building support for South Asian and diasporic writing

Kriti (creation)

Chicago, IL

June 11 - 14, 2009, Chicago

Guests of Honor: Romesh Gunesekera, Amitava Kumar, Bapsi Sidhwa

Romesh Gunesekera's first novel Reef was shortlisted for the 1994 Booker Prize and won a Premio Mondello Five Continents Award in Italy. He is also the author of The Sandglass, (winner of the inaugural BBC Asia Award) and Heaven's Edge which like his collection of stories, Monkfish Moon, was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. His fourth novel The Match, was described by the Spectator as 'effortlessly accomplished,' and the Irish Times as a book that 'shows why fiction is written--and read'.

His fiction has been translated into many languages from Norwegian to Chinese. His books are studied on university courses in a number of countries and Reef is a prescribed text in the new English Literature Advanced level syllabus in Britain.

He is an Associate Tutor on the graduate writing programme at Goldsmiths College, University of London and has been a trustee of the Arvon Foundation (for creative writing). He has also been a writer-in-residence in Singapore, Hong Kong, Denmark among other places. His workshop in Greece was listed in the top ten summer activities for 2008 by the Sunday Times in London. In 2004 he was made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and in 2005 received a National Honour in Sri Lanka. Last year he was awarded the Jura Writer's Retreat by the Scottish Book Trust to spend time on the remote island on which George Orwell wrote 1984.

Amitava Kumar is a writer and journalist born in Ara, Bihar; he is the author of Husband of a Fanatic (The New Press, 2005 and Penguin-India, 2004), Bombay-London-New York (Routledge and Penguin-India, 2002), and Passport Photos (University of California Press and Penguin-India, 2000). He has also written a book of poems, No Tears for the N.R.I. (Writers Workshop, Calcutta, 1996). The novel Home Products was published in early 2007 by Picador-India. His forthcoming book, A Foreigner Carrying in the Crook of His Arm a Tiny Bomb, is a writer's report on the global war on terror.

Husband of a Fanatic was an "Editor's Choice" book at the New York Times; Bombay-London-New York was on the list of "Books of the Year" in The New Statesman (UK); and Passport Photos won an "Outstanding Book of the Year" award from the Myers Program for the Study of Bigotry and Human Rights in North America. His novel Home Products was short-listed for India's premier literary prize, the Crossword Book Award.

Amitava Kumar's non-fiction and poetry has been published in The Nation, Harper's, Kenyon Review, New Statesman, Boston Review, Transition, American Prospect, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Toronto Review, Colorlines, Biblio, Outlook, Frontline, India Today, The Hindu, Himal, Herald, The Friday Times, The Times of India and a variety of other venues. He is the script-writer and narrator of the prize-winning documentary film, Pure Chutney (1997), and also the more recent Dirty Laundry (2005).

Bapsi Sidhwa was raised in Lahore, Pakistan. Her five novels: Water, An American Brat, Cracking India, The Bride, and The Crow Eaters have been translated and published in several languages. Her anthology: City of Sin and Splendour [aka] Beloved City.: Writings on Lahore, was published in 2006.

Among her many honors Sidhwa received the Bunting Fellowship at Radcliffe/Harvard, the Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Writer's Award, the Sitara-i-Imtiaz, Pakistan's highest national honor in the arts, and the LiBeraturepreis in Germany and the 2007 Primo Mondello Award in Italy.

Cracking India (a New York Times Notable Book of the Year and a Quality Paperback Book Club selection), was made into the film Earth by Canadian director Deepa Mehta. Her latest novel Water is based on Mehta's film of the same name.

Sidhwa's play, An American Brat, was produced by Stages Repertory Theater in Houston March 2007. It played to full houses and received critical acclaim. Her play, Sock'em With Honey, played in London in 2003.

Other Panelists

  • Shilpa Agarwal is the author of Haunting Bombay, a literary ghost story set in 1960's India that was awarded a First Words Literary Prize for South Asian Writers and published in April 2009 by Soho Press. It will be published internationally later this year. Shilpa's writing is informed by glimpses into moments of alienation and awakening, especially during geographic and metaphoric crossings: east meets west, centers meet the peripheries, the living meet the dead. She writes to call up the haunting utterances of the excluded, to excavate fragmentary memories that edge consciousness, and to imagine a more nuanced narrative of history itself.

  • A writer, researcher, copywriter, biographer and poet for twenty years, Vinita Agarwal lives in Indore. She was born in Bikaner, raised and schooled in Kalimpong and Kolkata and did her B.A. and M.A. in political science from M.S. University Vadodara, Gujarat. Her research work, non-fiction and poetry have been published in International Centre for Peace Initiatives, Hobson's Casebooks, Free Press, Femina, Savvy, Marwar, Biblio, MuseIndia, Indianwildlife, Indianwriters, kritya, sulekha, and other venues. Passionate about heritage and culture, she is a life member of INTACH. Her book of poems and two coffee-table books on vintage cars to be published soon.

  • Fuad Ahmad is a multi-media artist representing the Bengali folk tradition in the international diaspora of second-generation Indian immigrants. He performs and records under the name DhakFu. Born in Boston and raised across the United States, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia, Fuad moved to Chicago in 1999. He currently spends his days as a creative coordinator for Leo Burnett Worldwide, and his nights collaborating and performing alongside Karsh Kale, State of Bengal, the Midival PunditZ, Chicago's Bombay Beatbox crew, and countless others. Fuad was the Chicago Market Manager for Six Degrees Records from 2002-2006. For more information, see

  • Nawaaz Ahmed is a transplant from Tamil Nadu, India, where he majored in Computer Science. Since moving to the US in 1994, he's been dabbling in the arts (choreography, painting, photography, music), finally taking the plunge last year and dubbing himself a writer. He's currently working on a collection of novellas set around the world, exploring familial ties, love, faith and sexuality. He resides in San Francisco, and will start his MFA in creative writing at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, this fall.

