Senator Menendez reaches out to community
ARTHUR J PAIS
In an informal discussion with United States Senator
Robert Menendez (Democrat, New Jersey) recently,
about two dozen South Asian community leaders
expressed concern over issues ranging from domestic violence to the police checking people’s immigration status at random across New Jersey cities. A
representative for Manavi, an empowerment agency
for South Asian women, said H1 workers’ wives
hardly have any rights, which helps abusive husbands.
The meeting, initiated by the Senator’s office, was
held at the home of Khyati Y Joshi, associate professor, Fairleigh Dickinson University. She works with
teachers on anti-bias issues related to race, ethnicity
and immigration and her research focuses on the
South Asian-American community.
Explaining why he continues to seek out leaders of
immigrant communities, his office said, ‘As the son
of immigrants, Menendez strongly believes immigration is the cornerstone of the nation’s history and
success.’ The Senator, the statement added, ‘has been
working hard to pass comprehensive immigration
reform into law. Bob was a key negotiator on immigration legislation in both 2006 and 2007, and continues to advocate for fair and just policies that: 1.
secure our borders, 2. provide a path to earned legalization for the estimated 12 million undocumented
immigrants, 3. ensure families are unified, 4. allow longtime students to earn permanent residence status through
the Dream Act, and 5. make sure there are consequences
for employers who violate our laws.’ He also has introduced
the Reuniting Families Act, which expands the number
and type of visas for family members, and introduced legislation to ensure that the American immigration system
‘respects basic due process protections and ensures
humane treatment,’ the statement asserted.
“The Senator,” said Joshi, “is also concerned over bias
attacks and the continued concern in the community since
the gang killing of Dr (Divyendu) Sinha,” Sinha, 49, a scientist and professor at the Stevens Institute of Technology,
died last July after he and his two sons were attacked while
on a walk in Old Bridge, New Jersey. Though three teens
were charged with the murder, the community is still wor-
US Senator Robert Menendez, center, with community leaders outside Khyati Joshi’s house
‘I will continue (to) fight against the bias and gang violence that has plagued this community, so that all Asian
Americans feel safe and flourish, and all New Jerseyans can
benefit from their entrepreneurial spirit,’ Senator
Menendez told guests at Joshi’s home.
According to new census data, New Jersey’s Asian-American community has grown by over 50 percent over
the last 10 years, comprising 8.2 percent of the state’s population.
There are more than 1.5 million Asian American-owned
businesses nationwide, nearly 70,000 of which are located
in New Jersey, the Senator’s office pointed out.
Before meeting with South Asian leaders, the Senator’s
office said he ‘worked hard to ensure Asian Americans were
accurately counted in the 2010 Decennial Census… He is
working to empower the Asian American community
financially, including introducing legislation to encourage
savings among low-income families by matching certain
contributions, spur community development in under-
served neighborhoods through government backing for
investment bonds, and providing tax credits to encourage a
diversity of voices and minority ownership in the media.’
When Time magazine published a piece by Joel Stein that
ridiculed Edison, New Jersey’s increasing South Asian pop-
ulation, Menendez wrote to the magazine asserting the
column ‘not only fell terribly flat but crossed the lines of
offensiveness toward a particular community that has dealt
with violent hate crimes in the past. Mr Stein’s mocking
allusions to revered deities in the Hindu religion are par-
ticularly reprehensible.’ Following protests, Time and Stein
apologized for the article.
‘A dance performance is more than an event’
ARTHUR J PAIS
In the past five years, Vijayalakshmi has performed in over 24
cities in Europe and America — and North Korea — conducted
workshops and held master classes on Mohini Attam at universities in New York and California. She has often performed with
her mother Bharati Shivaji, who is also her guru and co-author
on Mohiniyattam, a book on the dance form that has influences
and elements from Bharata Natyam and Kathakali.
April 2, Vijayalakshmi will dance at Symphony Space, New
York City, at an event organized by the World Institute of Music.
Her mother won’t be with her this time, but Vijayalakshmi will
perform some of the classical compositions arranged by her
mother. Three years ago, Vijayalakshmi had performed at the
inaugural ceremony of the Incredible India at Sixty festival at the
Lincoln Center in New York.
“A dance performance is more than an event,” she said, speak-
ing from New Delhi where she helps her mother run the Center
for Mohini Attam, a teaching and production institution. “It
gives me an opportunity to explain about Mohini Attam.”
She will talk about the feminine nature of the dance. “Though
you will find a few men perform Mohini Attam,” she said, “it is
traditionally a dance meant for a female body.”
Mohini Attam had gone into decline for want of royal patron-
age but in the 1930s poet Vallathol founded the Kerala
Kalamandalam and revived the dance form, Vijayalakshmi said.
“My mother, who is Tamil, but was brought up in Bihar, home to
her ancestors for over 300 years, fell in love with it and began
showing it not only across India but also worldwide,” she added.
“My mother is extraordinary good at discovering forgotten tradi-
tions and reviving them.”
Vijayalakshmi began learning Bharata Natyam when she was
about 5 but one day in her pre-teen years, she saw her mother
practicing Mohini Attam. “It was utterly hypnotizing, and I
would dedicate my body and soul to this new discovery,” she said.
Master classes and workshops help her mature as an artist, she
said: “Teaching is an excellent way of learning and looking with-
One of the mother-daughter duo’s biggest successes,
Unmarcha, incorporated — in a first — elements of
Kalaripayattu, Kerala’s 2,000-year-old martial art tradition.
Inspired by Tchaikovsky, Vijayalakshmi choreographed Swan
Lake in the Mohini Attam style.