Mohana is Making a Movie

What a wild, wacky, and unpredictable year this has been! All over the world, we have been cooped up at home – frustratingly at different times :). Lockdown came with the unexpected gift of time. For any writer that is a tremendous bonus. And for me that led to adapting a few of my novels into screenplays.
This summer, my stories go from the page to the screen ….. I’m Producing a Film
Doug and Mala are the main characters in We Against the World

Longtime readers of this newsletter might have flicked through Coloured and Other Stories, a short story collection I wrote in graduate school and published in 2013. Fast forward 7 years and the screenplay of one of the short stories, “Down” was a semi-finalist in the Austin Film Festival. 

Add another year, and we are in production for an excerpt from that feature screenplay. This is known as a ‘short’ in the film industry. Shorts help writers/producers/directors/actors gain the attention of audiences and agents.

Me Against the World is an excerpt of the larger story.75% female led (writer/producers/director)Filming in Nashville, TN. Currently at 15% funded 
This is the story of an unlikely friendship between a quiet Indian American girl, Mala, and an ambitious African American boy, Doug. Their dislocation and confusion is semi-autobiographical and based on my own upbringing in a largely Caucasian town as the child of Indian immigrants. Sprinkled throughout are moments of comedy, culture, and sports. We are taken from Mala’s Hindu household to packed basketball stadiums, from their rural North Carolina town to the capital, and then, triumphantly, to New York City.  .

Read more about the film and how you can get involved here.

There are tons of extra perks for backing, from walk-on roles as extras, to visits to the set. Could be the perfect gift for an upcoming birthday, father figure or film aficionado. If you’ve got an idea for a custom gift, please hit reply on this email and let us know!


A generous donor has offered to match any contributions made from Qatar over the next week (or Florida, my other hometown). They are counting anyone who has lived in either place as being ‘from there.’ 

Because, as you know, for this cultural nomad, it couldn’t be any other way.

How has the past year been for you? 

The Political Reasons it’s Suddenly a Chinese Virus

Photo by Yuri Samoilov

Since many of us find ourselves indoors more often these days, maybe you’ve started wondering how this pandemic got its name. The current outbreak was named the Coronavirus or Covid19 because in 2015 the WHO set guidelines to avoid unfair practices in the naming of pandemics. And there have been a few cultural slip-ups that affect how a disease is viewed by the general public.

Perhaps the one we all remember first hearing about was AIDS, the silent killer that tore through the gay community. Was it God’s judgment on an immoral lifestyle as some religious conservatives said, sharing knowing looks? Or was it a blood born virus transmitted by bodily fluids? The early days of public opinion were difficult to shift and held up AIDS treatment for decades.

“Hong Kong residents in 2003 hated the name SARS because they saw in the initialism a specific reference to their city’s status as a Special Administrative Region in China. Even though the name stood for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (incidentally also in the coronavirus group) the similarities were too eye-catching.

Leaders of Saudi Arabia didn’t much like it when Dutch researchers called a coronavirus HCoV-KSA1 ten years later—that stands for Human Coronavirus, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Its eventual standardized name, Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome, still ended up sounding like it was blaming the entire region.”

Adam Rogers, “Coronovirus Has a Name”

You might have heard the current US administration more recently refer to the Covid19 outbreak as a Chinese virus. The sudden switch from Coronavirus, as recently as March 8th, made many media outlets, celebrities and regular people sit up and take notice. As people began pointing out the racist underpinnings of such a label, the administration dug its heels in. Even when specifically asked to reassure the Asian American community, many of whom are worried about or had already receiving tangential hate speech/attacks, none was forthcoming.

Ramping up rhetoric around a Chinese virus serves several purposes. None of which are in the interests of the global community or the type of international collaboration urgently needed to halt the spread of new cases. We don’t need division right now. The people and governments of the world need more collaboration.

But that’s only if you are looking after the greater good. The Chinese virus label is important if there are other items on your agenda. Let’s hope we can start talking about them as well as social distancing precautions. Here are a few that come to mind.

A Common Enemy

The scale of the medical crisis that is building in the US has been previewed in Italy and now Spain. Harsh realities are being forecast: these include running out of hospital beds for patients (along with ventilators and other necessary equipment) plus protective gear for medical staff (from masks to sanitize). And all of that fear and misery need a common enemy. That is outside America and this administration.

Enter: China.

Photo by Robert Couse-Baker

A country long on the worry list because of their communist government. Who then crossed over to envy because of their way to produce cheap goods for unforeseen profit and market dominance. And might always stay on the xenophobia list because of distinctive eating habits.

