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Volume VII • Issue 10

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EDITORIAL: India, Inc. Goes Global
NEWS DIARY: September
AWARD: MacArthur Geniuses
HEALTH: Path to Wellness
SUBCONTINENT: Village for Sale
LIVING: Small Venture, Big Savings
HEALTH: Good Posture and Health
TRAVEL: Holland's Madurodam Mini City
CINEMA: South Asian Film Fest
CULTURE: Hot August Nights
HAUTE FASHION: Cars and Couture
COMMUNITY: News in Brief
AUTO REVIEW: 2007 GMC Yukon Denali
BOLLYWOOD: Guftugu | Hindi Film Review: Khosla Ka Ghosla
RECIPE: Potato Carrot Halwa

Please Join us as we
welcome veteran
South Asian advertising guru Prem Dutt to the Siliconeer family.
Email Prem

Call Prem: (510) 797-8315

India, Inc. Goes Global

India’s economic growth and its IT and BPO prowess isn’t news anymore, but did you know that Indian big companies are now eyeing acquisitions abroad including the West?

About 80 deals worth $6 billion have been sealed since the beginning of this year and global investment bankers are now wooing Indian companies more as buyers than as sellers.

The Tata Group has acquired U.S.-based Glaceau, the maker of health drink vitamin water, for a cool $667 million. In February, Dr Reddy’s bought German generic drug maker Betapharm. In the UN’s foreign investment performance index rankings covering 132 economies, India has moved from 80 in 1990 to 54 in 2004. Maybe India is taking a page out of NRI tycoon Lakshmi Mittal’s copybook. Mittal recently had Western observers in a tizzy after clinching a $31 billion takeover bid for Belgian giant Arcelor Steel, making the conglomerate the biggest steel producer of the world.

According to a recent report by the Boston Consulting Group, companies based in developing economies are winning in global markets. In the top 100 companies from rapidly developing economies, China (43) and India (21) have the most companies on the list, including China’s Lenovo, China National Offshore Oil Corp. and Indian information technology services giants Infosys, Tata Consulting and Wipro.

Our current issue has a cover story in this by our India correspondent Siddharth Srivastava.

South Asians are diffident no more: In recent U.S. primary races in September, many have thrown in their hats, and some are even winning. Nine states and the District of Columbia held primaries this year, and along with veteran lawmakers Minnesota state Sen. Satveer Choudhary and Maryland House of Delegates majority leader Kumar Barve, several newcomers have won primaries, sometimes unopposed.

In Maryland, debutant Democrat Saqib Ali and Republican Dilip Paliath won enough votes to move on to the November elections. Republican Neil B. Sood of Maryland won the primary unopposed, as did Republican Jay Bala, who is eyeing a seat in the Maryland Senate. In Arizona, Rano Singh was unopposed as she sought the Democratic nomination for the state treasurer’s race.

The going was tougher in New York City for two Bangladeshi Americans making a bid for state assembly nominations. Democrat Morshed Alam was convincingly beaten. Khorshed A. Chowdhury won the nomination from the Republican and Conservative Parties unopposed, but he faces a daunting challenge in November. We carry a detailed story in this month’s issue on the September primary elections.

As we celebrate the growing participation of South Asians in mainstream U.S. politics today, it is worth remembering how different things were as recently as the turn of the century when early Indian pioneers came here to build a new life for themselves.

Early Indian immigrants fought racial bigotry and outright hostility of the U.S. government, but they never gave up.

Bhagat Singh Thind’s fight for citizenship occupies a prominent historical place in that history. An U.S. Army veteran in World War I, he got his U.S. citizenship in July 1918, but it was rescinded just four days later by the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service. Eleven months later, he received it for the second time but the INS appealed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals which sent the case to the next higher court for ruling. Thind valiantly fought his case in the U.S. Supreme Court, but the judge revoked his citizenship simply due to the color of his skin. The court verdict in Thind’s case, United States v. Thind, was a landmark case that confirmed that the rights and privileges of naturalization were reserved for “Whites” only. Thind didn’t give up, however. After the U.S. Congress passed a law in 1935 allowing citizenship to U.S. veterans of World War I, Thind applied again and finally received his U.S. citizenship through the state of New York in 1936. We have a detailed article about him in this issue.

Do drop us a line with ideas and comments about how we can make Siliconeer better serve you.

Mittal Mania!
India, Inc's Shopping Spree
NRI steel tycoon Lakshmi Mittal made the world sit up and take notice when he acquired venerable European steel giant Arcelor. Maybe it’s a sign of the times.

According to PricewaterhouseCoopers, India Inc has recorded mergers and acquisitions in the first half of 2006 worth $25.6 billion. India has surpassed China and South Korea to grab the third position in the Asia Pacific M&A league table and is behind only Japan and Australia. This could well be the beginning of a long-term global buying spree, writes Siddharth Srivastava.

India, Inc., has been on a global shopping spree with India’s foreign direct investment outflows overtaking inflows. June this year saw the closure of 10 cross-border big-ticket deals with a combined transaction value of $1.5 billion.

About 80 deals worth $6 billion have been sealed since the beginning of this year. The whole of 2005 saw 136 deals at a value of $4.7 billion. Global investment bankers are now wooing Indian companies more as buyers than as sellers.

FDI inflows into India increased 47 percent to $1.7 billion in April-June quarter this fiscal, compared to $1.1 billion in the same period last fiscal. During 2005-2006, the FDI inflow was $ 8.2 billion.

The country’s largest corporate house Tata Group has become the latest to join the ranks of Indian seekers on foreign grounds with a $677 million acquisition of U.S.-based Glaceau, the maker of health drink vitamin water, which is being pegged as the largest ever overseas buyout by a private Indian company. The deal surpasses the acquisition of German generic drug maker Betapharm by domestic pharma giant Dr Reddy’s in February this year from U.S,-based private equity firm 3i for $572 million.

In UNCTAD’s outward FDI performance index rankings covering 132 economies, India improved its rank from 80 in 1990 to 54 in 2004. Observers say that this is the beginning of a global presence for Indian companies; some have said that India Inc is now gripped by Mittal mania. It may be recalled that India-born steel tycoon Lakshmi Mittal recently clinched a $31 billion takeover bid for Arcelor Steel, making the conglomerate the biggest steel producer of the world.

According to a recent report by the Boston Consulting Group, companies based in developing economies are winning in global markets, making major acquisitions, and emerging as important customers, business partners, and competitors to the world’s largest companies.

In the top 100 companies from Rapidly Developing Economies, Asian companies formed 70 percent of the list. China and India have the most companies on the list, with 43 and 21, respectively. They include some obvious names, such as China’s Lenovo, China National Offshore Oil Corp. and the Indian information-technology-services giants Infosys, Tata Consulting and Wipro.

Meanwhile, Indian software/BPO (at 33.6 percent) and pharma/healthcare (at 20.5 percent) sectors account for more than half of the overseas acquisitions.

Major acquisitions this year were India’s largest wind energy firm Suzlon Energy acquiring Belgium’s Hansen Transmission International for $324 million. In March, pharma giant Ranbaxy also made a large foreign acquisition of $372 million, with buyout of a 96.8 percent stake in Romania’s Terapia. The largest ever acquisition by an India company abroad in the paper and pulp industry was made by Ballarpur Industries, which along with JP Morgan, acquired a 97.8 percent stake in Malaysia’s Sabah Forest Industries for $261 million.

Tata’s acquisition of Glaceau only lags behind state-owned Oil & Natural Gas Corp Videsh’s 15 percent acquisition of Petrobras’ BC-10 block in Brazil for $1.4 billion.

In the automotive sector, Tata Motors and Mahindra & Mahindra have adopted a mergers & acquisition strategy to become multinationals. Bharat Forge now derives substantial revenues from its overseas acquisitions. In the chemical industry, Asian Paints, Tata Chemicals, United Phosphorus and GHCL have made acquisitions in Egypt, Romania, the U.S. and the U.K. In the consumer sector, Dabur, Godrej and Tata Tea have made sizeable acquisitions. In health care, companies like Dr Reddy’s, Ranbaxy, Wockhardt, Nicholas Piramal, Jubilant and Sun Pharma are global names. Tata Coffee has acquired U.S.-based Eight O’Clock, which is around 2.5 times its size.

The latest to join the bandwagon is Indian entrepreneur Raman Roy, the pioneer of business and process outsourcing in India, who may team up with 3i Group PLC to acquire U.K.-based Vertex in a deal valued at about US $600-700 million. Vertex is the outsourcing arm of U.K.’s United Utilities PLC, headquartered in Manchester with 9,000 employees across the U.K., U.S., Canada and India.

According to analysts, companies are going global because they’re focused on organic growth but find that their home markets don’t have the scale or the resources to allow them to deliver the levels of shareholder value and competitive advantage they want to achieve. They aim globally to tap into new profit pools or gain long-term access to raw materials.
Among the advantages the Indian (Asian) companies enjoy include lower labor cost, access to skilled manpower and ability to deliver quality at a lower price, thus offering a foreign consumer more value for money. By 2010, China and India combined will graduate 12 times the number of engineers, mathematicians, scientists and technicians as the U.S. A skilled factory worker might costs the company $1-$5 per hour, versus $20-$25 per hour in North America, Japan or Western Europe.

Indeed, the overall picture reflects this trend. India’s FDI outflows as a percentage of gross fixed capital formation have risen steadily. From 0.01 percent in 1983-85, it rose 0.1 percent in 1993-95 and then to 1 percent in 2001-03. As opposed to this, China’s FDI outflow as a percentage of GFCF grew from 0.3 percent in 1983-85 to 1.3 percent in 1992-95 and then fell to 0.9 percent in 2001-03. The corresponding figures for Brazil were 0.3 percent, 0.7 percent and 0.2 percent.