  • Anjal Chande ( is an independent dance artist, eager to see bharatanatyam thrive in Chicago's cultural community and beyond. Anjal seeks to create work that speaks to the current times and this diverse locality by bringing together innovative choreography, compelling ideas, and original music. She is the founder and director of Soham Dance Space, which offers unique instruction in Indian dance in Chicago and Palos Park. Anjal has performed worldwide, receiving numerous awards and critical acclaim. Anjal trained in bharatanatyam under Smt. Hema Rajagopalan and renowned gurus of Chennai, India. She is a proficient musician and a graduate of New York University.

  • Anita Chandwaney is ecstatic to be a part of the nation's first full production of Yoni ki Baat. She very recently closed Haram Iran. Her other Chicago credits include work with Next, Collaboraction at Steppenwolf, Lookingglass, Organic, Pegasus, Remy Bumppo, Silk Road, Babes with Blades, and Rasaka -- for which she was also the Founding Executive Director and co-producer of their Jeff Citation winning The Masrayana. NYC credits include work with Playwrights Horizons, Ensemble Studio Theatre and Open Eye. Her first full-length play, Gandhi Marg, won 2nd place in Writers Digests 75th Stage Play Competition, and was a finalist in Chicago Dramatists' Many Voices Project and a recipie of a 3ArtFellowship. She wishes to thank her family for their love and encouragement.

  • A native of Kolkata, India, Tua Chaudhuri is a writer and teacher currently living in Nashville, Tennessee. As an undergraduate she studied History and English at Bryn Mawr College and King's College London. She will complete her MFA from Warren Wilson in July 2009.

  • Nitin Deckha published his first collection of short stories, Shopping for Sabzi (TSAR Publications) in fall 2008. His fiction has appeared in South Asian Review, Existere, and Anokhi Vibe. In October 2008, he was Writer-in-Residence at Nitin holds a PhD in Anthropology from Rice University. He has worked in advertising and marketing, and now teaches Social Sciences at University of Guelph-Humber and Humber Institute in Toronto, where he was raised and now lives.

  • Deeva Dance Troupe is a nationally-recognized, all-female dance troupe at Northwestern University that blends the best of Indian classical, Bollywood, folk, jazz, modern and hip-hop. Founded in 2001, the troupe has a unique mission: to generate and participate in an intercultural dialogue through dance. Each dancer brings a unique background from the diverse regions of South Asia and knowledge of a variety of dance styles from all over the world. By choreographing dances that mix cultures, Deeva is excited to not only bring increased cultural awareness to the student body, but to have a cultural exchange through dance.

  • Ashini J. Desai coupled her BA in English with an MS in Information Science by balancing poetry, project management, and motherhood. Her poems have been published in the anthologies of Asian-American poetry Yellow as Tumeric, Fragrant as Cloves, Sulekha Select and Shakti Ki Awaaz, as well as literary journals Philadelphia Poets and Thema. In addition, her essay was included in the new anthology Labor Pains and Birth Stories. She has written online poetry and book reviews (,,, and parenting columns for South Asian-Americans (

  • Anjalee Deshpande is a playwright/actor/director who hails most recently from Lewisburg, PA where she teaches in the theatre department at Bucknell University. Anjalee is a graduate of the MFA directing program at Northwestern University and the BA theatre program at Kalamazoo College. Throughout her career Ms. Deshpande has been freelance directing, writing and acting in New York City, Chicago, London and Mumbai. Anjalee's focus is devised theatre and the Michael Chekhov technique. Anjalee's most recent essay on Theatre and Motherhood in Academia is published in the anthology called MaMa PHD which is available through Rutger's University Press.

  • Ru Freeman was born into a family of writers and many boys in Colombo, Sri Lanka. After a year of informal study at Murdoch University in Perth, Western Australia, she arrived in the United States with a Parker ink pen and a box of Staedler pencils to attend Bates College in Maine. She completed her Masters in Labor Relations at the University of Colombo, and worked in the field of American and international humanitarian assistance and workers' rights. Her political writing has appeared in English and in translation. Her creative work has appeared or is forthcoming in Guernica, Story Quarterly, Crab Orchard Review, WriteCorner Press, Kaduwa and elsewhere. Her debut novel, A Disobedient Girl, will also be published in Dutch, Italian, Chinese, Portuguese and Hebrew. She calls both Sri Lanka and America home and writes about the people and countries underneath her skin.

  • Minita Gandhi was born in Mumbai, India. She is proud to be a part of Rasaka's Yoni Ki Baat. A San Francisco transplant, Minita is thrilled to now call Chicago home and has had the privilege of working with Silk Road, Lookingglass, Theater Seven, Stage Left, Apple Tree, and is an associate artist of Halcyon Theater. Minita may also be seen this February at Piccolo Theater where she will be playing Viola in Twelfth Night, and this summer in Lookingglass', Arabian Nights. She would like to thank God, her family, friends, Ms. Lavina, and gives a shout out to brave yonis everywhere!

  • V.V. Ganeshananthan is a graduate of Harvard College, the Iowa Writers' Workshop and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. Her first novel, Love Marriage (Random House), was named one of Washington Post Book World's Best of 2008 and longlisted for the Orange Prize. This fall, she will begin teaching at the University of Michigan as the Zell Visiting Professor of Creative Writing.

  • Minal Hajratwala is a writer, performer, poet, and queer activist based in San Francisco, where she was born before being whisked off to be raised in new Zealand and suburban Michigan. She spent seven years researching and writing LEAVING INDIA, traveling the world to interview more than seventy-five members of her extended family. As a journalist, she worked at the San Jose Mercury News for eight years and was a National Arts Journalism Program fellow at Columbia University's Graduate School of journalism. She is a graduate of Stanford University.

  • Farha Hasan is a librarian living and working in Boston. She has come back to writing fiction after a brief stint in advertising where she was involved in copywriting, casting and strategic planning. Her short stories have been published in various ezines and small circulation presses such as, the Binnacle, Samizdada, Down in the Dirt, Toasted Cheese and Wild Violet and Skyline Magazine. She has recently completed her first novel.

  • Fatima T. Husain is a cognitive neuroscientist by training. Presently she teaches about sounds and the brain at a large University. She has written poetry since she was 9 years old and has occasionally published in tiny journals, so tiny that only three persons (her family) read the poems. She hopes to remedy that by growing her family.

