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Hidden-Gems

Bi-Annual Newsletter - Jan 2019
2018 was a fabulous year with a record breaking 1000-strong audience at our annual show: Jeena Isi Ka Naam Hai. Thanks to the support of our audience, sponsors, and volunteers, we were able to raise over $50,000 in support of and in partnership with Save Indian Farmers & Karma Junction!

In addition, we performed at Disha, a fundraiser in support of Punar Janman. Other highlights included numerous private events and two of our standard public events: Concerts in the Park series at South Brunswick and also the Stratford Ganesh Mandal celebrations! We were also fortunate to perform at the Inaugural Om Memorial 5K run and walk in Monroe!

We feel incredibly grateful to all of you who have joined us on this journey since 2005 and continue to help us support our mission: Sing with passion, Support a cause. 

We look forward to bring you more music and entertainment in 2019!

Happy New Year to you and yours.

Programs and Events

Hidden Gems performing outdoors 
at Woodlot Park - South Brunswick, NJ on July 20, 2018

Click to watch the snippet 
Hidden Gems performing for a private program
at Deewan - Banquet Hall in Piscataway, NJ on Sept 30, 2018
Hidden Gems performing for Ganpati celebrations  
at Monroe, NJ on Sept 21, 2018
Hidden Gems performing at Halloween Family Fun Festival and Kids Fun Run  
at Cranbury, NJ on Oct 20, 2018
Hidden Gems performing at DISHA - A Kerala Floods Fundraiser
at Rutgers Cook Student Center, NJ on Oct 21, 2018 in partnership with PunarJanmam

"Rhythm is a Dancer"

Nari Mahima : A tribute to women through dance 
by 
Trishala Parthasarthi

“Dance is a conversation between body and soul.” I feel free, joyous and meditative when I dance. I started learning Bharatanatyam at the age of 10 from my guru Kalaimamani Smt. Ramya Ramnarayan, and have been a student of Nrithyanjali Institute of Dance since. Dance has always been my passion and part of who I am. I did my Arangetram in July 2008, and despite having performed in various programs, I had never done a solo dance recital. Hence, last year, 2018, before moving to California, I presented a solo performance, “Nari Mahima,” underlining the role of women in Hindu mythology. This theme was inspired by recent movements such as #MeToo and #TimesUp and highlighted the importance of women from past to present through the lens of Bharatanatyam. Additionally, the funds raised supported Women’s Way, a local nonprofit institution empowering other organizations and individuals to take action to support equal opportunity for women, girls, and gender equality for all.
 

Presenting this program was a great learning experience for me since I was going to be wearing many hats organizing and presenting it.  As a performer, I have always taken all the behind-the-scenes tasks for granted. This event was an eye-opener for me and I learned to appreciate the amount of work that is put in, to actually organize and present a show.

Starting with a venue. I had to look for something reasonably priced, and in Philly. The Performance Garage, where I performed, is a home for the local dance community, and aims to reduce some of the barriers for dancers to produce their work. Next was to get the technical aspects together. For a dance performance, this includes clearly outlining the lighting and audio cues for each piece. The AV technician needed to know the order of the pieces, when the music should be played, and any lighting instructions such as spotlights or flashing lights during the piece to enhance the storytelling. Publicity is another important part of marketing an event. I used social media and word of mouth to let people know I was performing and raising funds for a good cause. I also got the audio files together, wrote and recorded the MC script to be played before each piece, and put together a program sheet.

Of course, I also had to consistently practice my pieces and ensure I had the stamina to get through a full-length performance of 1.5 hours. There were times where this was difficult as I was teaching 2 courses in college, planning my wedding reception, preparing for an across-country move, and also had severe knee pain due to excessive dancing. This taught me the importance of both time management and injury prevention. During this time, I learned what exercises I should do to strengthen the correct muscles so I wouldn’t strain myself or other parts of my body, and how to efficiently practice.

It is said that the eye of the storm is always calm because the strong surface winds that converge towards the center never reach it. That’s how it is, when I dance. Even though there were many things going on at the same time, this program helped me maintain a sense of calmness through the chaos. This performance was memorable in more ways than one, and I’m glad I got an opportunity to share this experience with my HG family through this newsletter.
 

Beyond Music

Hike in Machu Pichhu
- Vrinda Kulkarni Khatu (Sept 23, 2018)



 

In August 2018 I went on a 5 day hiking expedition to Machu Picchu in Peruvian Andes mountain ranges. Sharing my experience here.

 

This is called as Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu which starts at 3 hours drive from Cusco, a city based at approx. 10,000 feet altitude. We were a group of 11 hikers, 2 guides and a crew of 7 which included cooks, porters and horsemen. We spent three days before the hike in Cusco to get acclimatized to high altitudes. We went visiting the surrounding areas to get to know the Incan civilization, Peruvian culture, people, their lifestyle, ancient Incan empire cities, developments and ruins.