A survey done by Grant Thornton India in May this year suggests that corporate India is looking forward to aggressive growth through mergers and acquisitions. According to the survey, 81 percent of the 200 companies were exploring the M&A option to grow. Of the total, only 30 percent of the companies had actually undertaken any M&A in the past, indicating possibility of a sharp increase in M&A activity in the near future.

According to global consultancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, India Inc has recorded more mergers and acquisitions in the first half of 2006 as compared to the whole of 2005. India has surpassed China and South Korea to grab the third position in the Asia Pacific M&A league table and is lagging only behind Japan and Australia. Indian companies struck M&A deals worth $25.6 billion in the first six months of 2006, up from $8 billion in the first half of 2005, and $23.6 billion for the entire 2005.

The biggest portion of Indian acquisitions have been in Europe (around 40 percent) and North America (around 34 percent), highlighting Indian companies’ confidence to invest in more developed economies. A recent report published by India Brand Equity Foundation, “Going Global: India Inc in U.K.,” says that India has emerged as the third largest investor in the U.K., raising its rank by five in a single year. The biggest Indian investor in the U.K. with 16 companies employing 3,000 people is the Tata Group.


Primary Colors: How South Asians Fared
A good number of South Asians threw in their hats during nationwide primaries for a variety of electoral races. The going was often tough, but many South Asians are beginning at the grassroots level, a good sign. A Siliconeer report.

(Right): Maryland statehouse hopeful Saqib Ali (l) with Democratic leader Howard Dean; (Bottom, l): Maryland lawmaker Kumar Barve; and (Bottom, r): Minnesota state Sen. Satveer Chaudhary.

Are South Asians finally waking up to the need for getting involved in mainstream politics? The signs looked good this primary season.

Several newcomers joined the handful of veteran South Asian state lawmakers to try their luck in the 2006 primary season, with understandably mixed results.

Nine states and the District of Columbia held party primaries on Sept. 12: Arizona, Delaware, Maryland, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, Wisconsin and District of Columbia. At least 11 South Asians threw their hats into various primary races in Arizona, New York, Maryland and Minnesota.

For veteran state lawmakers like Minn. state Sen. Satveer Chaudhary and Md. House of Delegates Majority Leader Kumar Barve, both Democrats, the primaries were — and were expected to be — a cakewalk. In fact, Chaudhary, running for reelection from the state’s District 52, was unopposed in the primary. In 2000, he became the first Asian Indian state senator in American history. In 1996, he was elected state representative. He will take on Republican opponent Rae Hart Anderson, a health care professional, in November, and is expected to win handily.

Barve, running for re-election from District 17, was first elected in 1990, and was re-elected three times in 1994, 1998, and 2002, Barve is the longest-serving elected official of Indian origin and is widely respected as an efficient lawmaker.

He easily won reelection in a year when several incumbents with decades of legislative experience fell by the wayside as newcomers edged them out in Maryland.
Barve of Gaithersburg, Md., and Luiz R.S. Simmons of Rockville, Md., won easily with 5,712 votes and 6,014 votes respectively. James ‘‘Jim” W. Gilchrist of Rockville took the third seat with 3,565 votes.

The top three Democratic vote-getters in the primary will face three Republicans — Mary Haley, Paul N. Hnarakis and Josephine J. Wang — in the general election.

For some reason, Maryland had the largest number of South Asians contesting, with five contestants in addition to Barve — Shukoor Ahmed, Saqib Ali, Nina Basu, Dilip Paliath and Neil B. Sood — running to get their party nomination to run for the statehouse. Jay Bala sought his party’s nomination to run for the state senate.

Ahmed, Ali and Basu are Democrats, the others Republican. In this heavily Democratic state, winning a Democratic primary tends to be far more challenging, as it often virtually guarantees election to the statehouse.

In Maryland’s District 39, debutant Saqib Ali, a 31-year-old software engineer managed the difficult feat. He edged incumbent delegate Joan F. Stern by six percent with 4,205 votes — 25.3 percent — to join incumbent delegates Charles E. Barkley (4,673 votes, 27.5 percent) and Nancy J. King (4,840 votes, 28.5 percent) to advance to the November elections on the Democratic ticket. The three nominees will run against Republicans David Nichols, Gary Scott and Bill Witham.

Ali, a North Potomac, Md., resident, got an endorsements from the Washington Post. “Political newcomer Saqib Ali has shown good command of issues and would bring new vigor to this district’s delegation,” the Post wrote.

Shukoor Ahmed and Nina Basu, both Democrats, lost their bids to get the Democratic nomination for the November polls. Ahmed, running from District 23A, had three competing Democrats. Two top vote getters earned the delegates’ seats, as no Republicans are contesting.

Basu ran against Guy Guzzone, Shane Pendergrass, Neil Quinter and Frank S. Turner in the primary.

Pendergrass (27 percent), Guzzone (25 percent) and Turner (23 percent) won to move on to the November elections. Quinter and Basu were eliminated. Quinter pulled in 17 percent of the vote and Basu tallied roughly 7 percent.

Republican Dilip Paliath won enough votes to contest the November elections while Republican Neil B. Sood won the primary unopposed, as did Republican Jay Bala, who is eyeing a seat in the Maryland Senate.

In Maryland’s District 42, newcomer Dilip Paliath, 35, won the third highest votes in a crowded Republican slate of eight candidates to move on to the November elections. Paliath won 2,958 votes, an almost 1,000-vote margin over his nearest competitor attorney Russ Pope (1,987 votes) to join other two top vote getters and one-term incumbents Susan Aumann (3,844) and Bill Frank (3,384).

In Maryland’s District 21, Neil B. Sood, 27, was unopposed in the Republican primary for the House of Delegates. Sood will face Democratic primary winners incumbent Democrat Barbara Frush and first-time candidates Ben Barnes and Joseline Peña-Melnyk in the November elections.

Sri Lanka-born Jay Bala of Waldorf, Md., won unopposed the Republican primary for state senate in Maryland’s District 28. Bala manages his wife Dr. Nirmaladevi Jayanthan’s medical practice in Waldorf. In November he will run against incumbent Sen. Thomas McLain Middleton, who has been state senator for over 10 years.

In Arizona, Rano Singh was unopposed as she sought the Democratic nomination for the state treasurer’s race. In November, she will contest Republican Dean Martin.

In New York City, two Bangladeshi Americans made a bid for state assembly nominations. Democrat Morshed Alam was convincingly beaten by Rory Lancman in Flushing’s open assembly seat. Khorshed A. Chowdhury won the nomination from the Republican and Conservative Parties unopposed to run for the state assembly from District 54 in Brooklyn. He faces incumbent Democratic State Assemblyman Darryl Towns, who inflicted a crushing defeat on him in 2004.


Benazir Speaks at San Francisco Bay Area Event | Pranab Meets NRIs | South Asian Heart Center Open House | Sweet Revenge | Bangla Rivals Meet | Berkeley Poet Receives Award from UP Chief Minister | Shashi Bows Out | ‘Walk the Talk’ | Nepal-India Treaty Held | Micro Credit to be Licensed

Benazir Speaks at San Francisco Bay Area Event - By Ras Siddiqui

Benazir Bhutto with expatriate PPP activists.

Over 500 members of the Pakistani-American community in the San Francisco Bay Area welcomed former Pakistan Prime Minister. Benazir Bhutto Sept. 29 during a breaking of the fast (Iftar) at the Chandni Restaurant in Newark, Calif. The reception was arranged by the Pakistan People’s Party, California and its visibly pleased president Khuda Bux Bhutto welcomed everyone, especially those who came from Los Angeles, Seattle and California’s Central Valley. Bhutto had a scheduled speaking engagement the day before at the Reno-Sparks area of Nevada, at the University of Nevada, Reno’s annual Foundation Banquet.

Benazir Bhutto with local Bay Area resident Jia Malik Husain.
After several years of suffering when she lost all the male members of her family, the daughter of Pakistan’s talented political figure Zulfikar Ali Bhutto (whose judicial assassination still haunts the politics of the country) is now living in exile. Like her father, she waits impatiently as generals rule Pakistan and usually make a mess.

Benazir appeared to be in a somber mood. Either it was the fasting month or just plain fatigue, but she did look a little tired. Maybe it was the presence of former Congressman Pete McCloskey at this gathering and a reminder of a time when mercy petitions were being sent on behalf of her late father? Because of Pete’s presence she said a few words in English but proceeded in Urdu.

She spoke about her own and her party’s victimization by the current regime in Pakistan. “How we can go and give assurances to other countries about battling extremism without having our own house in order?” she asked.

She said that the PPP was unhappy with the peace treaty in Waziristan which she stressed is Pakistani territory. “The whole world is watching us. If we cannot deal with these militants ourselves then what will become of our country?” She said that the people should be (democratically) included in all decision making. She added that Pakistan is being maligned and its image has been tarnished because of these militants and that Pakistanis are being looked upon with suspicion worldwide because of them.
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Pranab Meets NRIs
Defense Minister Pranab Mukherjee (r) shaking hands with Indian Ambassador to the U.S. Ronen Sen during a trip to New York.

During his recent trip to New York, Indian Defense Minister Pranab Mukherjee attended a reception Sept. 24 hosted in his honor by Indian Ambassador to the U.S. Ronen Sen.

As he spoke to a gathering of Indian Americans, Mukherjee said India’s essential greatness lay in its tolerance and openness.

“It is indeed a matter of great pride for us that we represent a great and composite civilization that defines our ‘Indianness’ and our worldview,” he said. “Our thinking is shaped by a history in which practically all the communities of the world have thrived. India has always been a mosaic of cultures and an open society. Great religions have been born in our nation, and many from outside have been absorbed and internalized.”