  • Tania James was raised in Louisville, Kentucky, after a brief stint in Chicago from ages 0 to 4. She graduated from Harvard University in 2003 with a bachelors degree in Visual and Environmental Studies, with a focus in filmmaking. She received her Masters of Fine Arts in fiction from Columbia's School of the Arts in 2006. Her work has been published in One Story magazine and The New York Times. Her debut novel Atlas of Unknowns is being released by Knopf on April 21st, and has been sold in eight additional countries. She lives in New York City. Visit her at

  • Sheba Karim was born and raised in Catskill, NY. She is a graduate of the New York University School of Law and the Iowa Writers Workshop. Her fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in 580 Split, Asia Literary Review, Barn Owl Review, DesiLit, EGO, Kartika Review, Shenandoah, and the Tranquebar Anthology of Erotic Literature. One of her short stories was recently nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her young adult novel, Skunk Girl, was published by Farar, Straus, and Giroux in March 2009. She currently lives in New York City.

  • Shisir Khanal is Executive Director of Sarvodaya USA, a Madison, Wisconsin based non-profit organization. Sarvodaya USA supports programs in Nepal and Sri Lanka through Sarvodaya Nepal in Nepal and the Shramadana Movement in Sri Lanka. The Shramadana Movement is the largest grassroots development and peace movement in Sri Lanka. The Movement supports 15,000 communities in Sri Lanka and is considered one of the best community based organizations in the world. Sarvodaya's outstanding tsunami relief work won the United Nations honor in 2005. A native of Nepal, Shisir graduated with a degree in Masters in International Public Affairs (MIPA) from La Follette School of Public Affairs in 2005.

  • Shamila Khetarpal has studied, performed and choreographed Bhangra and Bollywood dance for 20 years. Shamila has taught and performed internationally, is a Bhangra Coordinator for the Punjabi Cultural Society of Chicago, appeared in the RDB/Snoop Dogg "Singh is King" video, and was a judge at the 2008 PCS Chicago International Bhangra Competition. Shamila has taught Bhangra at the Old Town School of Folk Music since 2003, and has taught at Chicago Summerdance, Millennium Park Workouts, the University of Chicago Folk Festival, the Old Town School of Folk Music Folk and Roots Festival, and Chicago area Bhangra parties.

  • Born in India and raised in the Middle East, Mouzam Makkar has been performing all her life, either in front of a crowd or just in front of the bathroom mirror. Although a student and performer of Indian classical dance and voice since the age of four, her acting debut wasn't until after her big move to the United States at the age of twelve. New to the Chicago acting scene, she has already appeared in a few independent movies and commercials. Mouzam is thrilled to appear in Yoni Ki Baat and extends a deep gratitude to all those who have and continue to support her acting pursuits.

  • Fawzia Mirza is excited to be back home in Chicago and in her second production with Rasaka Theatre Company! She recently appeared in 1001, a modern adaptation of the Arabian nights at Mixed Blood Theatre in Minneapolis, MN, where she played the classic Muslim heroine, Scheherezade. She performed at the 2008 NYC Fringe Festival in The Refugee Girls Revue: A Musical Parody, heralded the best show of the Fringe by She understudied Beatrice at Chicago Shakespeare Theatre in the Jeff Award-Winning, Funk It Up About Nothin', she tours year-round with a comedy educational show, Sex Signals and she produces documentaries. She wants to thank a little yellow bird for being down with the brown.

  • Monica Mody's poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Nthposition, The Little Magazine, Pratilipi, DesiLit Magazine, Kritya, Talking Poetry India, Midway Journal, Women. Period, and Sheher: Urban Poetry by Indian Women. She curated a multilingual poetry in performance series in Delhi through 2007-08 called "Open Baithak" and was awarded the Toto Funds the Arts Award for Creative Writing in 2006. She is a lawyer by training, has worked as a freelance writer and editor, and is interested in flanerie, queer theory, postcolonial theory and cats. Monica currently attends the University of Notre Dame's M.F.A. Creative Writing Program as a teaching fellow.

  • Mary Anne Mohanraj is the author of Bodies in Motion, Sri Lankan-American linked stories (HarperCollins) and nine other titles. Bodies in Motion was a finalist for the Asian-American Book Award and has been translated into six languages. She teaches creative writing, Asian American lit., and post-colonial literature at the University of Illinois, and has received an Illinois Arts Council Fellowship in Prose, a Neff Fellowship, a Steffenson-Canon Fellowship in the Humanities, and the Scowcroft Prize for Fiction. Mohanraj serves as Executive Director of both DesiLit (, supporting S. Asian and diaspora literature, and the Speculative Literature Foundation ( In 2009, the Chicago Foundation for Women named her a leader in the Asian American creative arts.

    Natya Dance Theatre (NDT), a critically acclaimed dance company based in Chicago , was founded in 1974 by renowned dancer, choreographer and dance educator Hema Rajagopalan. NDT's contemporary style is rooted in Bharata Natyam, one of the great classical dance forms of India . The Natya Company has been presented by the World Music Institute in New York City, The Ailey Citigroup Theater, Ravinia Festival, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Chicago's Museum of Contemporary At , and many other prestigious venues. In 2006, the Company performed with cellist Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble before an audience of 13,000 at Chicago's Pritzker Pavilion at Millennium Park. The Natya Dance Theatre School offers Bharata Natyam instruction to students ages four-and-a-half and up; new classes for children and adults begin in Chicago this month. Contact NDT program coordinator, Bill Jordan, 312-212-1240;, for information and to register.

  • Shakuntala Rajagopal, affectionately known as Dr. Shaku, was born in Kerala, South India, and came to the United States in her early twenties. After a long and distinguished career in Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, she retired to be an active grandmother, while pursuing her passions of writing and painting. Her first novel, Radha, was published in November, 2007 She has won awards for her poems in the Writers Digest Annual Competitions, in 2006 and 2008. She is a longstanding member of Barrington Writer’s Workshop, a Off Campus Writers's Workshop in Winnetka, Illinois. She lives with her husband in Algonquin, Illinois.

