About Kiran Vaka

Kiran Vaka

Kiran Vaka has a multi-cultural background, and has lived in India and America. His childhood was spent in the cities of Delhi and Bangalore, both of which differ culturally and linguistically. He came to America as a student, and lived on Long Island, NY before moving to Silicon Valley, CA.

Kiran speaks four languages - Telugu, English, Hindi and Japanese. He believes that his experiences have made him capable of being able to easily adapt to any place in the world. He also has a background in Computer Science, where he works on software development and project management, specializing in Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software. He was also the recipient of the DMI Innovator Award from Carnegie Mellon Silicon Valley and NASA Ames in March 2010.

Latest Posts by Kiran Vaka

First International Telugu Meet Kick Off

October 1, 2011 by  


The first international Telugu Internet conference began here last week. Unicode Consortium vice-president and Unicode Technical Committee Lisa Moore delivered the keynote address at the First International Telugu Internet Conference organised jointly by Andhra Pradesh Government, SiliconAndhra and Global Internet Forum for Telugu (GIFT).

Minister for Information Technology and Computers Ponnala Lakshmaiah said that Andhra Pradesh Government had become a permanent member of the Unicode Consortium. Attempts were being to develop six fonts to begin with. The Minister said that he would donate the Rs. 6 lakh needed for developing one font to be named after his family ‘Ponnala’. Principal Secretary for Information Technology and Computers Sanjay Jaju said that Andhra Pradesh Government was the only Government to become a full member of the Unicode Consortium. He said that the full membership would give the Government voting rights and a lot of space for Telugu language on the internet.

He said the Minister was the first to come forward to contribute for the development of a Telugu font. He said a unicode font for cellphone would also be developed soon.

Former Minister and honorary chairman of the conference Mandali Buddha Prasad said that internet was the only thing that could integrate the Telugus all over the world. Languages with smaller populations have made tremendous advances in the field of computers and internet. Andhra Pradesh Society for Knowledge of Networks CEO A. Amarnath Reddy said making Telugu more internet friendly would improve the chances of Telugu people getting better jobs.

Tokyo University of Foreign Studies faculty Peri Bhaskara Rao and University of Hyderabad faculty memberG. Uma maheswara Rao. TV 9 CEO Ravi Prakash spoke. Several language and computer experts are presenting papers in the three-day conference closing on Friday. Chief Minister N.Kiran Kumar Reddy is scheduled to address the delegates through the internet on the closing day for 15 minutes beginning at 9.30 a.m. local time.

Courtesy: The Hindu


Telugu Film ‘Vanaja’ Houseful at Locarno Festival

August 14, 2011 by  


After travelling to 32 film festivals, Telugu film “Vanaja”, a tale of a 15-year-old girl’s dream of becoming a world class Kuchipudi dancer, was screened here Saturday and went houseful.

Director Rajneesh Domapalli says he may soon have it released in theatres in India. ”I made ‘Vanaja’ in 2005 as my master thesis at the Columbia University. My film had its world premiere at the Toronto Film Festival and in 2007 it won the best debut award at the Berlin Film Fest. I released the film in theatres in the US and South Africa and I will soon release it in India,” Domapalli told IANS.

Set in rural Andhra Pradesh of the 1960s, the film that explores the chasm that divides classes as a young girl struggles to come of age was screened in the Open Doors section at the ongoing 64th Locarno International Film Festival. In the film, Vanaja (Mamatha Bhukya), daughter of a low caste fisherman who is struggling to make ends meet, goes to work in the house of the local landlady, Rama Devi (Urmila Dammannagari), in hopes of learning Kuchipudi dance while earning her keep.
How her dreams are left unfulfilled after the arrival of her employer’s son is told in a very subtle but effective manner by the director who says he isn’t trying to give any message through the film.
“I have woven the threads into the story – gender issue, caste system and clash of old and modern. My film also tells what happens when boundaries that should not be crossed are crossed,” said Domapalli who has made it with non-actors whom he handpicked from the middle class families.
“I took people from middle class families. They had acting training for one to two years. The lead didn’t know Kuchipudi dance and she had to learn it from scratch,” said the director who has managed to extract the best from his cast. All the actors look natural on screen and their performances make it an interesting watch.
The director describes it as a low budget film and added: “For art house film making inroads in India takes going up against commercial establishments and quite a lot of money.”
His next will be “Avani”, but before making the film he will release it as a novel and use the money earned from its sales in the making of the movie. ”‘Avani’s’ screenplay is over and bits of novel have also been written. I am writing another novel on young adult fantasy that uses a 14-year-old as protagonist and is set across three worlds.”
Courtesy: Times of India