This tradition of tolerance continued to be reflected in contemporary India, he added.

“In contemporary India, it is reflected in our commitment to secularism, which is enshrined in our Constitution,” he said. “In a world of conflict and bigotry, India provides an alternative model of peaceful co-existence. In an age in which people talk of the end of history and a clash of civilizations, Gandhi’s message is that civilizations enrich each other by overlapping and interacting.”

The success of Indian Americans in the U.S., therefore, was no surprise, he suggested.
“Indian Americans have the great advantage of coming from an open and pluralistic society and making another free society their home,” he said. “And openness is the basis of human creativity. Democracies sometimes seem noisy and divisive, but they are ultimately the true guarantee of unity and equitable development.”
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South Asian Heart Center Open House

At the official opening of the South Asian Heart Center (l-r): Cardiologist Enas Enas, local gynecologist Prasanna Menon and El Camino Hospital CEO Kenneth D. Graham.

The South Asian Heart Center at El Camino Hospital in Mountain View, Calif., declared itself officially open at an open house attended by over 450 people and supported by businesses and volunteers from throughout the Silicon Valley, said a center press release.

Munching on “heart healthy” hors d’oeuvres, main courses, drinks and desserts supplied by some of the area’s most popular restaurants, participants were treated to tours of the facility led by 30 student volunteers from Saratoga, Monte Vista, Lynbrook, St. Francis and Harker High Schools, a signature video on the center, and an opportunity to question top heart experts about the unique cardiovascular risks faced by South Asians. 

In a giant tent set up for the event, the main program of the evening unfolded, emceed by Reshma Dordi, who hosts the TV show Showbiz India.  Kenneth D. Graham, CEO of El Camino Hospital, welcomed participants. 

Gynecologist Dr. Prasanna Menon told the crowd that it was her personal experiences with her patients that led to the creation of the South Asian Heart Center.

“I kept seeing so many of my patient’s families affected by this terrible epidemic,” she said.  “Babies were growing up never getting a chance to know their grandparents—or even their father or mother, in some cases,” said the physician, who has practiced 25 years and delivered 4,000 babies.

The honor of ribbon-cutting went to world-renowned cardiologist Dr. Enas Enas, a Chicago-area doctor whose cutting edge research on South Asian heart disease has helped form the foundation of the South Asian Heart Center’s unique program, which includes advanced screening that goes beyond conventional blood tests in addressing emerging risk factors unique to South Asians.

The SAHC is the first nonprofit organization in the world to address the prevention of the global epidemic of heart disease affecting people of South Asian descent (from the countries of Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka). 

More information is available at: www.southasianheartcenter.org
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Sweet Revenge
Indian whiz Sania Mirza celebrates after beating former world tennis champion Martina Hingis at the Korea Open.

India’s Sania Mirza rallied past top seed Martina Hingis 4-6 6-0 6-4 in the second round of the Korea Open Sept. 28, gaining quick revenge on the former number one for a defeat in Kolkata last week.

After losing the first set in which both players struggled to hold serve, Mirza raised her level of play and was able to push the Swiss world number eight around the court with her powerful groundstrokes.

Easing through the second without dropping a game, the world number 59 broke her opponent in the ninth game of the deciding set and held on to deny Hingis a chance of a third title this season.

Hingis beat Mirza in the semi-finals on her way to a Kolkata Open victory earlier to go with an Italian Open success earlier this year.

The 25-year-old five-time grand slam winner retired in 2002 due to foot and ankle injuries, but made a full-time comeback in January.

However Mirza went on to lose in the quarterfinal.
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Bangla Rivals Meet
Bangladesh ruling party BNP secretary Abdul Mannan Bhuiyan (l), receives his counterpart Abdul Jalil of opposition Awami League.

Leaders of the governing party of Bangladesh and the main opposition party have met to discuss their disagreements over electoral reforms.

The secretary general of the ruling Bangladesh Nationalist Party agreed to attend the meeting with his counterpart from the opposition Awami League.

The date was fixed in a telephone conversation between the two politicians.

“The dialogue will be held tomorrow at the Jatiya Sangsad [national parliament],” Bangladesh Nationalist Party Secretary General Abdul Mannan Bhuiyan told reporters earlier at his official residence.

“I have spoken to Abdul Jalil [secretary general of the Awami League] - and the time and venue have been set.”

The announcement brings an end to growing speculation and confusion about the timing of a meeting.

Bhuiyan earlier refused to meet his Awami League counterpart at the residence of the U.S. ambassador in Dhaka, Patricia Butenis.

He argued that the premises of a foreign country should not be used to resolve domestic political disputes.

The Awami League and its allies insist they must have a say in choosing the head of the next caretaker administration, which will oversee the general election due in January.
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Berkeley Poet Receives Award from UP Chief Minister

Berkeley, Calif.,-based poet and folklorist Dr. Ved Prakash Vatuk (c) being presented the Jaishankar Prasad Award for his epic “Bahubali.” Also seen: Som Thakur (l), Vice President of the Hindi Sansthan and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav.

Berkeley, Calif.,-based poet, folklorist and peace activist Ved Prakash Vatuk recently received he Jaishankar Prasad Award for his epic poem “Bahubali.”

The award, which is conferred by the Uttar Pradesh government’s Hindi Sansthan, recognizes the best epic of the year. It carries a citation and a cash prize of Rs. 25,000. The award ceremony was held on Hindi Diwas, Sept. 14.

Writing about his epic in an earlier issue of Siliconeer, Vatuk wrote: “Briefly, what I want to say is this: Today, as man stands on the brink of global destruction, his hunger for power makes him refuse to face up to what he already knows. The tendency to resolve every conflict with brute force and violence, borrowed from an older, barbaric age, is still with us. The world’s self-centered rulers still fail to realize that if they do not cease to use violent force to resolve every problem, one day they themselves will become the fuel in the yagna for power.

“In the context of these questions I wrote ‘Bahubali,’ a story in verse — a khanda-kavya — borrowing a unique story form a myth from ancient Indian history. This story is about Bharat and Bahubali — the two sons of the apostle of non-violence and peace, the adi tirthankar Rishavdev. The elder brother Bharat, the ruler of Ayodhya, girded his loins to conquer the world in the name of world peace and found the Chakravarty rajya. However, his younger brother Bahubali, the ruler of Podanpur, considered sacrificing the lives of his subjects to protect his kingdom a policy preferable to accepting the primacy of his elder brother. The battle between these two feuding brothers could have been as horrific as the war in Mahabharat, had not the blameless subjects and its leaders stood up to protest the imminent bloodshed of the innocent in the impending dharmyuddh. This message of the pointlessness of war and lust for power, and the proposal of an alternative, nonviolent society — this is the essence of my poem.”
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Shashi Bows Out
Shashi Tharoor

India’s candidate for the post of UN secretary general, Shashi Tharoor, says he is “disappointed” after coming second again in informal polling.

A career diplomat, Tharoor pulled out of the race after South Korea’s Ban Ki-Moon won the latest straw poll.

Although Tharoor got 10 votes, one more than needed to stay in the race. one of the three negative votes was from a permanent Security Council member.

A formal vote to choose the secretary general is due Nov. 9.

Tharoor said he had “entered the race because of my devotion to the United Nations, and for the same reason I will strongly support him as the next secretary general. The UN, and the world, has a stake in his success.”

Although he has conceded victory, Tharoor is “disappointed” by the result.

In an interview to the BBC, he said, “I have spent 28 years working for the UN. All the other candidates have worked for their governments. I was the only candidate who has devoted my entire professional life to the UN and worked for the international community.”

Tharoor thanked the Indian government for supporting his candidacy.
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'Walk the Talk'
Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf (l) shakes hands with India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Pakistan has to prove it is sincere about working with India to counter terrorism, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh warned after police accused Islamabad of plotting blasts that killed 186 commuters in India’s financial capital Mumbai.

“Pakistan will have to walk the talk,” to back up its promise to cooperate on terrorism, Singh told reporters.

“Whatever has been discovered (by Mumbai police), we shall share that information with Pakistan and test them on how sincere they are in carrying forward the commitment I and President (Pervez) Musharraf have underlined,” Singh said on his plane trip home from South Africa.

Mumbai police chief A.N. Roy publicly accused Pakistan’s spy agency, the Inter Services Intelligence, of orchestrating the July attacks on trains that also wounded 800.

Pakistan has pledged to take action if India produces evidence to show that ISI was involved in the Mumbai bombings, but has denied any role in the attacks.

India froze peace talks with Pakistan in the aftermath of the attacks but agreed to continue the dialogue after a meeting between Singh and Musharraf in Havana Sept.16.

The leaders decided to “put in place an India-Pakistan anti-terrorism institutional mechanism to identify and implement counter-terrorism initiatives and investigations.”

When asked how the proposed counter-terrorism mechanism would work, Singh said: “We have set up this mechanism. How else can we ask for information except through a mechanism like this?”

“The mechanism is yet to take off,” he said.

But once it does, “then we will test the waters,” Singh said. He added that the peace process cannot “move forward until both countries sincerely work to gain mastery over this menace.”
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Nepal-India Treaty Held
A Nepal Communist Party Maoist’s student activist

A demand from Nepal’s Maoists has caused the postponement of this week’s signing of an extradition treaty between Nepal and India, a television report said.

Maoist leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal, better known as Prachanda, telephoned Nepalese Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala to demand that the governing Seven-Party Alliance not sign the treaty without the participation of the Maoist rebels, the Kantipur Television reported.

Kantipur Television quoted highly placed Maoist sources as saying Koirala agreed to the Maoist request to postpone the signing of the treaty that was agreed upon earlier this year until a more representative government was in place in Nepal.

Nepalese Home Minister Krishna Prasad Sitaula had been scheduled to leave for New Delhi to sign the treaty.