  • Kavitha Rajagopalan is the author of Muslims of Metropolis: The Stories of Three Muslim Immigrant Families in the West, and a Senior Fellow at the World Policy Institute, and was recently named a Carnegie New Leader by the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs. She received a Master's degree in International Affairs from Columbia University, and a Bachelor's degree in International Relations from the College of William & Mary. She was awarded a Fulbright scholarship, the Foreign Language and Area Studies fellowship, and the John J. McCloy Journalism fellowship. Kavitha lives in Brooklyn, NY with her husband.

  • Rishi Reddi's debut collection, Karma and Other Stories, won the 2008 PEN / L.L. Winship Award and was also published in Germany and India. Her work has appeared in Best American Short Stories 2005, read on National Public Radio's Selected Shorts series and earned an honorable mention in Pushcart Prize 2004. She has received fellowships from the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference, the Massachusetts Cultural Council, and Vermont Studio Center. She is an environmental attorney for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and serves on the Board of Directors for South Asian Americans Leading Together ( She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Photo credit: Peter Tannenbaum

  • Sonal Shah plays Dr. Sunny Dey on ABC's "Scrubs." She is a dancer was named Miss DuPage County Queen and one of DuPage's Top Twenty Students. She received the Burshtan/Kiwanis Leadership Award, the Weinig Travel Fellowship, attended Loyola University as a Presidential Scholar, graduated with a degree in Theatre/Pre-Medicine, and gave the commencement address. Sonal, a founding member of Rasaka Theatre Company, was active in Chicago Theatre and performed with The Goodman among many others. She supplemented her acting education at Improv Olympic, The Moscow Art Theatre School at Harvard University, and graduated from The Second City Conservatory. Sonal booked a series regular role in ABC Family's "The PTA." She performed in the NBC Diversity Showcase and has tested for 5 pilots. Please visit

  • Born and raised in India, Manisha Sharma earned a Masters and PhD in literature before enrolling in the MFA program at Virginia Tech. She ardently believes that genres interact and inform each other. A winner of the Greenbelt Prize in fiction, her work has been nominated for Best New American Voices, and is also the first runner-up for the Virginia Tech Fiction Prize. She served as the co-editor of The New River, a journal of digital writing and art. At present she is working on an anthology of short stories. She lives in Blacksburg with her husband and their three-year-old son.

  • Prema Srinivasan is the author of two novels, Merging Waters and Founders Inn as well as a work of short fiction titled "Bleeding Hearts." Her poetry has appeared in the Worcester Telegram and Gazette, Shards Volume XV, and the Apricot Hill Literary Magazine. She is an avid hiker and has written travel blurbs incorporating geotagging. She has also been ballroom dancing for over eleven years and has performed and taught workshops with her dance partner. She currently works in Marketing Communications. Prema was a panelist at Kriti 2007.

  • Ankur Thakkar has blogged for the AVS TV Network and his writing has appeared in The Indian Express, iStyle Magazine, and Saathee Magazine. He attends Northwestern University in pursuit of a MFA in fiction. A lifelong musician, it might only be coincidence that his name is pronounced 'encore'. He lives in Chicago.

  • Deepak Unnikrishnan writes. Short stories. He is Abu Dhabi-an, manufactured and product tested in the capital by a quiet yet befuddled South Indian family. Bane, The Brined Brain of I is his forthcoming short story collection; excerpts have appeared in Desilit, Ego, and read from at Artwallah 2008. His first set of shorts, Coffee Stains in a Camel's Teacup (2004) was published by Vijitha Yapa Publications (Colombo, Sri Lanka). A performance artist, he has also acted out his work, dissecting the pieces into spoken word and one-act-one-man plays.

  • Sweta Srivastava Vikram is an author, poet, writer, blogger, marketing professional living in New York City. Born in India, Sweta spent her formative years between the blue waters of Libya and the green hills of Mussoorie, before arriving in bustling New York. In 2008, her first book of poetry, Pabulum, was published. Pabulum is a journey through Sweta's emotions and reveals her opinions based on her experiences. In March 2009, Mirage Books published one of Sweta's stories as part of a short story collection, Inner Voices. She is a graduate of Columbia University in New York.

    Rachna Vohra is a Montreal-born, South Asian poet and spoken word artist who finds meaning in colouring outside of the lines drawn, accepted, and perpetuated by society. With a goal of transforming minds, she found spoken word to be an empowering tool towards social change and critical thinking. Over the last few years, she has begun effecting change by addressing social, political, and emotional issues through her work. She has self-published two books; been published in magazines, zines, and anthologies; has been recorded on CD; and has performed at poetry and spoken word venues across North America. To find out more about Rachna Vohra, visit


Kriti 2009 is co-sponsored by Roosevelt University and the University of Illinois at Chicago. From Thursday evening until Friday at five p.m., we'll be at UIC's West Loop campus (registration and check-in at the Institute for the Humanities, Stevenson Hall, 701 S. Morgan Street). From Friday at five until Sunday afternoon, we'll be at Roosevelt University (registration and check-in on Friday at Ganz Hall, and on Saturday/Sunday at the Congress Lounge, both at 430 S. Michigan Ave).

Both locations are wheelchair-accessible.



7:00 - 10:00 p.m.

Opening Reception and Rapid-Fire Reading
Come join us for samosas, sweets, and a rapid-fire sampling of fabulous fiction, poetry, and more, from local and visiting authors! Featuring: Nawaaz Ahmed, Minal Hajratwala, V.V. Ganeshananthan, Farha Hasan, Mary Anne Mohanraj, Angeli Primlani, Shakuntala Rajagopal, Manish Shah, Manisha Sharma, Prema Srinivasan, Deepak Unnikrishnan, Sweta Vikram, and Rachna Vohra
UIC, Institute for the Humanities, Stevenson Hall, lower level


10:00 - 10:50

Bapsi Sidhwa Class Visit
Join Bapsi Sidwha in Mary Anne Mohanraj's introductory colonial / post-colonial literature class for an hour of conversation about her novel, Cracking India, in particular and post-colonial literature in general. All are welcome!
UIC, Taft Hall, Room 207

