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COMMUNITY | News in Brief:

Indian Republic Day Celebrated in San Francisco | Lohri Celebrations and a Wedding | GOPIO Leader Honored with Pravasi Award | Math Tryout | Books on Sikhism | Youth Lunch | Pageant Finalist | Shlokas in Senate | New Board

Indian Republic Day Celebrated in San Francisco

India’s San Francisco Consul General B.S. Prakash flanked by wife Ratna and U.S. State Department official Steven Candy.

Over 300 people braved inclement weather (Indian Consul General B.S. Prakash later quipped that the consulate had even arranged for an Indian monsoon) to join the Indian Republic Day celebrations Jan. 25 hosted at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco by the Consulate General of India.

The offices of San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger as well as the U.S. State Department were represented. Mayor representative Jim Herlihy read out a special proclamation, which apart from congratulating India, also expressed San Francisco’s interest in a twin-city arrangement with Bangalore.

In his brief remarks, the consul general reflected on the values enshrined in the Indian Constitution, adherence to which accounts for India’s stability and resilience. He cast a look at India’s troubled neighborhood — Afghanistan and Pakistan to the west, Bangladesh and Burma to the east and Sri Lanka to the south — all of which were facing uncertainty and upheaval. In contrast, India had withstood all challenges and had maintained its unity and integrity despite its diversity. Prakash said that remaining true to the values of pluralistic democracy, separation of powers, secularism, openness and tolerance was responsible for India’s steady evolution and progress.

Prakash also congratulated the large Indian community in the Bay Area, numbering around 600,000, for their success and for changing American perceptions about Indian capabilities.

The event was rounded off with a delicious Indian meal comprising samosas, pakoras and tikkas as well as chhole-bhature and gulab jamun.

Lohri Celebrations and a Wedding

Rakhi Bhanot and Gauran Sharma at their wedding Jan. 19 at the Sunnyvale Hindu Temple

Raj Bhanot, a prominent Indian community leader in the San Francisco Bay Area, and his wife Vipan Bhanot celebrated the festival of Lohri and held the marriage reception for their daughter Rakhi Bhanot and son-in-law Gauran Sharma. The event was hosted Jan. 19 at the Sunnyvale Hindu Temple. About 500 people attended this program.

Bhanot’s daughter’s wedding reception coincided with Lohri. Lohri is the Indian version of an annual Thanksgiving Day and a popular harvest festival in India, especially in Northern India. Come January, and the fields of Punjab are filled with the golden harvest of wheat and farmers celebrate Lohri during this rest period before the harvesting and gathering of crops. Lohri is usually celebrated in the outdoors by friends and family who get together and have a bonfire in the evening.

Attendees at the event included San Jose, Calif., Vice Mayor Dave Cortese, Sunnyvale, Calif. mayor Otto Lee as well a host of prominent Indian American community leaders.

GOPIO Leader Honored with Pravasi Award

At an event in New Delhi to honor Dr. Thomas Abraham, president of the Global Organization of People of Indian Origin (l-r):. Former Indian secretary of the Ministry of External Affairs and incoming Nyas president J.C. Sharma, Nyas president L.L. Mehrotra, former Indian Vice President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, Dr. Thomas Abraham, Baleshwar Agrawal, and Shadi Lall Minda.

Anthar Rashtriya Sayayog Nyas (Trust for International Cooperation) presented its Third Bharatvanshi Gaurav Award (Person of Indian Origin Pride) award to Dr. Thomas Abraham, chairman of the Global Organization of People of Indian Origin, at the Constitution Club in New Delhi Jan. 4, according to GOPIO press release.

The chief guest was former Indian Vice President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat. The trust's president Lakan Lal Mehrotra introduced Dr. Thomas Abraham by saying that the trust is proud to bestow this honor on Dr. Abraham for his outstanding contribution for building an overseas Indian movement and founding GOPIO.

Shekhawat said that India is proud of it sons and daughters living outside India who have made India proud. Baleshwar Agrawal, president of Antarrashtriya Sahayog Parishad, complimented Dr. Abraham for his work in uniting the community all over the world and taking up common causes of the community. He also appealed for supporting the PIO Center which the Nyas is building in New Delhi.

Dr. Abraham thanked all those involved and helping to build the various community organizations such as the Federation of Indian Associations of New York, the National Federation of Indian American Associations and the GOPIO. “I accept this prestigious award in humility and on behalf of all hundreds of volunteers who worked with me as a team in mobilizing the Indian community,” said Dr. Abraham.

Attended by over 250 people, the program ended with the presentation of a scroll, a memento and a check for Rs. 100,000 to Dr. Abraham.