It is to replace an extradition treaty that Nepal and India signed in October 1953. India wanted to revise it, saying the 1953 document was not adequate to deal with the modern-day problems of drug and human trafficking along the countries’ 1,700-kilometre-long border.

Government sources said Koirala agreed to put off the signing of the revised extradition treaty until after top-level peace talks scheduled for Sunday between the leaders of his ruling alliance and the Maoists, who have been waging a civil war for a decade.
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Micro Credit to be Licensed
A Bangladeshi woman spins on a wheel provided by micro-credit.

Authorities in Bangladesh have been strongly considering a proposal for mandatory license for all the organizations operating micro-credit schemes for the poor section of the people.

Officials at the Bangladesh central bank, Bangladesh Bank, say that the institutions, both in public sector and non-governmental organization, must apply for the licenses or a certificate from the Micro-credit Regulatory Authority by February 2007.

“Any institution, existing and new ones, will have to obtain the license to operate micro-credit programs,” Salehuddin Ahmed, the chairman of the regulatory authority and governor of the Bangladesh Bank, told newsmen after the first meeting of the authority.

For operations of micro-credit programs, lives have apparently changed in rural Bangladesh, and to many extents the programs helped poverty reduction. Bangladesh’s micro-credit programs introduced by Grameen Bank of Mohammad Yunus is being introduced in many countries in the world.

The Bangladesh Bank governor said that the authority would decide the size of the registration fees later. Each application form will cost Tk 500.

The regulatory body will examine the applications once they are submitted and also review the overall performance of the micro-credit institution. It will evaluate the managerial capacity, capital adequacy, area of activities and reputations of the sponsors. Based on the evaluation the authority would issue the certificate. Without such certificate or licensing no organization will be allowed to operate micro-credit business in Bangladesh, officials said.
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An Indian Pioneer's Story: Bhagat Singh Thind
Bhagat Singh Thind’s U.S. citizenship was rescinded four days after it was granted. The case went to the U.S. Supreme Court, where his citizenship was denied due to the color of his skin, writes Inder Singh.

(Inset, top): Bhagat Singh Thind in U.S. Army uniform; (bottom): A Sikh immigrant with other Asian immigrants in Vancouver, BC, circa 1920; (Below): The U.S. Supreme Court, which turned down Thind’s appeal for citizenship on racial grounds.

In the annals of Asians’ struggle for U.S. citizenship, Bhagat Singh Thind’s fight for citizenship occupies a prominent historical place. His U.S. citizenship was rescinded four days after it was granted. Eleven months later, he received it for the second time but the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service appealed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals which sent the case to the next higher court for ruling. Thind valiantly fought his case in the U.S. Supreme Court, but the judge revoked his citizenship simply due to the color of his skin. The court verdict in Thind’s case, United States v. Thind confirmed that the rights and privileges of naturalization were reserved for “Whites” only.

At that time, Indians in the United States were commonly called “Hindoos” irrespective of their faith. Thind’s nationality was also referred to as “Hindoo” or “Hindu” in all legal documents and in the media although he was a Sikh by faith and preserved his religious beliefs by keeping a beard and long hair on his head and wore a turban.

Bhagat Singh was born on October 3, 1892 in Punjab, India. He came to the U.S. in 1913 to pursue higher education. On July 22, 1918, while still an Indian citizen, he joined the U.S. Army to fight in World War I. A few months later in November, Bhagat Singh, a turban-wearing “Hindu,” was promoted to the rank of an Acting Sergeant. He had not even served for a month in his new position when the war ended. He received an honorable discharge in December, 1918, with his character designated as “excellent.”

In those days, U.S. citizenship conferred many rights and privileges but only “free white men” were eligible to apply. In the United States, many anthropologists used Caucasian as a general term for “white.” Indian nationals from the north of the Indian subcontinent were also considered Caucasian. Thus, several Indians were granted U.S. citizenship in different states. Thind also applied for citizenship in the state of Washington in July 1918. He received his citizenship certificate on December, 1918 wearing military uniform as he was still serving in the U.S. army. However, the INS did not agree with the district court granting the citizenship. Thind’s citizenship was revoked in four days, on December 13, 1918, on the grounds that he was not a “free white man.” Thind, as a soldier in the U.S. army, had all the rights and privileges like any “white man” and was worthy of trust to defend the U.S. but America would not trust him with citizenship rights due to the color of his skin.

Thind was disheartened but was not ready to give up his fight. He applied for citizenship again from the neighboring state of Oregon on May 6, 1919. The same INS official who got Thind’s citizenship revoked first time, tried to convince the judge to refuse citizenship to a “Hindoo” from India. He even brought up the issue of Thind’s involvement in the Gadar Movement, members of which campaigned for the independence of India from Britain. But Thind contested this charge. Judge Wolverton believed him and observed, “He (Thind) stoutly denies that he was in any way connected with the alleged propaganda of the Gadar Press to violate the neutrality laws of this country, or that he was in sympathy with such a course. He frankly admits, nevertheless, that he is an advocate of the principle of India for the Indians, and would like to see India rid of British rule, but not that he favors an armed revolution for the accomplishment of this purpose.” The judge took all arguments and Thind’s military record into consideration and declined to agree with the INS. Thus, Thind received U.S. citizenship for the second time on November 18, 1920.

The INS had included Thind’s involvement in the Gadar Movement as one of the reasons for the denial of citizenship to him. Gadar, which literally means revolt or mutiny, was the name of the magazine of Hindustan Association of the Pacific Coast. The magazine became so popular among Indians that the association itself became known as the Gadar Party.

The Hindustan Association of the Pacific Coast was formed in 1913 with the objective of freeing India from British rule. The majority of its supporters were Punjabis who had come to the U.S. for better economic opportunities. They were unhappy with racial prejudice and discrimination against them. Indian students, who were welcomed in the universities, also faced discrimination in finding jobs commensurate with their qualifications upon graduation. They attributed prejudice, inequity and unfairness to their being nationals of a subjugated country. Har Dyal, a faculty member at Stanford University, who had relinquished his scholarship and studies at Oxford University, England, provided leadership for the newly formed association and supported the pro-Indian, anti-British sentiment of the students for independence of India.

Soon after the formation of the Gadar party, World War I broke out in August, 1914. The Germans, who fought against England in the war, offered the Indian Nationalists (Gadarites) financial aid to buy arms and ammunition to expel the British from India while the British Indian troops were fighting war at the front. The Gadarite volunteers, however, did not succeed in their mission and were taken captives upon reaching India. Several Gadarites were imprisoned, many for life, and some were hanged. In the United States too, many Gadarites and their German supporters were prosecuted in the San Francisco Hindu German Conspiracy Trial (1917-18) and twenty-nine “Hindus” and Germans were convicted for varying terms of imprisonment for violating the American Neutrality Laws.

Thind had joined the Gadar movement and actively advocated independence of India from the British Empire. Judge Wolverton granted him citizenship after he was convinced that Thind was not involved in any “subversive” activities. The INS appealed to the next higher court — the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals which sent the case to the U.S. Supreme Court for ruling on the following two questions:

“1. Is a high caste Hindu of full Indian blood, born at Amritsar, Punjab, India, a white person within the meaning of section 2169, Revised Statutes?”

“2. Does the act of February 5, 1917 (39 Stat. L. 875, section 3) disqualify from naturalization as citizens those Hindus, now barred by that act, who had lawfully entered the United States prior to the passage of said act?”

Section 2169, Revised Statutes, provides that the provisions of the Naturalization Act “shall apply to aliens, being free white persons, and to aliens of African nativity and to persons of African descent.”

In preparing briefs for the Ninth Circuit Court, Thind’s attorney argued that the Immigration Act of 1917 barred new immigrants from India but did not deny citizenship to Indians who were legally admitted like Thind, prior to the passage of the new law. He argued that the purpose of the Immigration Act was “prospective and not retroactive.”

Thind’s attorney gave references of previous court cases of Indians who were granted citizenship by the lower federal courts on the grounds that they were “Caucasians.” (U.S. v. Dolla 1910, U.S. v. Balsara 1910, Akhay Kumar Mozumdar 1913, Mohan Singh, 1919). Judge Wolverton, in granting citizenship to Thind, also said, “The word “white” ethnologically speaking was intended to be applied in its popular sense to denote at least the members of the white or Caucasian race of people.” Even the U.S. Supreme Court, in 1922, in the case of a Japanese immigrant, US vs. Ozawa, officially equated “white person” with “a person of the Caucasian race.”

Thind was convinced that based on Ozawa’s straightforward ruling of racial specification and many similar previous court cases, he would win the case and his victory will open the doors for all Indians in the United States to obtain U.S. citizenship. Little did he know that the color of his skin would become the grounds for denial of the right of citizenship by the highest court in the US.

Justice George Sutherland of the Supreme Court delivered the unanimous opinion of the court on February 19, 1923, in which he argued that since the “common man’s” definition of “white” did not correspond to “Caucasian,” Indians could not be naturalized. The Judge, giving his verdict, said, “A negative answer must be given to the first question, which disposes of the case and renders an answer to the second question unnecessary, and it will be so certified.”
Shockingly, the very same Judge Sutherland who had equated Whites as Caucasians in U.S. vs. Ozawa, now pronounced that Thind, though Caucasian, was not “White” and thus was ineligible for U.S. citizenship. He apparently decided the case under pressure from the forces of prejudice, racial hatred and bigotry, not on the basis of precedent that he had established in a previous case.

The Supreme Court verdict shook the faith and trust of Indians in the American justice system. The economic impact for land and property owning Indians was devastating as they again came under the jurisdiction of the California Alien Land Law of 1913 which barred ownership of land by persons ineligible for citizenship. Some Indians had to liquidate their land holdings at dramatically lower prices. America, the dreamland, did not fulfill the dream they had envisioned.