11:00 - 11:50

Writing Culturally-Specific Stories: The Authenticity Debate
What do you say if someone says to you, "You don't even live in South Asia -- what makes you think you're authentic enough to be telling this story? You don't know us!" When you write about a culture, do you feel a responsibility to accurately represent the community? What are your concerns? What do you do to help you in that process? (Prema Srinivasan (m),Tania James, Tua Chaudhuri, Manisha Sharma, Kavitha Rajagopalan)
UIC, Institute for the Humanities, Stevenson Hall, lower level

The Red Sari Project: A Comparison of South Asian Diaspora Book Covers
(Mary Anne Mohanraj)
UIC, University Hall, Rm 2028

12:00 - 12:50: Lunch Break

12:30 - 1:50 Film Screening: Sita Sings the Blues
Directed, written, produced, designed, and animated by Nina Paley. Sita is a Hindu goddess, the leading lady of India's epic the Ramayana and a dutiful wife who follows her husband Rama on a fourteen-year exile to a forest, only to be kidnapped by an evil king from Sri Lanka. Despite remaining faithful to her husband, Sita is put through many tests. Nina (the filmmaker Nina Paley herself) is an artist who finds parallels in Sita's life when her husband -- in India on a work project -- decides to break up the marriage and dump her via email. Three hilarious Indonesian shadow puppets with Indian accents -- linking the popularity of the Ramayana from India all the way to the Far East -- narrate both the ancient tragedy and modern comedy in this beautifully animated interpretation of the epic. In her first feature length film, Paley juxtaposes multiple narrative and visual styles to create a highly entertaining yet moving vision of the Ramayana. Musical numbers choreographed to the 1920's jazz vocals of Annette Hanshaw feature a cast of hundreds: flying monkeys, evil monsters, gods, goddesses, warriors, sages, and winged eyeballs. A tale of truth, justice and a woman's cry for equal treatment. Sita Sings the Blues earns its tagline as "The Greatest Break-Up Story Ever Told."
UIC, University Hall, Rm 2028

1:00 - 1:50

Queer Issues in South Asian Literature/Theatre/Film)
Authors and readers consider the role of GLBT characters and queer issues in South Asian literature, and discuss these stories' reception in the South Asian community. Do we need an explicitly queer space? What opportunities are there for publication / presentation? Is there danger of being typecast? Has queerness become more acceptable now? (Nawaaz Ahmed (m), Monica Mody, Mary Anne Mohanraj)
UIC, Institute for the Humanities, Stevenson Hall, lower level

2:00 - 2:50

Workshop: Performance Tips for Writers
A workshop geared towards writers who want to read their work more effectively, or maybe even memorize and go one step beyond just reading. Actors and writers will work together on acting/performance tricks (beyond 'make eye contact') such as grounding before performing, sensing the energy of the audience, being energetically open as a performer, vocal warmups/projection, etc. (Anita Chandwaney (m), Sonal Shah, Minal Hajratwala, Rachna Vohra, Kavitha Rajagopalan)
UIC Institute for the Humanities, Stevenson Hall, lower level

Readings: Farha Hasan, Ankur Thakkar, Deepak Unnikrishnan
UIC, University Hall, Rm 2028

3:00 - 3:50

Page to Stage
Is the distinction between 'spoken' and 'written' word relevant any longer, given the growing numbers of writers on the performance circuit? How do we take work from the page to live performance? What are the pitfalls and richnesses of staging our work? Are there different audiences for books vs. performance? Why perform rather than publish, or vice versa? (This panel will cover performance poetry, theatre, and film.) (Rachna Vohra (m), Bapsi Sidhwa, Anita Chandwaney, Deepak Unnikrishnan)
UIC, Institute for the Humanities, Stevenson Hall, lower level

Crossing Genre Boundaries
We've all seen the epic South Asian family novel, a sprawling tale of marriage and politics and history and social conflict. What other kinds of South Asian fiction is out there? Who are our science fiction and fantasy writers, our mystery authors, our spy novels, romances, and political thrillers? Writers discuss the challenges of breaking out of the 'literary' ghetto as an ethnic writer, and recommend favorite work in other genres. (Shilpa Agarwal (m), Farha Hasan, Mary Anne Mohanraj)
UIC, University Hall, Rm 2028

Readings: Prema Srinivasan, Kavitha Rajagopalan
UIC, University Hall, Rm 2550

4:00 - 4:50

Building the Buzz: Marketing Ourselves as Artists
Writers and artists in a variety of genres brainstorm methods for marketing themselves and their work, from doing traditional events, to hiring help, to public speaking, headshots, Twittering, 'virtual' book touring, and more. With so many new South Asian American "creatives" emerging, how do you set yourself apart from the crowd -- or collaborate to give everyone maximum exposure? (Minal Hajratwala (m), Shilpa Agarwal, Sonal Shah, Farha Hasan, Nitin Deckha, Rachna Vohra)
UIC, Institute for the Humanities, Stevenson Hall, lower level

Readings: Monica Mody, Tua Chaudhuri
UIC, University Hall, Rm 2028

5:30 - 6:15 p.m. Bapsi Sidhwa Reading and Booksigning
Roosevelt University, Ganz Hall

6:30 - 7:30 p.m.: Dinner break

7:30 - 8:20 Dance Performances
Roosevelt University, Ganz Hall

Deeva Dance Troupe: Four Elements
"Who are we? What are doing here? What is this world about? Water, wind, earth and us the reason to live, the reason to dance, the reason to rejoice." Deeva Dance Troupe presents a unique artistic interpretation of the four classical elements. Through a powerful blend of Indian folk, modern jazz, hip-hop and Bharat Natyam, we are excited to share the beauty of our world by exploring its most fundamental elements. Featuring: Godhuli Chatterjee, Farah Dahya, Ruchi Behl, Annelyse Ahmad, Pallavi Sriram, Deepa Ramadurai

"Darkness" is a dance piece that developed out of an original poem. It considers darkness a realm of brilliance and retreat, and it reflects on the access we have to bliss within ourselves. English poetry blended with a rich orchestration of sitar and piano, this piece is a distinct choreographic exploration of bharatanatyam dance technique and was created through a collaboration between Anjal Chande and musician Gaurav Venkateswar. (Concept, Poetry, Music Direction, Choreography: Anjal Chande. Music Composition, Arrangement, Editing, Instrumentation, Vocals: Gaurav Venkateswar)