Math Tryout

Students who enjoy solving math problems, born after September 1, 1994 and attending 7th grade or lower, are invited to a tryout for the U.S.A.-Silicon Valley Teams for an International Math Competition in Hong Kong in July (with 5-day room and board, and local tours being paid for), according to a press release.

The tryouts will be held Feb. 5 (Tuesday) or Feb. 7 (Thursday) from 7-8:15 p.m. at Quinlan Community Center, 10185 North Stelling Road, Cupertino CA 95014. Interested contestants can register online with the Cupertino Parks and Recreation Department at http://reg4fun.cupertino.org/econnect ( Activity # 34491 for Tue; or Activity # 34492 for Thu).

For sample tryout problems or contest information, interested readers can visit the math competition Web site at www.mathedge.org, call (408)725-2680, or send an e-mail to mathedge@gmail.com.

Books on Sikhism

GGSF representatives presenting a plaque to Parker Hamilton and Maria Padak Kari. Joginder Singh is seen on the right

A county adjacent to Washington, D.C., has agreed to include books on Sikhs in its public libraries, according to a press release from the Rockville, Md.-based Guru Gobind Singh Foundation.

Montgomery County officials have agreed and accepted the books on Sikhs and Sikhism to include them in the library system to help disseminate information about the community. The Guru Gobind Singh Foundation launched a new project of providing books to Montgomery County libraries.

Joginder Singh, winner of “Outstanding Volunteer Award in Montgomery County Library,” made tireless efforts to initiate this project. Director of Montgomery County libraries Parker Hamilton and agency manager Maria Padak Kari were invited to a gurdwara during Gurpurab celebrations to make the announcement about this project.

A plaque for Excellence in Community Service was presented to the library officials by GGSF.

Montgomery County is the largest county in the state of Maryland which covers a 497-square mile area of suburbs to the north and northwest of Washington, D.C. It is also considered among the top counties in the country in terms of education, transportation and the economy.

Speaking on this occasion, Hamilton said that Montgomery County Library system is the 10th best in the country. She applauded the efforts of Joginder Singh for arranging to have books on the Sikh faith. As Montgomery County has substantial number of Sikhs so in future the library would like to have books in the native language for the Sikhs also, she added. She expressed appreciation for the Guru Gobind Singh Foundation for taking the lead in this matter.

Youth Lunch

GOPIO Connecticut youth and young professional at the Annual Lunch Program in December.

The Connecticut chapter of the Global Organization of People of Indian Origin hosted its Second Annual Networking and Mentoring Lunch for youth Dec. 24, according to a press release from the organization. This year’s event was attended by around 40 people, almost double the size of last year.

The event was organized and run by undergraduates Ankur Ahuja and Sharon Banta, co-chairs of the CT Youth Committee and was held in Stamford, Conn., at Meera Indian Cuisine.

To aid the youth on career choices a panel was set up to focus on engineering, business, entrepreneurship and medicine. Main panel speakers included Jay Abraham (U-Conn, 2005), Anand Ahuja (Harvard Business School 2009, and Sarah Hashmi (Penn State 2006 and American Medical University of the Caribbean 2010). Each speaker reflected on their experiences and spoke about the steps they took to achieve their current platforms. Jay spoke on engineering and also reflected on his current status as a new landlord which was a new and interesting twist from last years panel. The youth asked about purchasing a home, showing that it’s never to early to start thinking about real estate.

Sarah spoke about the hard but rewarding medical school track, telling the crowd her studying never ends, but she loves what she does and at the end of the day that is the goal to success.

The audience consisted mostly of high school and college students. The main goal of the lunch was to facilitate networking between young Indian youth in the area.

For more information on GOPIO YOUTH – CT, readers can contact ankurahuja@gmail.com or sharonpriya.banta@gmail.com.

Pageant Finalist

Nikhil Dhawan was named sixth at Mr. International Pageant.

Nikhil Dhawan, Mr. South Asia 2007, was a top 10 finalist at the Mr. International 2007 pageant held in Kuching, Malaysia, where he represented India. Nikhil won the spot to represent India at the world pageant when he won Mr. South Asia 2007 at Jinder Chohan's 16th annual pageant, according to a press release.

“All in all being a part of Mr. International 2007 was a great experience for me,” Dhawan said. “I learned so much, not only about modeling, but about life. My goal leaving home was to make top 5, and I finished sixth. Not making top five disappointed me at first, but after I looked at the top five contestants — they clearly deserved it. Also knowing that I was the youngest in the top 10 was a boost to my confidence.”

He added, “Representing India was one of the most beautiful things I've ever done. The first couple of days everyone called each other by their country, and I thought it was kind of funny. Then I thought people would eventually start calling each other by their name, but it didn't happen. Even the last day, people were still calling me ‘India.’ It finally hit me that being called ‘India’ for 10 days was the greatest thing ever because I was an acting ambassador to my country.”