The INS issued a notification in 1926 canceling Thind’s citizenship. The INS also initiated proceedings to rescind American citizenship of other Indians. From 1923 to 1926, the citizenship of fifty Indians was revoked. The Barred Zone Act of 1917 had already prevented new immigration of Indians. The continued shadow of insecurity and instability compelled some to go back to India. The Supreme Court decision further lead to the decline in the number of Indians to 3,130 by 1930.

There probably was little sympathy for treating Hindu Thind shabbily but there was a concern for the poor treatment of the U.S. Army veteran Thind. Thus in 1935, the 74th U.S. Congress passed a law allowing citizenship to U.S. veterans of World War I, even those from the “barred zones.” Thind finally received his U.S. citizenship through the state of New York in 1936, taking oath for the third time to become an American citizen. This time, no official of the INS dared to object or appeal against his naturalization.

Thind had come to the U.S. for higher education and to fulfill his destiny as a spiritual teacher.

Even before his arrival, American intellectuals had shown keen interest in Indian religious philosophy. Among them were author and philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882), poet Walter Whitman (1819 – 1892), and writer Henry David Thoreau (1817-62).

Emerson had read Hindu religious and philosophy books including the Bhagavad Gita, and his writings reflected the influence of Indian philosophy. In 1836, he wrote about the “mystical unity of nature” in his essay, “Nature.” In 1868, Walt Whitman wrote the poem “Passage to India.” Henry David Thoreau had considerable acquaintance with Indian philosophical works. He wrote an essay on “Resistance to Civil Government, or Civil Disobedience” in 1849 advocating non-violent resistance against unethical government laws. Years later, Mahatma Gandhi adopted a similar methodology, satyagraha, or non-violent protest to defy the law to gain Indian rights in South Africa in 1906. He quoted Thoreau many times in his paper, Indian Opinion.

In 1893, Swami Vivekananda came to Chicago to represent Hinduism at the World Parliament of Religions. He spoke eloquently and made a lasting impact on the delegates. For four years, he lectured at major universities and retreats and generated significant interest in yoga and Vedantic philosophy. He also started the Vedantic Centre in New York City. In 1897, he published his book “Vedanta Philosophy: Lectures on Raja Yoga and other subjects.” The first part of his book included lectures to classes in New York and the second part contained translation and commentary of “Patanjali.”

Swami Vivekananda’s constant teaching, lecturing and addressing retreats increased the number of Americans who became keen to learn about India, Hindu religion and philosophy.

After Swami Vivekananda left, other religious leaders came to fill the void. In 1920, Paramahansa Yogananda came as India’s delegate to International Congress of Religious Leaders in Boston. The same year, he established the Self-Realization Fellowship and continued to spread his teachings on yoga and meditation in the East coast. In 1925, he established an international headquarters for Self-Realization Fellowship in Los Angeles. He traveled widely and lectured to capacity audiences in many of the largest auditoriums in the country such as New York’s Carnegie Hall.

Thind had started delivering lectures in Indian philosophy and metaphysics before Yogananda came here. He was influenced by the spiritual teachings of his father whose “living example left an indelible blueprint in him.” During his formative years in India, Thind read the literary writings of Emerson, Whitman, and Thoreau and they, too, had deeply impressed him. After graduating from Khalsa College in Amritsar and encouraged by his father, he left for Manila, Philippines where he stayed for a year. He resumed his journey to his destination and reached Seattle, Washington, on July 4, 1913.

Bhagat Singh Thind had gained some understanding of the American mind by interacting with students and teachers at the university and by working in lumber mills of Oregon and Washington during summer vacations to support himself while at the University of California, Berkeley. His teaching included the philosophy of many religions and in particular that contained in Sikh Scriptures. During his lectures to Christian audiences, he frequently quoted the Vedas, Guru Nanak, Kabir, and others. He shared India’s mystical, spiritual and philosophical treasures with his students but never persuaded any of them to become Hindu or Sikh. He also made references to Emerson, Whitman, and Thoreau to which his American audience could easily relate to.

Thind offered a new vista of awareness to his students throughout the United States and initiated thousands of disciples into his expanded view of reality. One of his devoted disciples, Rose Elena Davies, introduced her daughter Vivian. Vivian and Bhagat Singh got married in 1940.

Thind, who had earned a Ph.D, became a prolific writer and was respected as a spiritual guide” He published many pamphlets and books and reached an audience of at least several million.

In “Radiant Road to Reality,” Dr. Thind reveals to the seeker how to connect the soul with the Creator. “There are many religions, but only one Morality, one Truth, and one God. The only Heaven is one of conscious life and fellowship with God,” he writes. Thind was working on some books when suddenly he died on September 15, 1967. He was survived by his wife, Vivian, daughter Rosalind and son David, to whom several of his books are dedicated. He never established a temple, Gurdwara or a center for his followers but lived for a long time in the hearts of his numerous followers.

Thind said, “You must never be limited by external authority, whether it be vested in a church, man, or book. It is your right to question, challenge, and investigate.” And he lived his life by that statement. He was a man of indomitable spirit and waged a valiant struggle for citizenship. He extended the boundaries of his fight by challenging prejudice based on race and color.

His son David Thind has established a Web site www.Bhagatsinghthind.com to promote the books and the philosophy for which Dr. Bhagat Singh Thind spent his entire life. He has also posthumously published two of his father’s books, “Troubled Mind in a Torturing World and Their Conquest,” and “Winners and Whiners in this Whirling World.”


A Doc and A Painter: MacArthur Geniuses

Harvard Medical School professor and New Yorker staff writer Atul Gawande and Pakistan-born painter Shahzia Sikander have been named MacArthur fellows. A Siliconeer report.

Pakistan-born artist Shahzia Sikander (above) and author and surgeon Atul Gawande (right).

A Harvard surgeon whose affecting musings on the fallibility of medicine and a Pakistan-born, New York-based artist whose works merge traditional South Asian miniature painting with contemporary forms and styles have each won a $500,000 MacArthur fellowship, The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation said in an announcement in Chicago.

Indian American Atul Gawande, a professor of surgery at Harvard Medical School in Boston and acclaimed staff writer for the New Yorker magazine, and artist Shahzia Sikander have each won the prestigious “Genius” award, as it is popularly known.

The foundation named 25 new MacArthur Fellows for 2006. “The new Fellows work across a broad spectrum of endeavors,” said a foundation press release. They include a developmental biologist, a sculptor, a country doctor, a jazz violinist, and a deep-sea explorer. All were selected for their creativity, originality, and potential to make important contributions in the future.”

Recipients learned by a phone call from the Foundation that they will each receive $500,000 in “no strings attached” support over the next five years.

“Selection for a MacArthur Fellowship is the culmination of an intensive review of the creative efforts and promise of each Fellow. Our call comes as a complete surprise and offers the new Fellows the gift of time and an unfettered opportunity to reflect, explore, and create,” said MacArthur president Jonathan Fanton.

“Atul Gawande is a surgeon and author who applies a critical eye to modern surgical practice, articulating its realities, complexities, and challenges,” the foundation said in its announcement.  “His book, ‘Complications’ (2002), illuminates the concerns and problems faced by the surgeon-in-training with insight and compassion.  In articles published in professional journals and mainstream periodicals, Gawande scrutinizes the culture, protocol, and technology of modern medical practice from the perspective of a dedicated and empathetic professional.  In all his published work, he brings fresh and unique perspective, clarity, and intuition to the field.  Recognizing the reality of human failures in an imperfect craft, Gawande is equally energetic and imaginative in the identification of practical changes and solutions. 

“Among his innovations are bar codes to prevent surgeons from inadvertently leaving sponges and instruments in patients and a simple score of one to ten indicating the likelihood of complications.  Through initiatives at the Center for Surgery and Public Health at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, newly established to study and improve surgical safety here and abroad, Gawande is giving leadership to the identification of numerous other bold enhancements to surgical protocol that will both improve practice and save lives.”

Gawande, 40, is a general and endocrine surgeon at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, an assistant professor at the Harvard School of Public Health and of surgery at Harvard Medical School. He has written for The New Yorker magazine and the online magazine Slate. His essays have appeared in “The Best American Essays 2002” and “The Best American Science Writing 2002.” His 2002 book, “Complications: A Surgeon’s Notes on an Imperfect Science,” was a National Book Award finalist.

Shahzia Sikander was born in Lahore, Pakistan and received her B.F.A. there at the National College of Arts. While in school she chose to take the traditional miniature painting course with Bashir Ahmed, a master practitioner and teacher. Sikander came to the United States in 1993 to attend the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, where she received her M.F.A. in 1995.

Since then she has exhibited widely in North America, Europe, and Pakistan in solo exhibitions, group exhibitions, and biennials.

“Shahzia Sikander is an artist whose visually striking, resonant works merge the traditional South Asian art of miniature painting with contemporary forms and styles,” according to the MacArthur Foundation Web site. “Her art ranges from intimate watercolors to mural-scale wall paintings and multi-layered paper installations, from intricate photographs to bold juxtapositions of painting and digital animation.

“Trained as a miniaturist at the National College of Arts in Lahore, Pakistan, Sikander recasts the conventions of this centuries-old tradition and challenges notions about the division of art and craft. While traversing cultural, geographic, and psychological boundaries and combining seemingly disparate formal elements, she skillfully expresses a respect for the distinctiveness of the cultures she explores. The results are painstakingly detailed drawings and vibrantly hued paintings that reveal themselves over time and reflect profoundly on the relationship between the present and the past and the richness of multicultural identities.”