8:30 - 11:30

Open Mic
Sign up at the door to read at an open mic -- all are welcome! 5 minute limit per performance!
Roosevelt University, Ganz Hall


8:30 - 10:00

Intermediate Writing Workshop
Participants sign up in advance and circulate manuscripts for small group workshopping. Muffins, juice, coffee may be provided, no guarantees (Nitin Deckha)
Roosevelt U., Rm 308

10:00 - 10:45

I Don't Want to Be a Doctor (Lawyer/Engineer/Mommy/Etc.) Anymore!
What do you do when you've succeeded in a South Asian-parent-approved career -- and realize what you really want to do is be a writer or other kind of artist/performer? Can you do a 180-career-wise? What if you're a busy stay-at-home parent? Are there ways to incorporate the arts into a busy work/family life? Those who have done it tell their tales! (Shilpa Agarwal (m), Anjalee Deshpande-Nadkarni, Shakuntala Rajagopal, Rishi Reddi, Nawaaz Ahmed)
Roosevelt U., Rm 320

Recommended Poetry
Maybe we should be reading poetry, but are we? Where should we find it? In magazines? At readings or other events? Working poets share work by their favorite contemporary South Asian poets, and tell you about the poetry they love. (Sweta Vikram (m), Rachna Vohra, Prema Srinivasan, Ashini Desai, Tua Chaudhuri)
Roosevelt U., Rm 306

Readings: Ru Freeman, Nitin Deckha, Manisha Sharma
Roosevelt U., Rm 310

11:00 - 11:45

KEYNOTE PANEL: "What's Not To Like?"
Three writers discuss their likes (and maybe even dislikes) on the subject of contemporary South Asian writing. Our Guests of Honor Bapsi Sidhwa, Romesh Gunesekera, and Amitava Kumar, will read from the writings of an author they admire; a moderator will then lead a brief discussion with the writers before opening the conversation to the members of the audience. (Mary Anne Mohanraj (m), Bapsi Sidhwa, Romesh Gunesekera, Amitava Kumar)
Roosevelt U., Ganz Hall

11:45 - 12:30

Keynote Reception
Ganz Hall Reception Room

12:30 - 2:00

Yoni ki Baat
Rasaka Theatre Company presents an encore performance of Yoni Ki Baat, a funny, heartfelt and thought-provoking monologue cycle, loosely inspired by Eve Ensler's The Vagina Monologues. By combining spoken word, music and dance, Rasaka presents an exploration of female sexuality, seen through the lens of diasporic culture. Like a chain letter passed through the theatrical community, Yoni Ki Baat features contributions from female writers across the country, including six new monologues by local writers. Directed by Lavina Jadhwani, featuring Anita Chandwaney, Minita Gandhi, Mouzam Makkar and Fawzia Mirza. ($5 suggested donation at the door, Ganz Hall)
Roosevelt U., Ganz Hall

1:00 - 1:50: Beginner Writing Workshop
Designed to allow walk-ins to try some basic writing exercises, with panelist supervision. (Minal Hajratwala (m), Prema Srinivasan, Nitin Deckha)
Roosevelt U., Rm 308

Readings: Shilpa Agarwal, Rachna Vohra
Roosevelt U., Rm 310

2:00 - 2:50: Lunch Break

3:00 - 3:50

Amitava Kumar Reading + Booksigning
Roosevelt U., Ganz Hall

Sarvodaya Presentation
Roosevelt U., Rm 306

3:00 - 4:20
Film Screening: Sita Sings the Blues Directed, written, produced, designed, and animated by Nina Paley. -- Please see Friday for full description.
Roosevelt U., Rm 306

4:00 - 4:50

Politics and Writing: A Panel and Open Discussion
Writers discuss their goals in writing about politics. (Is any writing not political?) Are they attempting to create change in the world? What changes would they like to see? What have been the visible effects of their work, if any? Should writers be political on a large-scale? What are the inherent dangers of that work? A facilitated open discussion of the ways in which writers engage political issues in their work, and the ways in which readers respond to those issues. (Moderated by Lakshmi Rengarajan of SAPAC. Mary Anne Mohanraj, Ru Freeman, Deepak Unnikrishnan, Manisha Sharma, V.V. Ganeshananthan)
Roosevelt U., Rm 320

Readings: Tania James, Nawaaz Ahmed, Sheba Karim
Roosevelt U., Rm 310

5:00 - 5:45

What If I Don't Want to Write About India?
Is it necessary to sound South Asian or tackle South Asian subjects? What if the writer's identity is ambiguous, then what? Is it essential to cultivate a audience when a writer's identity cannot be fractioned? And what do the readers think when South Asian writers like Vikram Seth write books like An Equal Music (about white musicians in Europe), or when Anita Desai writes The Zigzag Way (set in Mexico)? (Ankur Thakkar (m), Prema Srinivasan, Monica Mody, Sweta Vikram, Tua Chaudhuri, Ashini Desai)
Roosevelt U., Rm 320

South Asian Diasporas and Indian Popular Cinema
(Ashvin Kini, Surbhi Malik)
Roosevelt U., Rm 308

Readings: V.V. Ganeshananthan, Mary Anne Mohanraj
Roosevelt U., Rm 310

6:00 - 6:45 Selling Your First Book
Writers who have recently sold their first book tell us how they did it, and what they learned in the process. Learn what to do, what not to do -- and hear about a few great new books to watch out for! (Tania James (m), Sheba Karim, Ru Freeman)
Roosevelt U., Rm 320

Readings: Minal Hajrwatwala, Ashini Desai, Sweta Vikram
Roosevelt U., Rm 310

7:00 - 8:00: Dinner Break

8:00 - 8:50

Bhangra Performance
Originating in the Punjab, the energetic and powerful folk dance that is Bhangra has taken the world by storm. The evolution of Bhangra music and dance, following its emigration from India and Pakistan and exposure to Western influences, parallels the cultural evolution of the Indian Diaspora. We will follow that journey with a presentation of traditional and modern Bhangra dance by Shamila Khetarpal and dancers from the Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago.

