A Year in Review: 2019-2020

A year to forget and yet, one to remember. I open this report with a moment of quiet reflection on those we have lost this year, including civil rights leaders Rep. John Lewis, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Kuchipudi Dance Padmashri Shobha Naidu, Kuchipudi Dance Historian and Scholar Padma Shri Dr. Sunil Kothari, Singer SP Balasubrahmanyam, among and for the impact COVID-19 has had on the arts worldwide. I lost my grandfather D. Venkateswarlu and a dear aunt, Rajyalakshmi Attaiah, and I know many of you have lost loved ones too. The separation and isolation that has marked this year will leave an indelible mark, both reminding us of the suffering we have endured but also serves as a glimmer of hope. Hope for change, for preservation, and for resilience.

This year was defined by adaptation. From our clinics to our schooling, all of Aseemkala’s members quickly responded to the multitude of changes we were faced with immense grace and strength. Many of our conferences we were thrilled to present at were cancelled or postponed. Luckily, we had the opportunity to present at a few prestigious conferences, including 8th International Conference on Sustainable Development (ICSD), Dartmouth’s First Annual Arts and Health Symposium, Midwest Medical Conference, and Examining Life Conference. Virali Shah, our lovely CORE Fellow, was featured on the Doctor’s Who Create podcast #29, demonstrating the ability to connect with the larger creative community through more creating together.

Like many others, we turned to the online world to create choreography. Sebulime Elisha Davis, one of our fellows, created a beautiful piece on protecting the Earth in Kampala. I was thrilled to work with collaborators like Isha Parupudi, Nithya Ramesh, and Swetha Kasetty to create pieces on race and racism in medicine, creating a new addition to the Mahavidyas in Medicine series–Matangi’s Skin. We hope to bring these pieces to life at the upcoming Reimagining Medicine Festival at Dartmouth. We welcomed Tanvi Gandhi and her spiritual healing to our work, co-creating a new podcast. Shreya Srivastava, Virali Shah, and Kritika Amanjee acquired IRB approval to actually study the impact of dance-medicine narratives on medical students and their understanding of Medical Humanities–a true feat and an exciting start to the new year! Moondil completed her abhisheka and is submitting her thesis soon as Shradha began her MPH at Harvard. We could not be prouder of each and every member of our team.

Although we are apart, I felt closer to my team this year more than ever. We commiserated over loss and change, laughed till we cried, and celebrated the world getting back on its feet. We welcomed our new fellow cohort, adapting their process to the new social distanced format. Finally, we were happy to be able to bring all of our fellows, board members, and CORE fellows together for our first online summit, creating a community Slack, and encouraging continued communication. We look forward to sharing their work soon!

For me, this year brought one gift–the gift of time. I was thrilled to be able to use my quarantining to start long-awaited write ups, and humbled to have our work published this year in the BMJ Blogs, in-House, AMA Journal of Ethics, and Academic Medicine. We know now, more than ever, that our voices as people of color and our arts matter to better medicine and diversify the humanities. We at Aseemkala make it our goal to continue this work on all fronts to make small steps forward and build a platform for those after us to continue to build.

The Board and the team wish you a happy new year and all the strength and love we have!