Previous MacArthur award winners of South Asian descent include, in alphabetical order:
Pakistan-born historian Ayesha Jalal (1998), sarod maestro Ali Akbar Khan (1991), author Ved Mehta (1982), clinical molecular biologist Vamsi Mootha (2004), economist Sendhil Mullainathan (2002), poet and literary scholar A.K. Ramanujan (1983) and photographer Fazal Sheikh (2005)


A Valiant Effort: Scaling Everest
ONGC co-sponsored mountaineer Gautam Patil wrestled Mt. Everest for two grueling months and reached between 23K & 25K feet, but was forced to return due to severe trauma. A Siliconeer report.

Mountaineer Gautam Patil was determined to scale Mt. Everest, but the odds just got too heavy. He has since returned home from an U.N.-endorsed Everest Peace Climb, according to a press release. With the death count on the North Side at an all time high, taking the lives of nine climbers, the Everest Peace Climb successfully summited 10 of the 22 members. Patil wrestled Mt. Everest for two grueling months and reached a high point between the 23,000-ft Camp 4 and the 25,000-ft Camp 5, but was forced to return due to severe trauma.

Patil was afflicted with the “Khumbu cough,” a dry high-altitude cough that was so violent it left his ribs cracked. He also had retinal hemorrhages in both eyes. In his right eye, a rare injury affected the macula and blocked central vision. Despite these injuries, he continued his tenacious battle up to 25,000 feet in the biting -40 degrees Celsius temperature of Mt. Everest for seven weeks.

He reached a high-point between Camp 4 and Camp 5 but doctors from two other teams — a British Team and an Indian Army Team, persuaded Patil to call it off. Apart from a possibility of losing vision, the fractured ribs made it too painful to continue above camp 5 where, armed with oxygen tanks, one must pull on ropes to ascend. Several options were discussed including the usage of codeine to numb his body from the pain but none seemed tenable.

About his experience, he says “The hardships on the mountain are like the hardships in life, it intensified my resolve to continue. When my body said no but I knew I must move on, I found much strength in the love and support of family and friends. These situations pulled me deep inside, to an inner core, and made me feel one with myself, with nature, and evoked a profound spiritual feeling.”

Patil is now looking forward to recovery and getting ready to deliver motivational talks at various corporate venues. As India’s leading mountaineer, Patil has racked up several firsts. Patil has not only climbed six of the seven summits – Mt Kosciuszko (Australia 2006), Vinson Massif (Antarctica 2006), Denali (North America 2003), Aconcagua (South America 2001), Elbrus (Europe 2000) and Kilimanjaro (Africa 1998). He is India’s first to have climbed Vinson, Denali, Aconcagua, and Elbrus.

More information is available at this Web site: www.isummitworld.com


Healthy Choices: Path to Wellness

There are ways we can empower ourselves to take better care of our families and ourselves, writes Beverly Hayon.
I want to share with you ways we can empower ourselves to take better care of our families and ourselves.

Americans are facing skyrocketing rates of obesity and diabetes. Why is this? Some have a genetic tendency for diabetes, but it has as much to do with our lifestyles and how we eat as genetics.

What can you do about it? With our busy lives and easy access to fast food, it’s a challenge to be healthy. Here are a set of tools to help you make simple changes that will put you on the path to health and wellness.

Know your history. We inherit many things from our parents, like our eyes, hair and height. We also inherit a tendency toward certain medical conditions. Find out what illnesses or conditions family members have had — that includes your parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles. Knowing their history will make you aware of certain risks you may face and help you prevent the same condition.

Know your numbers. Do you know your blood pressure? High blood pressure can tell you if you’re in danger of having a stroke. What about your cholesterol levels? Cholesterol can clog your arteries, putting you at risk for a heart attack. Do you know what the Body Mass Index (BMI) is? BMI is the relationship between your height and weight, and is a quick way to determine whether you’re overweight. Ask your doctor about your blood sugar levels. These important measurements are an excellent way to track your overall health.

Eat for life. Food is important as a way of bringing friends and family together — but let’s put the emphasis on the social aspect and less on the food. Learn how to pick healthy alternatives to foods high in fats or sugars and look for ways to prepare food other than frying. How about fruit instead of candy? Instead of fruit juice, eat the fruit! Let’s eliminate soda! Loaded with sugar and offering no nutritional benefit, sodas are literally killing our children!

Be Active. Today’s lifestyles are sedentary. We spend too much time sitting at our desks, watching television or playing video games. Our bodies are meant to move, so get up and go for a walk. Play ball with your kids! Physical activity is great for your joints, it burns up calories and can even chase away the blues.

Talk with your doctor. Do you have a family doctor? If not, find one. Your doctor can be your partner in preventing illnesses and keeping you healthy.

Each and every one of us can take simple steps that have great impact on our health.

Email Beverly at doctors-word@kp.org

This advertorial is part of a monthly series for New America Media’s ethnic media partners written by Kaiser Permanente physicians based on their experiences. Sponsored by Kaiser Permanente and produced by the NAM InfoWire.


Village for Sale: Farmers in Crisis

Over 25,000 farmers in India have committed suicide between 1990 and 2006, many of whom owed less than Rs.8,000, writes Jaskaran Singh.

(Inset): Sikh farmers in a village in Punjab. A farming crisis has led to a spate of suicides in this agriculturally rich state.
(Above): A Punjab village. Its outwardly calm exterior belies a severe economic crisis that has hit the farming community. (Photos: Amritsar Times)

Amid all the hoopla over India’s much vaunted economic reforms, a silent crisis has been stalking India’s rural hinterland. Amid the bright lights, glitz and glamour of India’s rising clout in IT and BPO, this is a much darker legacy of India’s economic liberalization that has received far less attention from India’s typically navel-gazing metropolitan-bound English-language media.

How many Indians are aware that as many as 25,000 farmers in India have committed suicide between 1990 and 2006? Many of them owed less than Rs.8,000 ($173). A majority of those who committed suicide were relatively young, below the age of 45 years. In many cases the families of suicide victims did not have enough financial wherewithal to arrange the last rites of the victims.

Andhra Pradesh has among the highest number of cases, over 9,000 farmer suicides from 1997 to January 2006. More than 3,000 have taken their lives during the past 22 months.

In the Punjab, there were 2,116 suicides between 1998 and 2005 according to official statistics. Non-government organizations quote much higher figures.

The farmer suicides are not confined to these two states. Maharashtra witnessed over 250 farmer suicides in Vidarbha district from June 2005 to January 2006.

Amid such misery comes the news that sometimes a whole village is for sale, lock, stock and barrel! Not one farm or house, but the whole village as a single lot.

So what is it that is driving whole villages to put themselves on the auction block?

When India became independent in 1947, the nation did not have enough food for all. It has come a long way since then, becoming the world’s second largest exporter of rice and fifth largest exporter of wheat. Agricultural exports account for 15 percent of Indian exports. Something must be terribly wrong if a third of the Indian population still goes hungry to bed everyday; farmers are still dying, not from starvation but from hopelessness. The money lender is not the only villain, government agencies and institutions are acting just as callously. Today, it turns out that the farmer cannot pray for rain and then hope; he finds that he cannot compete with global forces and the apathy of his own government.

So a Punjab village took the extreme step of putting itself for sale. In January 2001 Harkishanpura, a village in Bathinda district of Punjab took an unheard-of step. The village panchayat announced that the village was up for sale. Since then five more villages in the state — known as the food bowl of the country — are awaiting auction. What started as an isolated and bizarre case is now becoming a tragic and wider reality.

Not just in the Punjab. In December 2005, Dorli in Wardha district of Maharashtra made itself available for sale. “Dorli village is for sale” signboards were everywhere, and the message was painted on trees and cattle. It looked like a symbolic gesture, surreal, from a Kafka or Camus story.

In the Chingapur village in Yeotmal region of Maharashtra, the villagers organized a “human market” for the sale of kidneys and invited Indian President Dr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

In 2000, 22 peasants in the Kundoor district sold their kidneys to pay their debts.

In a neighboring village, Shivani Rekhailapur, banners read: “This village is ready to be auctioned. Permit us to commit mass suicides.”

Why do villages put themselves up for sale? Take the example of Malsinghwala, a tiny village in the Mansa district of Punjab. It is a collection of low brick buildings, a dusty road and fields. The village owes around Rs 70 million, of which Rs 25 million is to private moneylenders and commission agents. Jasbir Singh, the village sarpanch, says, “We are neck deep in debt. We are left with no other option but to sell of our land.” Each of the 4,000 residents has an outstanding debt of Rs 13,000. Of its 1,800 acres, about 1,150 are good for growing crops. Half of this land cannot be cultivated for lack of irrigation facilities.

More than 43.4 million Indian peasant families are deeply indebted. Small and medium peasants are the worst affected, but they are not the only ones.

Overall, the number of rural landless families is increasing. Farmers cannot ensure a secure livelihood for their families even after selling their valuables, land and body organs.

Devinder Sharma, a food and trade policy analyst, points out that harmful combination of chemical outputs with water-guzzling crops is responsible for the present predicament of the farmers.

In 2005, the Commission on Farmers’ Welfare, set up by the Andhra Pradesh government, concluded that the state was in “an advanced stage of crisis,” the most extreme manifestation of which was the rise in suicides among farmers.

Chaired by Professor Jayati Ghosh of Jawaharlal Nehru University, the commission concluded that the causes of the problems related directly to public policy and economic strategy at both local and national levels. Heavy burden of personal debt among farmers is the “most acute proximate cause of agrarian distress,” the commission said.

Why are farmers suffering from high indebtedness?
There institutional reasons are: (i) A steep rise in the cost of inputs; (ii) Volatility and often a fall in the price of produce (iii) Lack of proper agricultural advice and (iv) lack of access to formal lines of credit.