Tsukiji Honganji (築地本願寺): An Indian-style Temple in Japan

August 29, 2010 by  


Last December, a few days before Christmas, while I was planning the itinerary for my one-day stop in Tokyo, I knew I had to be extremely selective about the places to be visited within the few hours I had at my disposal. Apart from my friends’ suggestions of the regular tourist fare consisting of the traditional Asakusa, the geeky Akihabara, the glitzy Ginza and Roppongi, I had included University of Tokyo in the list. Finally, a few days before flying out, I picked up one of the numerous travel books on Japan during a regular stop at the Borders in Sunnyvale..nonchalantly flipping through it’s pages, landed on the page talking about Tsukiji – the famous Fish Market in Tokyo. I had little time to see a fish market within my tightly packed schedule..but one thing in that book caught my attention. It was the Tsukiji Honganji – the only Indian-style Buddhist Temple in Japan – situated in Tsukiji, and not far from this famous market. I knew I could not miss this.

It was close to 5pm by the time I made it to Tsukiji Hoganji that day. The metro was overflowing with people returning from work (i guess the salarymen were probably heading towards drinking bars rather than home).

Locating the temple after exiting from the subway station was not the easiest thing, but ‘Sumimasen..Tsukiji Honganji wa doko desho ka?’ (Excuse me..which way is Tsukiji Hongaji?) helped me get to the place. Once within the premises, it was evident that the complex was endowed with an amount of space quite atypical of the crowded Tokyo. And yes, the structure had a distinctly Hindu architecture, the design of the stone exterior combining Buddhist, Hindu and Islamic architectural styles in a complex manner.

Tsukiji Honganji is a branch of Nishi Honganji Temple in Kyoto; ‘Hongan’ means the ‘long-cherished wish’. ‘Tsukiji’ comes from the kanji characters meaning “reclaimed land” . The temple symbolizes the Indian source of Japanese Buddhism.

The original Tsukiji Honganji Temple, with an Indian-style exterior, was built in 1617 near Asakusa, but was burnt down in a huge fire that swept through Edo (Tokyo) in 1657. The present one was designed by Chūta Ito of the University of Tokyo and built between 1931 and 1934.

After appreciating the exterior, it was time to see the Hon-dō (main hall of worship). This was similar, but larger in size than the Jōdo Shinshū Japanese temples I have seen in San Francisco, Palo Alto, Mountain View and San Jose. While the streets and metro stations of Tsukiji and Ginza areas outside were overflowing with people on the Monday evening, this place presented a peaceful contrast. Nevertheless, there was a continuous stream of people coming in.

Some of the people I observed among them:

  • A young couple, who seemed to bring their newborn baby
  • An elderly salaryman dressed immaculately and had a string of beads in his palm. He clasped his hands together and prayed. Had a very disciplined demeanor about him, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he was a President of some company or a high-ranking government official.
  • A college-going student with a backpack and a punk hairstyle. He bowed before the diety for quite a few seconds.
  • A male photographer in his 30s, with long hair tied in a pony tail and a moustache (uncommon there). After praying, he was busy photographing the interiors with his big SLR camera.

I spent a good 20 minutes there, observing, and taking a very brief respite from an extremely busy day, before heading to my next (and completely contrasting) destinations for that evening – Ginza and Roppongi Hills.

Narita-san Temple

August 4, 2010 by  


Traditional Japan

(click for larger image)

[Captured against a symmetrical background in front of the 'Great Pagoda' (平和大塔) at Narita-san Temple (成田山新勝寺), Narita, Japan on 6th January 2010. I assume they were mother and daughter (in kimono).

Less than 12 hours before taking this picture, I was in India and less than 20 hours after, I was in California. The actual pagoda from the opposite direction can be seen HERE.