Natya Dance Theatre (NDT), a critically acclaimed dance company based in Chicago, was founded in 1974 by renowned dancer, choreographer and dance educator Hema Rajagopalan. NDT is rooted in Bharata Natyam, is known for their classical and contemporary work internationally. This evening the company presents excerpts of “Margam”, contemporary repertoire that gives a new look to traditional Bharata Natyam. Visit our site to see a clip of our contemporary work at Ensemble: Shobana Gopalakrishnan, Aarthi Israni, Vishaka Raghuveer, Vinay Srinivasan
Roosevelt U., Ganz Hall

9:00 - 10:00

Mithya, the Indian Dramatics Group from UIUC, presents Chimeras, an adaptation of Shashi Deshpande's short stories. This production, a combination of dance and monologues, centers around three powerful women from Indian mythology, Sita, Draupadi and Kunti. It makes us step back and look at Mythology in ways perhaps never seen before. This play attempts to peel away layers imposed by centuries of repeated story-telling. Directed by: Anusha Sethuraman, Sibin Mohan. Cast: Anusha Sethuraman, Anjali Menon and Sushmita Das. Choreography: Anjali Menon. Music Compilation: Hardik Thakker. Production: Sibin Mohan
Roosevelt U., Ganz Hall

8:00 - 10:00

Music performances and dancing
Roosevelt U., Congress Lounge


10:00 - 10:50 a.m.

To what extent are we willing to expose ourselves? Do we have the right to expose the lives of our family and friends? Is the need to tell a true story, to be honest, more important than the need to consider the feelings of others? And what happens when you're not sure you're remembering the story right to begin with? How much freedom do you have to change the details and still call it nonfiction? Writers discuss the challenges of writing nonfiction. (Kavitha Rajagopalan (m), Sweta Vikram, V.V. Ganeshananthan)
Roosevelt U., Rm 306

Sex and the Word
In recent years, more and more South Asians have started writing explicitly around sexuality. Mary Anne Mohanraj, Ginu Kamani, the authors in Desilicious, the participants in Yoni ki Baat, and many performance poets all explore the sexual arena. What are the challenges of working with this material? What are the rewards? Are you willing to read an erotic story? How about in public, on a bus or train? Do you take the books off the shelves when your parents visit? Authors and readers discuss the pleasures and problems of writing and reading sex. (Deepak Unnikrishnan (m), Tua Chaudhuri, Mary Anne Mohanraj)
Roosevelt U., Rm 320

Readings: Shakuntala Rajagopal, Fatima T. Husain
Roosevelt U., Rm 310

11:00 - 11:50 a.m.

Romesh Gunesekera Reading + Booksigning
Roosevelt U., Spertus Lounge, Rm 244

12:00 - 12:50 p.m.

It's Easier to Pretend We're All Middle-Class
The White Tiger, Animal's People, even Q & A (Slumdog Millionaire's skeletal base) all tap into the frustrated psyche of a battered people desperate to conquer difficult odds. The writers have tapped into something here that readers and audiences have responded to.What? Is the writing of such characters activism or does it veer precariously close to a quiet exoticism of the destitute by a privileged South Asian writer? At the same time, authors like Hanif Kurieshi and Monica Ali deal with middle class and working class English life from an immigrant perspective, while Jhumpa Lahiri's characters live in a financially comfortable, destined-for-the-professional world. How visible are class issues in South Asian literature? Are comfortable middle-class stories more likely to be published (and celebrated)? Do immigrant upper-middle-class readers become uncomfortable when asked to admit the existence of working-class South Asians? (Ankur Thakkur (m), Deepak Unnikrishnan)
Roosevelt U., Rm 306

A Room of One's Own, and the Money for Rent
Artists and writers discuss residences, conferences, grants, awards, competitions, and the various ways in which they find time and space and money to facilitate creating their art. (Sheba Karim (m), V.V. Ganeshananthan, Mary Anne Mohanraj)
Roosevelt U., Rm 310

1:00 - 1:50 p.m.

MFA Programs in Writing
What are the advantages and disadvantages of enrolling in an MFA Program in Writing? What about full-time versus part-time? How about low-residency programs (where you work from home and only go away for two weeks out of the year)? What will I learn, and where should I go? Or will it just be a waste of time I should spend writing? Panelists who have been there talk about MFA programs they have known…, She Karim, Ankur Thakkur, Monica Mody, Nawaaz Ahmad, Manisha Sharma)
Roosevelt U., Rm 306

Aaja Nachle: A Class of Filmi Fusion and Bhangra
This beginner-level class will consist of some popular moves in filmi fusion / bhangra, and the technique behind them. Shilpa Sehgal will have some songs choreographed, and will teach a few minutes of the songs for anyone who would like to participate. (Shilpa Sehgal)
Roosevelt U., Spertus Lounge, AUD 244

2:00 - 2:50 p.m.

Dead Dog Panel
Traditional festival recap -- the organizers invite you to come and discuss how it all went, celebrate our achievements, socialize, and give us your suggestions for future years.
Roosevelt U., Rm 320

Pre-Registration Info

Please note: Rates will be higher at the door. Also, registration for the full festival is limited to 200 attendees. If we sell out, we may be able to offer partial registration, but it won't include certain of the main events, due to space restrictions and the size of the main hall.

Tickets may be purchased either through PayPal / credit card below, or by calling our ticket line at (312) 846-6878.

If you are solely attending any of the following five events, we ask only a $5 suggested donation at the door:

  • Friday evening Bapsi Sidhwa reading
  • Friday evening dance performances
  • Saturday afternoon Rasaka theatre performance
  • Saturday evening dance performances
  • Saturday evening Mithya theatre performance

Kriti 2009 All-Weekend Festival Pass, Thurs-Sun (Adult): $50

Kriti 2009 All-Weekend Festival Pass, Thurs-Sun (Student/Senior): $25

(Please note: registration is free for UIC and Roosevelt students, faculty, and staff, but you do still need to drop us a note so that we can reserve your ticket.)

Kriti 2009 Saturday-Sunday Pass: $40

Kriti 2009 Saturday-only Pass: $30

Kriti 2009 Sunday-only Pass: $25

Sarvodaya Donation

The Kriti Festival is proud to help collect funds for Sarvodaya, a non-profit grass roots organization building schools and libraries in Nepal and Sri Lanka. All monies collected will be donated directly to Sarvodaya. Any donation amount is welcome!