Farmers have been forced to pay more for their seeds, fertilizers, pesticides, water and power. At the same time, the price they’ve received for their crops at market has swung wildly and even fallen. Round this off with an inability to get bank loans and a sudden absence of proper advice from the state government on what crops to grow where, and farmers are on the fast track to ruin.

According to the Commission of Farmers’ Welfare, economic policy in India at central and state level “has systematically reduced the protection afforded to farmers and exposed them to market volatility and private profiteering without adequate regulation; has reduced critical forms of public expenditure and has destroyed important public institutions, and did not adequately generate other non-agricultural economic activities. “While this is a generalized rural crisis, the burden has fallen disproportionately on small and marginal farmers, tenant farmers and rural laborers, particularly those in drier tracts. The most extreme manifestation of the crisis is in the suicides of farmers.”

As the Punjab government gets ready for the second Green Revolution, planning to shift 33 percent of state’s total farm land to horticulture, corporate farming and organic farming in next couple of years, one wonders if Indian policymakers have learnt their lesson.


Small Venture, Big Savings
The Case for Energy Efficiency
Immigrant and second-generation American entrepreneurs are making energy efficiency a business priority, writes Mark Schurmann.

(Above): Malik Deeb at his liquor store in San Bernardino, Calif.

Malik Deeb is young, energetic and constantly on the move. In 1994, with a degree in business and advice from an uncle, Malik left his hometown of Detroit, Mich. to open a store in southern California.

“I like to call the shots so I took the chance and moved out here,” says Malik. “My uncle Said had been [in California] for a while and said there was opportunity.”

Raised by his Syrian father and Jordanian mother, Malik is among a growing number of immigrant and second-generation American entrepreneurs who are making energy efficiency a business priority.

“Small businesses may account for 50 percent of the energy use in the state,” says Wally McGuire, director of Flex Your Power, California’s energy efficiency marketing and outreach campaign. “Utility rates are a big chunk of their operating costs.”

With soaring hikes in energy prices and record-setting temperatures in 2006, energy efficiency has become a vital issue for small businesses.

Concerned about his rising utility bills, Malik began looking into ways to lower his costs. Through his area’s utility provider, Southern California Edison, he found a program called Convenience Store Energy Efficiency Delivery Program, a pilot program that offers free site assessments and assistance in energy management.

Mike’s Liquors, one of Malik’s three stores, is tucked away in a residential pocket of San Bernardino. A small, black-and-white photo of Malik’s father as a handsome, middle-aged man hangs above the liquor shelves at the front.

Malik says he’s seen a 10 to 15 percent decrease in his monthly electric bill since participating in CSEED. Though only partly financed by the CSEED program (25 percent of his entire cost), Malik says that even if the total cost had come out of his own pocket, it would have paid for itself within the year.

Energy Tips

The California Grocers Association has low or no-cost energy saving tips for small businesses. Visit their Web site for a complete list, but here are a few:
  • Perform regularly scheduled maintenance on your refrigerator and keep evaporator coils clean and free of ice build-up.
  • Use night covers on both vertical and horizontal display cases.
  • Install motion sensors to control lighting in often-unoccupied areas, such as restrooms.
  • Clean dusty diffusers and lamps every six to 12 months for improved lumen output.
  • Use laptop computers and inkjet printers – they consume 90 percent less energy than standard desktop computers.
“I’m very happy with the program. I started in March of this year and have two of my three stores hooked up,” says Malik, referring to the temperature and energy control system at the back of the store. “It controls all the utilities. Shuts them off when they hit a certain temperature.”

Malik is eager to retrofit his third store in Orange County.

According to McGuire, during the energy crisis of the late 90s, small business and residents saved the state from rolling black outs.

“On its own initiative, virtually the entire state responded to energy conservation measures,” says McGuire.

Utilities are beginning to recognize small businesses as key to changing the state’s attitude toward energy from the ground up.

Irina Krishpinovich, program manager Quantum Energy Services and Technologies, Inc. (QUEST), SCE’s partner in creating the CSEED program, oversaw both the on-site audit and installation for two of Malik’s stores and was impressed.

“Malik was the best type of customer. He was diligent at analyzing his utility bill, and on seeing the savings were real and higher than we anticipated, became more convinced that energy efficiency really impacts bottom lines,” she said. “The results of the savings were so good that he referred other customers to the program.”

Malik is not without some criticism of the program. “There are programs out there like CSEED, but you have to go out and get it. You need to be computer literate. Southern California Edison should pursue those that don’t have computers or do not speak English,” says Malik, who also said ethnic papers are a good way to get the word out.

Plus, energy rates keep rising in southern California. According to the Los Angeles Times, rates in 2006 have increased as much as 55 percent for some energy users. Savings from programs like CSEED may in the end be a wash, but Malik says coming out even is better than paying the increase in the monthly bill.

More information is available at the following Web site: www.fypower.org.


Straighten Up!
Good Posture and Health
Poor posture can affect one’s health, writes chiropractor Adib Ashraf, who offers advice on how to keep your spine aligned.

A healthy and attractive physique is a result of many factors. Good nutrition, aerobic exercise, yoga and pilates are a few of the better known measures that positively affect the human body. However, there is one element of physical change that is very powerful, but it gets overlooked. That element is posture. “Posture!” you say. Remember when Mom told you to stand up straight otherwise you would stay bent forever? Everyone focuses on shoulders and upper back that are painful or fatigued and at good diet, taking vitamins and exercising, which are important, but they ignore posture. But consider the person who has a good diet, exercises, but has poor posture. The image is one of sickness, not health. Poor posture can affect one’s health.

Consider for a moment some of the consequences of poor posture:
  • Sub-optimal organ and muscle function with low energy, endurance and vigor.
  • Sub-optimal biomechanics contributing to poor muscle performance.
  • Neck, shoulders and upper back pain and fatigue at the end of the day.
  • Decreased concentration and mental ability as a result of pain and fatigue.
  • Lower back pain and stiffness.
  • A rounder and weaker stomach.
  • A decreased youthful appearance, confidence and competence.

If these characteristics don’t scare you, nothing will. As doctors of chiropractic, we emphasize good posture to our patients, because good posture is the maintenance of the normal curvatures of the spine. If your spine is out of shape, the rest of your body will follow suit. The spine is the foundation for the rest of your body structure. If you let poor posture prevail, your joints and muscles will pay the price, as will your appearance. On the other hand, if you keep your spine properly aligned, you greatly benefit the rest of the body. Here are some helpful tips on how to do that:

  • Never sleep on your stomach.
  • Pick a firm mattress (Neither too soft nor too firm).
  • When you sit, your shoulders should be aligned vertically over your hips, and do not cross your legs at the thighs.
  • Sit symmetrically so there’s pressure on the both hips equally.
  • Never sit with your wallet in the back pocket.
  • Get your spine regularly checked by your doctor of chiropractic.

Remember, attaining good posture is not some complicated formula. It just requires some work. So, straighten up and start enjoying the benefits that a good posture provides today.


Holland, In Brief: Miniature Marvel at Madurodam
Little known outside Holland and its neighbors, the miniature city of Madurodam is a reproduction of a Dutch city to a scale of 1:25, writes Al Auger.

(Left): visitor enjoying the exquisite miniature township in the Dutch city of Madurodam.

Little known outside of Holland and countries of the Lowland, the miniature city of Madurodam stands as one of the most unique memorials in the world, a definitive history of Holland in miniature.

Madurodam is a historically correct reproduction of an average city of the Netherlands and its surroundings to a scale of 1:25, studded with many reconstructions of famous sites and buildings.

Madurodam was opened July 2, 1952 by its Royal Mayoress, Princess Beatrix of the Netherlands. It is run just like any city or town in Holland, except that the Municipal Council consists of 30 boys and girls elected annually among the pupils in the schools of The Hague.

No city the size and scope of Madurodam, the planners decided, could exist without a history. Accordingly, the story goes, about 1000 A.D., the Count of Lowland began to levy tolls of skippers and merchants desiring to transship their goods down the River Maduro. Succeeding beyond his dreams, the Count built a fabled castle called “Voordensteyn” (Ford Castle). Slowly a settlement came to be, eventually called Madurodam, after the dam in the River Maduro.

On our visit, one of our fondest memories was sitting on the restaurant/cafe patio at sunset — refreshing snacks and drinks at hand — and watching as the 46,000 lights came twinkling on, lighting up this vast panorama of Holland in miniature. The beam of the lighthouse swept the Lilliputian world before us, the castles, buildings and homes glitter and are mirrored in the canals while brightly-lit trains race through the villages and cities and working ships and liners ply the lace of waterways.

The components of this fully operational diminutive municipality number some 120 buildings, historical sites and regions, seaways, etc., and cover every segment of Dutch social, political, economic and historical life. Some of the more dramatic include the multitude of windmills, canal locks and bridges that work, operational motorways that have their share of accidents attended by police jeeps and Royal Dutch Touring Club vans. The windmills turn, boats and ships maneuver the waterways and city transit systems move through the streets and byways of the cities.

Highlights include diminutive replicas of the famed Almaar cheese market, Rijksmuseum of Amsterdam, the Peace Palace, the Royal Palace on Amsterdam’s Dam Square. Oh yes, there’s even a red light district. Every famous and historical mark in Holland has been replicated on a scale of 1:25. The whole area is beautifully landscaped with colorful flower gardens.

We began our tour with the Sint Jan Basiliek (Saint John Basilica), built between 1330 and 1550. The spectacular cathedral, with its spires soaring heavenward and its massive exterior softened by the exquisitely sculptured façade, set the tone for the rest of our circuit of Madurodam..

Next we viewed one of the most enduring parts of Holland history at the Binnehof’ (Inner Court), The Hague. The replicated courtyard and surrounding buildings in Madurodam minutely details the centuries-old administrative center of the Netherlands.