Telugu Professors do Homeland Proud

July 4, 2010 by  

HYDERABAD: It is said that if there’s one thing Telugus value more than gold, it’s education. What’s well known is that in the best of universities across the world, Telugus are among the creme de la creme of the student pool. But not content with just learning, Telugus are also making a mark for themselves as teachers.
Donning a teacher’s robe is not a novel career choice, just one that has been largely overshadowed by the more visible options of engineering and medicine for Telugus. But these intellectually inclined folk can no longer be ignored.
Analysts estimate that there are easily more than 300-400 academicians of Telugu origin in universities across the US alone, including the Ivy League. They are not just fixtures in the Foreign Language or the South-Asian Studies departments but are distinguished research scholars, professors, heads of departments, deans, vice presidents, among others.
Some very distinguished academicians are people of Telugu origin. Consider Mysore-born Telugu man (Calyampudi Radhakrishna Rao) (popularly known as CR Rao). Currently a Professor Emeritus at Penn State University, 89-year old Rao is a living legend and among the best known statisticians in the world. He has won innumerable awards, has 28 honorary degrees from universities over 17 countries and has his name etched in history for giving ‘Cramer-Rao bound’ and ‘Rao-Blackwell theorem’ to the world. Contemporary IT students will certainly have heard of రాజ్ రెడ్డి (Raj Reddy), the man behind the establishment of the IIIT at Hyderabad.
A native of Katur in Chittoor district, this former professor at Stanford University is a pioneer, having founded the first-of-its-kind Robotics Institute in Carnegie Mellon University, way back in 1979.
CR Rao and Raj Reddy might be most prominent, but many other Telugus are shining on the American academic scene. (Dr Balamurali Ambati), India’s own ‘Doogie Howser’ became the world’s youngest doctor when graduated at 17. So what drives these academicians to become the achievers that they are?” Telugus do not care for name, fame or designation but teach because of their love for teaching,” explains Pudur Jagdeeswaran, a professor at the University of North Texas. He believes that Telugus, like most Indian professors, are able to bring more to their classroom because of their global outlook. Besides that, their excellent academic records, commitment to hard work and training skills nurtured in India help, he adds.
Which probably explains why several of these academicians are occupying responsible positions in their universities as well. For instance (Krishna Palepu), the Senior Associate Dean for International Development at Harvard Business School and also Ross Walker professor of Business Administration. మైకెల్ రావు (Michael Rao) is the President of Virginia Commonwealth University. Breaking stereotypes, more and more Telugu teachers are reaching beyond subjects of engineering and medicine to social sciences, media and cultural studies, journalism etc. Speaking for Indian academicians (particularly Telugus) former professor of journalism, (Ananth Babbilli) also Dean, Provost and Vice President Academic Affairs at Texas A&M says, “Our intellectual depth nurtured by a multicultural and diverse cultural milieu in which we grew up, coupled with a confident global intuition are the secrets of our success”. He received the Texas Professor of the Year award by the Carnegie Foundation.
(Vamsee Juluri), professor of Media Studies at University of San Fransico says that its natural for Telugus to be excellent professors, no matter what their subject, because they come from a culture of learning and a mindset that requires respect for education. On his part he always trying to break stereotypes and represent the Telugu voice of India in his class. He routinely screens Hollywood movies to his Do students to give them a better insight into Telugu culture. While spreading gyan among global students, mana gurus seem to be doing their homeland proud.
Courtesy: TOI

Telugu Film Industry pays tribute to lyricist Veturi

May 30, 2010 by  

Telugu film industry Sunday paid rich tributes to legendary lyricist Veturi Sundararama Murthy, who died following cardiac arrest.
He was 74 and is survived by his wife and three sons.
Veturi died Saturday night at a hospital, where he was admitted last week due to multiple problems.
Several prominent film personalities paid their last respects to the noted lyricist at his residence in Srinagar colony. The cremation will take place at Bansilalpet samshan later in the day.
Eminent film personalities, including director K. Viswanath, producer D. Ramanaidu, actors N. Balakrishna, Murali Mohan, Mohan Babu and Nagender Babu paid tributes to Veturi, who left an indelible impression on film industry.
Veturi, a poet who began his career as a journalist, went on to become one of the leading lyricist by penning memorable songs, ranging from classical to folk and the popular ones.
In his career spanning over three decades, he wrote hundreds of songs and also achieved the distinction of being a writer who can write a song within 15 minutes.
“I have lost my brother,” said Viswanath.
The lyricist began his career in film industry by penning songs for Viswanath’s film O Sita Katha (1974). His songs for the director’s other movies like Siri Siri Muvva (1978), Saptapadi (1980) and Sagara Sangamam (1983) became very popular.
Born Jan 29, 1936 at Pedakallepalli in Krishna district, Veturi worked for Telugu dailies Andhra Prabha and Andhra Patrika. In 1994, he won the national film award for best lyrics. He was the second lyricist from Telugu film industry to achieve this distinction but returned the award since Telugu was not declared a classical language.
Veturi was also a recipient of Andhra Pradesh government’s Nandi film award eight times for best lyrics.
Courtesy: NDTV