View Cart / Check Out

To pre-register by sending a check, please e-mail Mary Anne directly at, and she'll let you know where to send your check.

NOTE: DesiLit is a non-profit organization, and as such, offers sliding-scale admission to those suffering financial hardship. If you need a discounted (or free) admission, please e-mail with your request. We will accommodate as many requests as possible.

Program Book Ads

We're estimating printing 150 - 200 program books; obviously this is a very targeted market of festival attendees with a strong, deep interest in S. Asian literature and art.

These are the rates:

Back cover (8" wide x 10" high, full-color): $750
Inside front cover, full-color: $450
Inside back cover, full-color: $400
Last page: $300
Full page: $250
Half page (8" wide x 5" high): $150
Quarter page (4" wide x 5" high): $100

Discounted rates available for non-profit organizations; half-price for full page ($125), half page ($75) or quarter page ($50) ads.

Please send an e-mail to with the SUBJECT: Kriti Program Ads if interested. Thanks!

Hotel and Travel

The conference hotel will be Club Quarters Chicago (111 W. Adams), at a discounted rate of $139/night (single), or $154/night (double). Reservations are now closed.

For air travel, you can fly into either Midway or O'Hare airports, and either take the subway (less than $2, very safe) or a cab ($30 - $40) to the venues. Details:


We'll be at UIC from Thursday evening until 5 p.m. on Friday afternoon, and will then move to Roosevelt University for the remainder of the festival.

Subway to UIC: From O'Hare, take the Blue line (the only line) towards downtown (the only direction), and get off at the UIC-Halsted stop (about 45 minutes). Walk west up the long ramp, to Morgan Street. Turn left, and walk half a block down, crossing Harrison. The very tall building right in front of you is University Hall (UH). Just a little ways past it on the left is Stevenson Hall (SH), where we'll be holding registration. Any passing student should be able to direct you to either.

Cab to UIC: Ask for 750 S. Morgan, which is University Hall. They should drop you at the corner of Harrison and Morgan. Follow directions above.

Car to UIC: There are pay lots (cash-only) just west of University Hall on Harrison, around 1200 West.

Subway to Roosevelt: Take the Blue line to the downtown Jackson stop. Come up the stairs, to the intersection of Jackson and Dearborn. Walk three blocks east to Michigan Ave., then one block south. Roosevelt University is at 430 S. Michigan Ave., between Van Buren and Congress.

Cab to Roosevelt: Ask for 430 S. Michigan Ave. Car to Roosevelt: There's a parking lot on Congress, just south of the university, that validates for students/faculty at a discounted rate (take the ticket, and have them stamp validation at the front desk when you enter the university). There are also several other less expensive lots within a few blocks south and west.


If you're dying for your very own cool Kriti Festival t-shirt, mug, infant bib, tote bag and more, please visit our Kriti Festival Store for all your festival merchandise needs! All sale proceeds go to making an even more fabulous festival for you to enjoy.

Call for Submissions

DesiLit is pleased to welcome submissions to its third biennial festival of arts and literature, to be held in Chicago, June 11 - 14. This year's Guests of Honor are Bapsi Sidhwa and Amitava Kumar. Other confirmed panelists include Ru Freeman, Minal Hajratwala, and Mary Anne Mohanraj. We hope to have 25-30 writers and artists participating as panelists in this year's festival.

Submissions are welcome in the following areas:

- literature (fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, drama)
- film
- music
- dance

We are not currently planning on a visual arts component (although if you live in Chicago and would be interested in curating such an exhibition, please do get in touch with us.)

If your work is selected, you'll be invited to serve on panels and/or give a reading/screen a film/give a performance/etc. At this time, we do not know what our final budget will be, but panelists will receive free festival registration, and if there are funds remaining after expenses, a share of the proceeds towards reimbursing their travel expenses. We'll also do our best to help you find crash space in Chicago with local volunteers if needed.

To have your work considered please send an electronic sample to, with the subject line: KRITI SUB [title of work / your name], following these guidelines:

- a brief bio, PLUS one of the following
- literature sample (up to 20 pages)
- film sample (up to 20 minutes; if you want to send a longer film, be aware that we may only view the first 20 minutes)
- music sample (up to 20 minutes)
- dance sample (up to 20 minutes)

For large sound/graphic files, we STRONGLY prefer that you host the work on your own site and send us a pointer to the URL. If you wish to submit in multiple genres, please submit each sample separately.

For a sample of our 2005 panelists, please visit our website ( If you have any questions, please send those as well to

DEADLINE: May 1, 2009 (but sooner is better)


If you live in Chicago, we can definitely use your help in planning and running the festival! We need both folks who can come to monthly planning meetings in the next few months, and people who are available to help out at the festival weekend itself. No experience needed! Volunteers who put in at least six hours on planning will receive complimentary registration -- our planning meetings are also a lot of fun. :-) We usually meet at Mary Anne's home in Bucktown (near North Ave. and Damen, convenient both to the Blue line and 90/94), and figure things out over a yummy meal. And even if you can't make every meeting, we welcome your input on our planning mailing list!

If interested in helping us out, please join our planning list here:

Kriti Elsewhere

We'd love to have you join us at the Kriti communities on MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter. Help spread the word!

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Mary Anne was radio interviewed about DesiLit / Kriti: listen Sun 5/23 at 9 a.m. on WCPT820am and on the web.

Festival Staff





Dance: Shilpa Chadda, Sucheta Misra, Priya Narayan, Shilpa Sehgal
Film/Theatre: Aqeela Jogee, Ashvin Kini, Angeli Primlani
Music: Ankur Thakkar
Literature: Priya Bhayana, Sucheta Misra, Uma Dabhade

INTERNS: Mateo Lindsay, Shilpa Sehgal



Festival Sponsors

DesiLit and the Kriti Festival are grateful to the following major sponsors: The Kiran Bavikatte Foundation, the University of Illinois English Department and Institute for the Humanities, and the Roosevelt University MFA Progam and its literary magazine, The Oyez Review.

Kriti 2005 (archive)
Kriti 2007 (archive