Make no mistake: I am not a fan of either rampant capitalism nor totalitarian governments. The most exotic thing I’ve eaten is chicken feet (which people seem to forget are also a specialty in some Southern states). That being said, I can also spy a scapegoat when one is being dangled in front of my unmasked face. These are not mutually exclusive thoughts. Or they shouldn’t be.

Worrying Head of Facsim

Because nor am I a fan of the fascist playbook. It worked in Germany in World War II and the chief gear: scapegoating, is poised to churn again. And for an embattled president who already has a lot to answer for, renaming this disease is the perfect segue to deflect attention from the glaring ineptitude of the administration’s response to warnings of a looming crisis.

Calling this a Chinese virus plays up on many of the existing stereotypes for a specific advantage. And the main conspiracy theories point to the bigger picture: undermining the global Chinese position politically, economically, and socially. Who stands to benefit Iran-style embargoes against China? Iran, a country whose government the US has also returned to finding objectionable under this administration, and who is loosing hundreds of people by the day to this illness due to ongoing sanctions. The same senators (and their cronies) who dumped stock right after an intelligence briefing that the stock market was going to tumble.

The long and short of it is laying blame for a pandemic has far-reaching advantages. Getting to assign blame may be the most white privilege move yet.

Interestingly, guess who didn’t get blame during in 1918 for spreading the flu around the world? The United States of America or Great Britain or yes, China. Why do we call it that then? Because the media declared it so when the virus jumped from France to Spain.

Can you think of other reasons why a Chinese virus is a catchy title?

Advice on How to Do Everything from Home

As the reality of how contagious Covid19 actually is sets in around the world, more and more countries are advising people to stay at home as much as possible. Introverts around the world probably rejoiced. Of all we mammals, they might be the best suited for comfort wear and indoor life. What about the rest of us? We find ourselves enmeshed in a growing list of contradictions in this strange new digital world. And if you aren’t indoors yet, global infection rates show that you soon will be.

Office/Bed/Cafe/Home

The lure of working from home has been a key piece of the modern economy. We know people, the favored ones, who have been able to do this for some time. While we toil away in physical offices we think of them: Messy hair, snacks at the ready, music or television playing in the background. What’s not to like? Right? Well, the reality, as millions of people are finding out, is actually much more complicated.

Single and Singled Out

Photo by Ivan Radic

For singles, working from home might be the best thing that has happened since Netflix and chill – until a few days, a week or month has passed, and you haven’t seen or spoken to anyone face to face. That tenuous, blurry boundary between work and personal time might now become non-existent. A call at 7pm/7am? Sure why not. You’re not doing much else. Maintaining a routine is going to be a challenge and also incredibly important for the days to avoid sliding into each other. We are social creatures and isolation can leave us feeling alone. Check in on your extroverted friends and see if they need a Facetime (chances are they might have already reached out already – you know extroverts!).

All across Italy there are examples of how to socialize during self-isolation. A Spanish fitness instructor held a workout in a quad for quarantined residents. Let’s keep in touch and get creative.

Working on My Last Nerve

Photo by Boston Public Library

For families, working from home opens up a whole can of worms. Any sense of work/life balance may go out the window, particularly for those who are in leadership positions of organizations, medical staff, or teachers. No matter where you are in the Covid Quarantine, consider setting some ground rules as early as possible.

Where is the work space? How flexible are the work hours? What’s the strategy with children during conference calls or videos that need taping? These are all seemingly tiny decisions that will make a big impact on everyday life in close quarters. Make time to discuss and evaluate them on a weekly basis, keeping in mind that your particular situation might change as rapidly as the national or global one.

For partners who used to both work outside the home, you are now back to back in what increasingly feels like a foxhole. This is particularly true of people who live in big cities where the outer world made up for less square footage indoors. Recognizing that you are now in a roommate like situation can help prevent fights from breaking out over piles of dishes or laundry. Divide and conquer or you might be dividing when this whole things lifts.

Mix in additional childcare duties – that include navigating virtual schooling – and you have a recipe for volatility. Talk, talk, talk to each other about who needs help with what or you might, like many couples in China, be heading to file for divorce the second life goes back normal.

Stop Me from Snacking!

One way to stop the endless urge to snack (either for kids or adults)

For all of us there will be the same universal truth: snacking will be our collective downfall. You will not be able to resist the compulsion to eat -whether you are working or resting or teaching children at home. You will not be able to convince your stomach you just ate. It won’t matter when you had your last meal. Boredom is a hungry bedfellow.

When/where possible, try to get outside, maintain social distance, and walk, run, swim. If you are in an at risk group because of age or immune related issue the Youtube is a treasure trove of at-home workouts.

Share Your Notes from the Home Front