 

The first two days of the hike were on rocky bald mountains, at high altitudes, with glacier lakes, icy peaks, and almost no vegetation. The temperature was below freezing on the first day, first night and second half of the day. We reached to 15,300 feet altitude by mid day on day 2. Breathing and climbing, both are quite challenging at high altitudes where the oxygen level is low, and more so if you are experiencing altitude sickness. This was more like a spiritual walk than a physical activity. Mind and body play at its best !

 

Once we reached the summit of Salkantay mountain pass, we started descending, which is even more trickier than climbing. We descended to 8000 feet by the end of the second day, passing through cloud forests, and valleys. Then next two days were descends and ascends, through lovely tropical forests full of many fruits like pineapples, avocados, and beautiful flora. We were walking by waterfalls, rivers and hot springs. Being in the nature all the time was totally relaxing and rejuvenating.

 

On the fifth day we reached Machu Picchu, an ancient Incan city, which is at 7900 ft altitude, in lush green mountains. That was the end of our hike!! Mission accomplished !! We used to cover 8 - 10 miles daily, camping at nights. Finally we took a train and bus to return to Cusco. What took us 5 days on foot was just 5 hrs train and bus ride !!

 

This five day experience was one of a kind, absolutely beyond words and yet I have tried to bind it in words below. My new love for mountains!

My Dear Lord Mountain,


You stand so tall and elegant

Your ranges spreading wide

You look so hard to conquer


Hiding unknown inside

You are so mysterious

You keep on changing

Rocky, high and bald at times

Snow covered peaks crowning

 

You get thick green sometimes

Giving shelter to countless lives

You give birth to waterfalls and rivers

In your care flora and fauna thrives

 

Cold and windy at times

Resting under starry skies

Hot and humid you turn

Bathing under shining Sun

 

Vast and magnificent

You seem almost boundless

You make me feel insignificant

And help me feel selfless

 

Passing through you

Is not a small feat

I doubt my ability

But my heart upbeat

 

I seek your permission

And I pray to you

Knowing you won’t let me down

Just because I love you

 

I walk towards you

With no expectations or fear

Ready to accept what you offer

‘Cause I believe in you Dear

 

I struggle with my breath

Trying to maintain the pace

Although I have known that

Slow and steady wins the race

 

But once I find my rhythm

My feet and breath in harmony

I suddenly realize and fathom

That it is just You and Me !!

 

Your silence speaks a lot

A language of peace

Your serenity wraps me

In a world of bliss

 

I can’t resist you

When you keep calling

You take me on a ride

A journey so amazing

 

I am a traveler paving my path

Curious and eager to learn

Set out to explore and experience

Your miracles, wonders and fun

 

I am so grateful to you

For calling me your own

You and I are no different

Our creator is only One !!!

Action Changes Everything

by Ramana Subramniam

“Real difficulties can be overcome; it’s only the imaginary ones that are unconquerable.” – Theodore N. Vail



After I had decided what I am going to write about, I was mulling over what the title should be- something that in a few words captures the essence of what I wanted to write. My eyes fell upon this t-shirt that I had received from my employer, Bloomberg a couple of years ago for the J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge. The back of the t-shirt read Action Changes Everything. I felt that was the most appropriate title for this article.




Every year, as the previous year dusks and the new year dawns upon us, the one common thought on most people’s mind is what resolution(s) do I set for the new year. While most people are successful in setting resolutions at the start of the new year, by the end of January, only a few continue to work towards achieving the same. Indeed, statistics shows that less than 10% of people ever achieve their New Year’s resolutions.  Why is it that so many of us fail despite having the best of intention? A part of the problem is that many of us tend to set unrealistic goals or take on too many things and thus overwhelm ourselves. This could be fixed partly  by being realistic and making small changes, setting achievable goals, in increment, with each change building upon the previous one, improving your confidence and self-worth (refer to my article ‘The power of compounding’ in the previous issue. If you don’t have access to the previous issue, please feel free to contact me).  Partly, it could be fixed by being organized and planning ahead of time on how you are going to achieve your goals and resolutions. It can be a simple plan that nobody else but you need to know and understand.
 

However, while goal setting and planning are important, you need to follow them with massive action.  Action changes everything.  Without action, however great your intentions are and however organized your plan is, you won’t be able to achieve your goal.  With an action-oriented approach, even if you have setbacks, which most of you will invariably have, your activation energy will help you get right back on track and you will be able to overcome your difficulties and challenges. I wanted to share a personal story that has reinforced my belief that action is indeed the key to success.

