many families conducting a pooja to pray at home and then enjoying a meal together. Chitterai Thiruvizha is celebrated in the Meenakshi Temple in Madurai, Tamil Nadu, which many people attend as well.

    I hope this article gave some insight about Tamil New Year! Thank you for reading.

    Image Credits: 1: https://www.subbuskitchen.com/raw-mango-pachadi/
    2:https://thefederal.com/the-eighth-column/chithirai-thiruvizha-missing-meenakshis-wedding/

  • 10 May 2021 4:59 PM | Anonymous

    By Diya Sadhu

    Now that the dust has settled over the Wall Street GameStop debacle, let’s unpack what really happened here. To compare this to a sort of class revolution would not be an understatement. For years, the high class has dominated Wall Street, allowing the rich to get richer and the poor to remain static in their financial status. Market manipulation is a common practice on Wall Street. It is not uncommon for major hedge funds to unjustly exploit their influence and resources to generate massive income. While these companies thrive in their moral gray area, there are not exactly legal regulations which prohibit them from market manipulation. It is simply labeled as a byproduct of capitalism.

    These injustices did not go unnoticed by people who frequented the Reddit app. The wildly popular social media outlet is home to a host of members of the WallStreetBets group. This is a community of traders on Wall Street who discuss their trading endeavors. Many of them had a shared interest in GameStop stock, mainly because of the nostalgic value it held. In early 2020, GameStop stock was essentially worthless at a share price of only $3. They had suffered a steep decline from their $50 share price in 2014. However, thanks to the increased faith of the Redittors, the stock jumped to around $20 as 2020 came to a close. The unprecedented comeback of GameStop intrigued the Wall Street hedge funds as they quickly took notice of the renewed price.

    The attractive new price was not enough to restore complete faith in the stock, however. Some hedge fund's viewed that this was an inflated price and the stock was bound to fall again. This in-depth analysis of the market is often not available to the common trader which makes them vulnerable to manipulation by these hedge fund giants. And so the shorting of GameStop stock began. The hedge funds were essentially borrowing stocks and then selling them to people. Expecting that the price would return to its low original value, they hoped to then buy the stock back at the lower price. The profit they earned would often be at the loss of the common traders who bought the stock from them.

    Unbeknownst to Wall Street, Redditors were concocting a plan of their own. Before the hedge funds were able to buy back the stocks at a lower price, they were going to make sure GameStop stock would rise so high in value, that the hedge funds would lose money. They instructed one another to buy and hold GameStop stock. Their plan was overwhelmingly successful as they were able to push the share price from $40 to $76 in a matter of three weeks. It even reached its height on January 28th, with a staggering price of $483. When it came time for the wealthy hedge funds to buy the stock back, many lost billions of dollars. Through the lens of a major Wall Street investor, this is devastating and perhaps even unfair. However, to see this from the perspective of a common trader, it is simply financial karma. Many argue that Wall Street has been practicing market manipulation for decades so why is it suddenly unjust when it was implemented by the common man.

    SOURCES:  https://internationalbanker.com/brokerage/gamestop-what-happened-and-what-it-means/

  • 26 Apr 2021 11:28 AM | Anonymous

    by Ragoo Raghunathan

    In the past weeks, the ISW 2025 Professional and Entrepreneurs Network (PEN) initiative met with a group of entrepreneurs, community leaders and professionals to discuss and pull together ideas in an online brainstorming session. The 2-hour zoom call included a Jamboard session and discussed ways to support and develop this initiative. The participants included ISW President, Puneet Kohli, ISW ex-President, Ashish Cowlagi, Raj Melville, Manohar Ganapathy, Navinkumar Loganathan, Mandy Pant, Kelly Mittal, Nagendra Rao and Suzanne Gray and me, as leader of this initiative. 

    The session included very passionate ideas and feedback from the group. At the end we had collected over 100 ideas that were categorized into around 10 topics. We are currently collating and prioritizing these ideas. These range from collaborating with other entrepreneurship organizations, to having programs targeting youth and professionals interested in start-ups, having regular meetings at the newly expanded India Center, job fairs and career workshops – to name a few.

    We soon expect to come up with a more detailed plan and strategize on how we can work with the community in supporting this goal. As a primary event of this initiative, we plan to have a Meetup at the India Center in Mid-May (15th) to launch the PEN Group initiative.

    Please watch this space for further notifications and updates on this topic. Feel free to reach out to us at PEN@iswonline.org to get directly involved and contribute.

    Update

    Meetup group: https://www.meetup.com/ISW-PEN/


  • 26 Apr 2021 11:27 AM | Anonymous

    By Tharegha Manoharan

    India is a diverse country with many different people, cultures, religions, traditions, languages, and beliefs. Made up of 28 states and 8 union territories, it is surrounded by the Bay of Bengal, the Great Himalayas and the majestic Indian Ocean. Despite the differences between the territories, borders, and individuals, India is a united country, accepting of its differences.