UGC Project in Telugu University

April 3, 2010 by  

Rajahmundry, April 02: A socio-cultural literary index of writers from Godavari districts compiling their 1000 years of literary works would be undertaken through a special UGC project of Potti Sriramulu Telugu University.
Vice Chancellor Prof A Bhumaiah announced this presiding over the two-day literary meet of Godavari districts inaugurated at the Literary Centre of Telugu University at Bommuru near here.
He said the special project was approved under self assistance project with Rs 35 lakh UGC support. This project would be implemented in the coming five years requesting writers in the district to extend cooperation in this effort.
Many writers like Adikavi Nannaya ,who translated Mahabharata into Telugu and Madhunapantula Satya Narayan Sastry who wrote Andhra Puranam and others have made tremendous efforts in the field of Telugu literature, he said.
Prof B Satya Narayana, Vice Chancellor, Andhra University and in-charge Vice Chancellor Adikavi Nannaay University said that Telugu was a divine language and writers in Godavari districts have contributed to its and proved to be the main source of inspiration bringing revolution in the field of literature.
Courtesy: ZeeNews

Mauritius – The Telugu Community in country – When differences no longer matter

March 19, 2010 by  

Port Louis — ‘I am a Hindu and my wife is Telugu, but there is no difference,’ says Shyam Sungkur, a doctor we interviewed in the Hari Hara Devasthanam Temple this temple situated in Midlands we were told was a Telugu temple. To our questions he adds, ‘The religion is the same, the outfits are similar, there are few differences in the cuisine and we all pray to the same God in the same way.’ It was on the occasion of the celebration of Ougadi, an occasion believed to be the Lunar Telugu New Year.

Both Shyam and his wife, Jeshina were adamant that there is no difference, although he classifies himself as a Hindu and she as a Telugu . As it turned out, they are probably right. The major difference between the Telugus and the other Hindus is a linguistic one. The Telugus come from the state of Andra Pradesh where Telugu is spoken.

However, in Mauritius and nowhere else, it would seem, although all the Hindus come from India and are Hindus by faith, they tend to classify themselves according to their linguistic and cultural heritage rather than to their religion. So a Tamil may tell you he is not a Hindu but a Tamil. The Marathi is not a Hindu either but a Marathi. Each community has by and large tended to keep to itself and children are brought up conscious of the heavy weight of their ancestral culture. At school, this is enforced by the different classes children go to, each trying to learn her ancestral language and culture.

The sense of belonging to the community is confi rmed by Papaya Goorimoorthee, a lecturer at the MGI. Having been a Telugu teacher himself before he converted to teaching Indian music, particularly the ‘Mridanga’, he stresses the linguistic and cultural identity which differentiate the Telugu community from the other Hindu communities. ‘God cannot be associated with a language,’ he concedes, ‘but we have our differences. Our weddings are different in the sense that our women do not wear the sindhur (red powder worn in the hair to show that a woman is married) but wear the ‘cordon zon’ (a yellow thread collar) instead. Our ladies wear the pulloo (the ‘tail’ of a saree) on the right instead of the left and our cuisine, especially our cakes are different. There are some varieties of cakes which are typical of the Telugu community.’

However, of all the Hindu communities in Mauritius, the most open to others seems to be the Telugu community. Though, according to Papaya, marriages outside the community used to be rare, he thinks that things have changed a lot recently. But he can still tell a Telugu just by looking at one. Chandra Veeranah, a fast food merchant confi rms both the difference and the openness towards other communities. He also gives the example of the temple where we were, which was set up by Telugus but which is being used as a place of worship by other Hindus.

Is Ougadi a Hindu festival then? Contrary to what we have always believed, Ougadi is in fact the Hindu Lunar New Year and last Tuesday, the Hindu community celebrated the year 2067. However, in the Mauritian context, Ougadi has always been associated with the Telugus. The rest of the Hindus celebrate New Year on Sankrati, which, according to scholars, in fact marks the beginning of Uttarayana, the sun’s movement northward for a six-month period or the harvest season. Are the people attending the Ougadi celebrations at the temple mostly Hindus or Telgus? The doctor says Hindus, the lecturer and the merchant say they are mainly Telugus. Swami Partha Sarathi Andra, a Telugu who comes from Andra Pradesh, is happy to tell us that the people who come to that temple are 90% Hindus. A lesson in openness and integration.

Courtesy: AllAfrica

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