Meet Sukhi Singh. She started with a blender and a bucket in her kitchen and conjured up different curry pastes and thus began her entrepreneurial journey. ”We bring Indian food to the mainstream table,” is how she describes her company. Today, her company – Sukhis- is part of the fastest growing ethnic food market in the US.
Guided by her instincts and passion for cooking Sukhi went through some rocky times in the first few years of her American journey. Sukhi along with her husband and their 3 children migrated to the USA in 1984 and settled in the San Francisco Bay area. The couple bought a deli, but they lost it during the 1989 earthquake, which is when she switched to creating curry pastes in her home kitchen.
She was 45 yrs old with 3 kids and were in the red by $70,000. Times were tough for the family and sometimes they bought groceries using their credit card.Her husband asked her to get a job, but Sukhi stuck to her instincts and told him she was going to make her business work. And through sheer dint and hard work she made it work.
Today, Sukhi’s is a multi-million dollar company that employs 120 people. Her husband and 3 children work with her. Her son designs the packaging for their food products, while her daughters take care of sales and marketing. Her husband is in charge of the company’s finance. And Sukhi spends time in the kitchen testing and creating new products.
Sukhis food products are available in various grocery stores including Whole Foods and Costco in the US. She still uses the local farmer’s market in the San Francisco Bay area as her testing ground.
Sukhi and her family live in the San Francisco bay area.
This interview with Sukhi was originally aired on TV.
The Reluctant Fundamentalist is an intimate portrait told with anguish and love about the 2 societies: American and South Asian says Mira, who came to the US as a 19 year old undergraduate to Harvard University. And Mohsin Hamid studied at Harvard and Princeton and now lives in Pakistan.
The film is in essence a dialog between a young Pakistani and an American in a tea shop in Pakistan says Mira. She describes The Reluctant Fundamentalist as a coming-of-age story and a human thriller. By far this was one of the most difficult films she has made points out Mira. It took 5 years to complete the picture. The film is dedicated to her father, who grew up in Lahore, which is where The Reluctant Fundamentalist is based.
In this wide ranging interview Mira talks about how the idea for the film was born, the process of making the film and the music in the film. She also talks about living and working in Uganda. She talks about the meaning of fundamentalism – both economic and political – and how both make the human being subservient to the system. The Reluctant Fundamentalist is a deeply secular film she points out. She talks about the inspiration of‘ Gillo Pontecorvo‘s seminal film Battle of Algiers in the making of The Reluctant Fundamentalist and the compliment paid by Mrs. Potecorvo when she saw the film at the Venice Film Festival.
Mira Nair on The Namesake – audio
In Part-2 of our conversation Anupama takes us back to her childhood growing up in Madras, now known as Chennai. How did she discover plays? How does she write? What are her writing rituals, and how has playwriting changed and made her brave are some of the things Anupama shares in this interview.
Anupama grew up at a time when her world was not controlled by smart phones, Internet or Google calendar. Her childhood was filled with books, music and long stretches of laziness that fed her fecund imagination. She was allowed to roam free and explore her neighborhood with friends, be lazy and devour books is how she put it. Her indulgent family fed her books all through her childhood and that sparked off her interest in English literature, which is what she majored in college. She went on to become a business journalist.
She was shocked to discover that her creative streak had diminished during her stint as a journalist. She quit her journalism job, went back to graduate school and discovered a whole new world of plays in Chennal. She went on to win a playwright competition and scholarships that took her to the UK and USA.
After completing her graduate studies at University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign she went back to her hometown in India where she has carved a niche for herself as a playwright. She has written 5 plays and is in the process of writing her 6th play Bay, Sea, Ocean. Her plays have been translated in a couple of European languages and staged in India, UK and the USA.
Writing is not an easy process and gets even more difficult as you get to know the truth of it points out Anupama. Truth is not easy to discover and it is slippery is how she describes her writing process. Emotional fortitude is an important element in her writing process. “I grow with every play. I become brave with every play.” she says.
Anupama lives in Chennai when she is not traveling.
Anupama Chandrasekhar on Disconnect Part-1 – audio
Photo credit: Kevin-Berne
Padmasree Warrior is Cisco’s Chief Technology and Strategy Officer. She joined Cisco in 2007 after having spent many years working at Motorola in Chicago. At Motorola she was an Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer (CTO).
In this wide ranging interview we talk about role of CTO to Cisco’s strategy in an economic downturn to growing up in a small town in India, and the role her parents played in inspiring and shaping her world view. And of course, we get to ask her about Twitter, where she currently has almost 1.5 million followers. You can follow Padmasree on Twitter.
Interestingly, Cisco Systems Inc (CSCO) was founded in the 1980s during an economic downturn and in a short span of less than 25 years has grown to become one of the largest networking companies in the world.
We recorded this interview in 2009 when Padmasree was CTO of Cisco. Since then her role at Cisco has expanded. This interview originally ran on LiveMint Radio.
Photo credit: Cisco
Meet Anupama Chandrasekhar, a playwright based in Chennai. Her play Disconnect made its West Coast debut at the San Jose Rep in March 2013. This is perhaps the first time that an Indian playwright’s work is being staged at San Jose Rep. Disconnect is translated in a couple of European languages and made its European debut at London’s Royal Court Theatre.
Disconnect is set in a modern call center in India, where a group of young workers work the phones and their American customers to pay up their credit card debts. They have American names, speak in an American accent, and are steeped in American pop culture, but work in a windowless room in Chennai (Madras), India. Disconnect examines the dichotomy that exists between the personal and professional lives of the young call center workers, and what is the price they pay for dreaming their American Dream? The play is directed by Rick Lombardo.
Anupama has written 5 plays so far, and is working on her 6th play. She has won various awards and is the Asian winner of the Commonwealth Short Story Award and was a fellow at the Royal Court International Residency.
We caught up with her during her visit to Silicon Valley to talk about Disconnect, Silicon Valley and the call center business in India and American influence. How did she come up with the idea for the play? How long did it take her to write the play? Does she tweak the play even after its written?
Usha should know what it is like to survive and make your dreams come true in a tough and conservative environment in South India. Brought up in a liberal family in Madras, now known as Chennai she married into a conservative, traditional family. Her mother-in-law did not believe that women should go out and work, and neither should they continue their studies once they get married. Interestingly her conservative future mother-in-law had agreed and let Usha to complete her pilot training and obtain her license. Usha was pregnant with her first child when she trained and got her license.
Life in a conservative family meant that Usha had to learn to negotiate and find ways to keep herself occupied. She started a ladies club and then in a serendipitous fashion started writing for a Tamil magazine. Of course, she wrote under a pseudonym – Shashikala. She wrote mostly about women and how they survived tough situations and came out winning. She then forayed into TV and eventually into the world of textiles and fashion.
At the age of 60 she opened a sari boutique in Madras and continues to manage it. She is in her mid-70′s and still continues to travel around India on business. So, is it any wonder then that her motto in life is never, ever quit. Be a surivor. And that distilled advice comes from a woman who has navigated choppy waters and did not know the words “give up.”
Bangalore’s Taj West End Hotel turned 125 years old in 2012. This iconic Bangalore hotel is perhaps one of the oldest hotels in India. Established in 1887, the Westend was initially known as Mrs. Bronson’s Boarding House and had 10 beds. The original building where the boarding house was located is still intact and is [...]
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Mira Nair‘s latest films is The Reluctant Fundamentalist. The picture is based on a novel by the same name by Mohsin Hamid. The Reluctant Fundamentalist is an intimate portrait told with anguish and love about the 2 societies: American and South Asian says Mira, who came to the US as a 19 year old undergraduate to [...]