 

As some of you are aware, since last year, I have started to participate in triathlons. One of my goals for last year was to complete a sprint distance triathlon (500 meters swim, 11.5 miles bike, 5K run).  I quantified my goal, and was certain it was achievable, put together a training plan and got working on it.  In early spring, I signed up for the NJ State Triathlon that is held in July in Mercer County Park. As I made progress through spring, I started believing that I could do a longer distance, Olympic distance (1500 meters swim, 25.2 miles bike, 10K run) and I upgraded my registration. On the race day, I felt confident as I had trained well and I could easily swim (most challenging for me) 1500 meters (in a pool). I entered the beautiful Mercer lake when my wave was called, I lunged into the water as soon as the whistle blew. After a few strokes, literally in less than a minute, I looked up and ahead and had no idea where I was; I saw most swimmers headed in a totally different direction. Panic set in and skill didn’t matter. My heart-rate increased and my legs started to sink. A part of me was telling me, I can do it and come out of this situation, and another part was telling me that this was just the beginning of the race and there is no way I can swim the distance of almost a mile. The latter part of me won the argument that day and I called for help. I was pulled out of water, which also meant I was disqualified (DQ’d) for the race. 

 

As I sat on the boat, being checked by the paramedic for any sign of trauma, I checked the time and although it was only 5 minutes since the race started, it seemed like an eternity. I was thinking to myself that perhaps this is not for me and I should just give up on this goal. A few other athletes were being pulled out and soon enough I had company. We shared our stories and soon it became clear to me that that open-water swim is a totally different ball game. With no swim lanes, clear water and feet unable to touch the bottom, it takes a different level of skill, training and practice to get comfortable. I started feeling better enough to ask if I could still complete the bike and run legs of the race.  I was told that I could but I was still DQ’d.  It didn’t matter as I wanted to do this for myself. Soon I was brought ashore and I ran to my bike as if I had completed my swim leg. I completed the bike and run legs with decent time, dejected at my failure but grateful for what I learned. 

 

From the very next day, I took massive action. I signed up for open-water swim lessons in Lake Medford, NJ. The first lesson was overwhelming and I was quite nervous given my recent debacle. It was a group lesson and there were swimmers with varying degree of skill and comfort level. Meg, our coach was extremely supportive and I owe her a lot for getting me comfortable swimming in a lake. With each subsequent visit to lake Medford, I got more and more comfortable and was able to swim quite a bit of distance.  To further improve my skill and get comfortable swimming in the ocean, I sought out a private coach, Adam. An accomplished Triathlete, Adam helped me work on my weak areas and help me improve my form and speed. I also started going to Peddie Lake in Hightstown every weekend for open-water swim.  On October 13, 2018, I completed my first Olympic distance Triathlon in the Pine Barrens Olympic Triathlon in Atsion, NJ.

 

I kept my promise to myself and felt very good about it.  The promises you make to yourself are the most important ones. Never break a promise that you make to yourself, even simple ones like you’ll wake up at a certain time, or you will work-out every day, or you’ll follow a certain diet, etc. You’ll see your self-confidence and self-worth grow as you strive to keep these seemingly trivial commitments that you make to yourself. Some of us don’t realize that these are little promises that we make to ourselves but we give up on them quite easily, perhaps because we think nobody knows or cares about it-  but remember -you know and care about it.

 

There is still a lot of learning and improvements to come and I’m sure they will. This year, I’ve signed up for the Atlantic City Half Ironman (1.2 miles swim, 56 miles bike, 13.1 miles run) to be held on September 15th.  I feel committed to plan, set goals, take action and keep my promises to myself.

Treasured memories of the HG Family

My Rebirth (Rajeshree’s journey)

Written by Rajeshree Kulkarni
Translated by Anandi Nagarajan

Rajeshree is an icon of grace, strength and optimism. This becomes easily visible even to someone who is meeting her for the first time. In this intensely inspirational article she reflects on her journey with breast cancer, her fears and struggles, and is appreciative of the support of her friends and family that helped her conquer cancer physically and emotionally. Originally written in Marathi, it has been translated to English by her very close friend and well wisher - Anandi Nagarajan.

Read on

Spotlight

Ashmita Jain
A much cherished Hidden Gems Volunteer
A  fun loving travel enthusiast hailing from Gujarat, India. The land which gave us the Mahatma, I have tried to inculcate the values lived by him since my childhood. An ambitious working woman with a degree in software engineering, I still am homely and affectionate towards the little things in life. I like dedicating my free time to community service and volunteering for various social upliftment organizations. A cat lover, I have a soft spot for all furry animals. My other hobbies include D-I-Ying , gardening and cooking.
Hidden Gems is a Tax-Exempt, 501(c)(3) organization (Tax Id:26 - 2288799) registered for taxes in the state of New Jersey.






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