Jinder K. Chohan, director of Mr. International for India, said about Nikhil's performance at Mr. International 2007, “Nikhil did an excellent job, and Nikhil and his family should be proud of his huge accomplishment.”

Mr. Brazil Alan Bianco Martini Malgioglio, a 28-year-old banker and model, was crowned Mr. International 2007. First runner-up went to Mr. Korea Oh Jong Sung and 2nd runner-up was Mr. Greece Aristotellis Spyridon Bolovinos.

Shlokas in Senate

Five state senates in the U.S. will have their reportedly first Hindu opening prayers containing ancient Sanskrit mantras in the coming weeks, according to a press release from Reno, Nev.-based Hindu priest Rajan Zed, who has spearheaded the effort.

Zed will recite these prayers in New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Washington and Arizona, which will reportedly be the first Hindu prayers of these Senates since their formation.

Zed will deliver these prayers from ancient Hindu scriptures at Senate halls in state capitols in Santa Fe (Jan. 28), Denver (Jan. 29), Salt Lake City (Feb. 13), Olympia (Feb. 22), and Phoenix (March 24). After first reciting in Sanskrit, he will then read the English translation of the prayer.

He will recite from Rig-Veda, the oldest scripture of the world still in common use, dated from around 1,500 BCE, besides lines from Upanishads and Bhagavad-Gita (Song of the Lord), both ancient Hindu scriptures. He plans to start and end the prayer with “Om,” which in Hinduism is used to introduce and conclude religious work.

Reciting from Brahadaranyakopanishad, Zed plans to say “Asato ma sad gamaya, Tamaso ma jyotir gamaya, Mrtyor mamrtam gamaya”, which roughly translates as “Lead us from the unreal to the real, from darkness to light, and from death to immortality.”

In recent months, Zed has delivered the first Hindu prayers in the United States Senate at Washington D.C., California State Senate at Sacramento, and Nevada State Senate and Nevada State Assembly at Carson City.

New Board

The Congressional Asian Pacific American Staff Association has announced a newly elected executive board and committee chairs for 2008. Since 1995, CAPASA has served as the voice of Asian American and Pacific Islander congressional staffers, according to a CAPASA press release.

Following are the members of the 2008 CAPASA executive board: Carmela Clendening , president; Victoria Tung, vice president for House; Winnie Chang, vice president for Senate; Henry Truong, secretary; and Charles Dujon, treasurer.

“Since the election of the first AAPI representative Congressman Dalip Singh Saund in 1957, the changing face of our country has brought more diversity into the halls of the Capitol,” the release said. “Trailblazers like Congresswoman Patsy Mink, former Congressman and secretary of commerce and secretary of transportation Norm Mineta, and Congressman Bob Matsui paved the way; and today's leaders like Congressman Mike Honda, CAPASA's sponsor, and other members of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus continue their legacy.”

Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are the fastest growing minority group in the United States with a 43.5 percent increase between 1990-2000. Currently there are 14.4 million AAPIs living in the United States, approximately 4 percent of the total population. By 2050, it is expected to grow to 33.4 million, a 213 percent increase. “Organizations like CAPASA encourage professional development and give support to underrepresented groups. Strengthening diversity among congressional staff is critical to sound public policy,” said Congressman Mike Honda. “My diverse staff helps me better represent the American people. We need to make sure that people from all walks of life play a part in our political process.”


Click here to read in PDF format

Teaching Indian Kids: Pratham’s Annual Survey
Pratham tested over 700,000 Indian kids in 16,000 villages all over India and presented its findings in its 2007 Annual Survey of Education Report, writes Arvind Amin.

Maverick Malayali: Vaikom Muhammad Basheer
Critics and the common man alike were won by the disarmingly down-to-earth literary style of Vaikom Muhammad Basheer, Siliconeer offers a tribute on his birth centenary.

The Battle for Democracy:
A Trip to Pakistan

The U.S. can continue its history of backing autocrats or demand the restoration of the judiciary and an independent press in Pakistan, writes Radhika Sainath after a recent trip to Pakistan.

EDITORIAL: Educating India’s Children
COMMUNITY: Bangla Benefit
SUBCONTINENT: Tata Nano’s Critics
CINEMA: Filmmaker Jamil Dehlavi
SUBCONTINENT: Reliance Oil Boom
SUBCONTINENT: Republic Day in India
TRAVEL: Nerja, Spain
AUTO: 2008 Cadillac CTS
BOLLYWOOD: Film: Sunday
TAMIL CINEMA: Vazhthukal
RECIPE: Gobhi Manchurian

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