    Because India was such a rich power, the British came to India and attempted to take over the country. That is also why Christopher Columbus wanted to find India. When he went looking for a sea route to India, he landed in America instead and mistook the Native Americans who lived there to be Indians. However, after years of struggle under British rule, India won her independence on August 15, 1947. As we all know, our great Indian independence leader, an inspiring patriot, and a hero to all, Mohandas Gandhi, better known as Mahatma Gandhi, called the awaited agreement between India and British to be the “noblest act of the British nation”. With such a great motivational history, people all over the world celebrate Indian Independence Day in remembrance of our brave soldiers and the sacrifice of our citizens.

    Since independence, India has grown and is still growing in all categories. India is the world’s largest democracy and, with 1.3 billion people, has the second largest population in the world. It is the most diverse country on the planet as it has more than 19,500 languages and dialects spoken across the country.

    Speaking to my parents and other adults who immigrated here, I know one of the major reasons they moved to the United States was to provide their future generations with better and more opportunities than they might have had. People sacrificed many things to keep their family happy. But once here some opportunities are not available to us in the United States that would be normal back in India. For example, parents and adults want their children to learn their mother tongue and culture. That is why organizations such as the India Society of Worcester and the ISW language school are so important. They help reinforce some valuable things we might have “left behind”. Luckily, the “homesickness” and pride in India’s culture helps create opportunities like they had as kids for their own children in the US. We should be proud of our nation’s history as we live in gratitude every day; but we should also use this to carve out a greater tomorrow.

    Be safe, be kind, be proud and be happy.

  • 26 Apr 2021 11:25 AM | Anonymous

    By Vandana Premkumar, ISW Youth Reporter

    College application processes can be difficult and stressful but when you know the right way to go about it, it can get easier. Here are some tips you can take to write a good college application. First, some things to remember NOT to do - don’t write about the usuals. Take a moment to think and ask yourself “could someone have written an essay similar to this?” Don’t use too many adjectives as it might get tiring for the reader after a while. Finally, make it easy for the reader to understand what you're writing. Don’t make their job more difficult.

    Some “red flags” they look for are people who are being dark and cynical. You should be open and go into some detail. You should use a little bit of humor but not too much. When using humor, be very careful because people might think of you in the wrong way. You should link the beginning to the end. Whatever you wrote in the beginning should match what you wrote in the end of your essay. You should also write about any weaknesses or failures you have experienced in life and how it made you the person you are today. This will help the reader get to know you a little better and what obstacles you overcame. These are just some tips you can use to write a good college application. You don’t have to use all of them but some of these tips will help you be less stressed when applying for colleges.

  • 26 Apr 2021 11:10 AM | Anonymous

    By Bhavya Kamakolanu, 4th Grade, Millpond Middle School, Westborough
    ISW Telugu Teacher: Madhavi Chaliki

    అ , ఆ , ఇ , ఈ

    అ , ఆ , ఇ , ఈ

    గుండు మీద టోపీ

    ఉ ,ఊ , ఋ ౠ

    నీకు ఒక ఒట్టు

    ఎ , ఏ , ఐ

    చిన్న మామిడి కాయ్

    ఒ, ఓ ఔ

    పాలు తాగింది ఆవు

    అం , అః

    మళ్ళీ పాడుదామా ?

    Growing up

    The day I was created,
    I was the size of a pea,
    I drank from tiny bottles,
    And slept with my mommy.

    Then, I started to babble,
    A type of funny talk,
    My brother would make me laugh,
    It sounded like a chick’s squawk.

    Soon, I started walking,
    I would go to pre-school,
    I loved to learn the alphabet,
    Which I thought was pretty cool.

    Later, I started grades,
    Like 1st, 2nd and 3rd,
    I was very good at math and reading,
    Bit it was science I preferred.

    Soon , I went to middle school,
    My mind had more to hold,
    “Study makes your grades better”,
    My teacher always told.

    Then , I became a teen,
    there’s a lot more to learn too,
    To the youngsters whom are reading this,
    One question , you have no clue!

    Then, I went to college,
    I learnt computer tricks,
    I made all sorts of apps.
    May be I’m the reason you have NetFlix!

    And then, I got “Married”!
    What a wonderful feeling it was!
    But what I did not know was..
    That the “would-be” a fuzz.

    And soon I had children,
    I promised to care them all the way.
    But what did my husband do?
    He slept on the couch all day!

    I got a permanent job,
    My husband worked home right here,
    And of course what he would do?
    He would drive me into tears!

    Long after , I had to retire,
    But my husband kept his job,
    My children were helpful at chores,
    But my husband stayed slob!!!

    Soon , I got old,
    Too old to keep living,
    And that's how growing up was.
    All the way from the beginning.

  • 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

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    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

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