Many of us often wish to be talented in multiple areas but are often hampered by life commitments and lack of time. However, once in a while, we see people who are seemingly at ease pursuing multiple things in life. We hear their successes and wish to be like them but seldom do we see the effort, the risk, the sweat, and toil behind these people’s stories. In an effort to find such people who can inspire and motivate with their offbeat choices, we came across Amitabha Lala, veteran doctor, part time faculty at the prestigious Harvard University, and a theater aficionado and practitioner, and the co-founder of KrossRoads Performing Arts, a theater company known for its engaging plays and performances across the US. We recently had the good fortune of knowing Amitabha and his life journey.
Amitabha’s story, like most other immigrants to the US, began when he came from Kolkata to study at UCLA and then New York. He then joined a Ph.D program in DDS and was all set for an academic career when he decided to practice as a doctor instead. His life was filled with struggle in those days as there was no financial support in the form of scholarships and he had to depend on the money he earned from odd jobs. When he decided to start his dentistry practice, rather than wait to get a job, he took a big risk by taking out a loan to bootstrap himself. Soon, his practice flourished and he soon also landed a part-time faculty postion at Harvard University where he has been teaching orthodontics and basic sciences. Besides running his clinic, he is also a Board Certified orthodontist member of several associations such as the American Orthodontic Association and the American Dental Association to name a few. .He likens himself to an entrepreneur, balancing his practice along with teaching and lectures at private companies.He has been the ex-CEO and founder of the dental chain American Dental Practices (ADP) which he ran for 7 years. He is also a board member of a few dental technology and business startups. While it is a lot of work, he finds it a fun challenge to take on.
Where his story has a unique twist is his passion for arts, theater, and acting. Growing up in Kolkata, he was surrounded by art. Indeed, his uncle was a member of the famous theater company the Indian People's Theater Association. His first performance was during school in a play where he essayed the role of Shah Jahan’s son Dara Shikoh. He credits performing with calming his brain and he explained how expressing creativity brings solace to his heart. Alongside his practice, for the last 5 years, he also participated in theaters in Boston such as Setu and Off-Kendrik where he acted in plays and was also part of the management. He also worked with many people who were notable in Kolkata's theater scene.
Just like his other ventures, his passion for theater also got infused with the entrepreneurial mindset and soon, he found that he wanted to perform and create freely. So, one day, when he met Jayati Banerjee, he was struck by her passion for theater & arts and saw another like-minded person with whom he could work in theater. Soon, with Jayati, he started KrossRoads Performing Arts, where his responsibilities included managing, acting, and directing plays jointly with Jayati.
When we asked him about what motivates his love for theater, Amitabha spoke on the power of theater to connect people by narrating stories. Through this art form, Amitabha aims to bring the stories of India to the Indian community in the US and thus bridge cultural gaps between people across cultural or generational divides.
Not that the journey was all rainbows. The initial days were filled with struggle as people often voiced criticism that showed differences in taste. However, he did not lose faith and he continued to improve his craft and seek the Indian community’s support, which was often not forthcoming.
Though he wishes that KrossRoads should have greater fame than it has currently, Amitabha is a satisfied man. His shows in November 2022 were fully sold out and he has many future plans for 2023. Chief among them are the plays for the middle of summer and also staging plays at the North American Bengali Conference. He also plans for KrossRoads to travel to different festivals to showcase their plays. He plans to stay fully invested in theater and spend more time in arts while balancing it with his teaching position at Harvard.
Indeed, given his artistic drive, entrepreneurial mindset, and dedication to storytelling, Amitabha Lala looks set to take KrossRoads to the next level. We Jay-Ho! The Jay Kumar Show can only but wish him the very best for all his efforts, especially given his dedication to the cause of the Indian community in the US. And from his life story and journey, we are sure that our audience would have derived the motivation and inspiration to seek and express their creativity in their own unique ways.