Once a year in The Hague it is “Prince’s Day”; at Madurodam “Prince’s Day” happens every day. Children gather at Madurodam to witness the ritual captured by tiny figures moving to the pomp of the ceremonial opening of the States-General (Dutch Parliament).

The Royal Golden Coach approaches the stately court through the military guard as the Royal Military Band strikes up. The diminutive people gathered in the court cheer the Queen when she leaves the Hall of Knights and returns to Voorhout. For foreigners, it is a dazzling display of history in miniature.

From the Binnehof’ we went to the Voordensteyn Castle, the “birthplace” of this famed fictional city of Holland.

We came upon the remains of the 17th century city walls, the bust of Rembrandt in the Rembrandt Garden, and onto the spectacular Luna Park and Flour Mill. Here we found a roller coaster, plane rides, a moon rocket and ferris wheel and a lot more. A ten-cent coin quickly put all the rides and merry-go-round music in motion. The kids were mesmerized!

But it’s the modern Holland that really catches the attention of both kids and adults alike. Waterways are Holland’s economic lifeline, its heart the modern container port. This lifestream is meticulously documented at Madurodam. The port — patterned after the largest container port in the world at Rotterdam — is a fascinating busy traffic center of ocean going tugs, steamships, Royal Navy vessels, bulky barges and dredging the bay. All the while freighters slip in and out of the port while container cranes unload and load ships from all over the world.
Along the river are replicas of the Dutch Royal family’s yacht, “Piet Hein,” a hospital ship, coal vessels and a working motor tug. The Dutch have been world famous boat builders for centuries. At Madurodam’s shipyard, the luxury liner “Koningin Juliana” is being overhauled in the floating drydock.

And what is more identified with the fantasies of childhood than trains? A six-mile railway system is chock-a-block with express passenger trains, trains carrying goods of all kinds, all destined for the Central Railway Station, the Starpenheuvel Station or the Port railway station. The system is run just like its bigger counterpart with automatic safety systems with manual control at the stations so the trains can arrive and depart at stations at any time and any station.

In cooperation with the Schiphol Airport Company and KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, Madurodam has a modern airport with a fully lit terminal, public notices broadcast on the public address system, sightseeing train and luggage trains making their rounds and major international airliners have aircraft on the tarmac.

After our day of touring the magical city, we visited the Orientation House where models display the interior of many of the miniature houses.

The “tiny” city of Madurodam is so vast in its historical and physical dimensions, it would take volumes to describe it properly. The only way to do it justice is to visit Madurodam, making sure you have a full day to enjoy its myriad pleasures for all ages.


Movie Masti: South Asian Film Fest
The International South Asian Film Festival arrives this year in the Bay Area with a sample of classic Indian cinema, hard hitting social documentaries, innovative features and the latest in Bollywood sizzle, writes Ivan Jaigirdar.

(Clockwise from top): Scenes from “Between The Lines: India’s Third Gender,” "Divided We Fall: Americans in the Aftermath," "Bombay Calling," "The Forsaken Land."

The fourth annual San Francisco International South Asian Film Festival Nov. 10-12, presented by 3rd I, offers an eclectic blend of classic Indian cinema, hard-hitting social documentaries, innovative features and the latest in Bollywood, with appearances by filmmakers.

The program opens at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts with Asian Dub Foundation & Empire (Dir: Graham Geigenmueller; UK/France/Switzerland, 2006), a fascinating glimpse into the Asian Dub Foundation which spurred the South Asian Underground movement in England.

Other screenings include a compilation of South Asian short films from the Bay Area; The Forsaken Land (Sulanga enu Pinasa; Sri Lanka/France, 2005), Vimukthi Jayasundara’s Camera d’or-winning film that is a visually stunning reflection on the desolation of war; I for India, (Dir: Sandhya Suri; UK, 2006), an intimate, moving time capsule that looks at the bittersweet expatriate Indian experience in England; Bollywood feature Omkara (Dir: Vishal Bhardwaj; India, 2006), a deft mix of art and commercial genres that adapts Shakespeare’s “Othello” in a contemporary Indian gangster setting; Bollywood blockbuster Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna (Never Say Goodbye, Dir: Karan Johar; India, 2006), which goes where no Bollywood film has gone before in examining commitment, true love, adultery; Divided We Fall: Americans in the Aftermath (Dir: Sharat Raju/Valarie Kaur; USA, 2006), a film where Kaur sets out across the U.S. to discover who counts as American in a post-9/11 world; Bombay Calling (Dir: Samir Malla /Ben Addelman; Canada/ India, 2006), an eye-opening insider’s look at call centers, globalization and the growing American dream — Indian style; Between The Lines: India’s Third Gender (Dir: Thomas Wartmann; Germany/India, 2006), a stunning film that explores the lives of India’s eunuchs living on the edge of society; and last but certainly not the least, the festival wraps up with a celebration of the 30th anniversary of Bollywood’s biggest and baddest “curry Western’-- Sholay, (Dir: Ramesh Sippy; India, 1976) with a new print and restored original footage.

Tickets $8-$9. SFISAFF passes are $50 for the entire festival (10 programs).

Readers can get more information at the festival Web site: www.thirdi.org/festival or by calling (415) 835-4783.

See you all at the festival!


Hot August Nights: Ghazals by Runa and Rajkumar Rizvi
Rajkumar Rizvi and Runa Rizvi rounded off a marvelous month of ghazals in the San Francisco Bay Area, writes Ras Siddiqui.
Runa and Rajkumar Rizvi performing in Newark, Calif.

This certainly was a month of “Hot August Nights” for desi performers. Great food, fine poetry and superb singing — It certainly doesn’t get much better than this.

First we had India’s Sudhir Narain headlining a ghazal event put together by Bazm-e-Arbab-e-Sukhan. Next we heard Pakistan’s Asif Ali at the inaugural Pak American Gymkhana Club program. Last but not least, August closed with the father-daughter singing sensations Rajkumar Rizvi and Runa Rizvi Aug. 31

Rajkumar started with “Jhooti dua..” with a voice that reminded us of Mehdi Hassan of the old. In a way, this program turned out to be a tribute not only to the art of the Indian-Pakistani-Bangladeshi singing styles, but also a reminder of the great singers of our generation.

Runa Rizvi’s “Adbi qisam ki ghazal” by Momin reminded me of another Runa with the last name of Laila, but that is another story for another time. The song “Nahin hota” was an instant hit. “Tum mere paas hote ho jab koi doosra nahin hota,” was wonderful. And the follow up “Zara si aahat hoti hai to dil yeh sochta hai, kahin yeh woh to nahin...” was just plain superb.

Rajkumar came back with “Maine lakhon ke bol sahe…” a rendition that would have made its Pakistani original vocalist proud. Ditto for Naseem Begum whose “Sau baar” Runa presented.

The poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz would have been impressed with Rajkumar’s singing of “Guzri hai.” Likewise, “Na gul khile, na unse mile, na mai piye hue, ajab rang mein ab ke bahaar guzri hai,” are words written by a master and were sung in a superb manner.

Many a teary eyed couple really appreciated Rajkumar’s rendition of the old Khayyam-Rafi great “Chaudwin ka chand.”

Thanks to Raana Faiz of the local Hamrahi radio show for insisting that I attend this event. Those who appreciate South Asian vocal arts can add Rajkumar and Runa Rizvi to their list of must-listen-to singers.

In life, we are all writing our stories on the canvas of sand that waves of time can easily erase at will. But it is the beauty of these temporary words written, the kaifiyat or feeling that the Urdu-Hindi realm provides that keeps us going back to our poets and singers, as we thirst for something more to reconnect to our culture or tehzeeb.


Cars and Couture: Fashion Show at Los Gatos
Haute couture rubbed shoulders with hot cars at an exclusive launching of the designer apparel of Indian fashion designer Laila Motwane at the Silicon Valley Auto Group in Los Gatos, Calif. which sells Astons, Bentleys, Ferraris and Lamborghinis. A photo essay by Sharif Ahmed.


COMMUNITY: News in Brief
Gadar Mela in Sacramento | Appointed to State Panel | Atlanta Temple | ‘Jaan-E-Mann’ Release Announced in NY | Off to Hong Kong, Singapore Pageants | Joins US Bank | HAF Claims Victory | Interfaith Partnership

Gadar Mela in Sacramento

Some of the organizers of the event that honored Gadar heroes.

Elk Grove, Calif.-based Indus Valley American Chamber of Commerce recently hosted a mela in Sacramento to honor the Gadar heroes, Indian immigrants in the West Coast who went back to India at the beginning of the 20th century to fight for India’s freedom from British colonial rule, according to a press release.

“Congratulations to the organizers for a successful mela and IVACC is especially thankful for reorganization of IVACC and honoring our president Poonam Malhotra along with other outstanding local organizations,” IVACC general secretary Sukh C. Singh said in an announcement.

Appointed to State Panel

Dr. Anmol Mahal, MD, with Calif. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (l).

Anmol Singh Mahal, M.D., president-elect of the California Medical Association, has been appointed by California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to the state Health Professions Education Foundation Board of Trustees, which oversees a variety of scholarship and loan repayment programs designed to improve healthcare in medically underserved areas.

“I am pleased to be able to serve on this board whose goal is to improve access to care by encouraging young medical school graduates to practice in underserved rural and urban areas,” said Mahal, 56, of Fremont, Calif. “This program is vital in helping physicians decide to locate in areas where California’s medically underserved live.”

In addition to his activities at CMA, Dr. Mahal is a founding member and past president of the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin of Northern California, and serves on its board. He was chief of staff of Washington Hospital Healthcare System. He serves on the American Medical Association Commission on Eliminating Health Disparities. He was recently appointed a commissioner for the Emergency Medical Services Commission of the State of California.

Atlanta Temple

Prayers being offered at the opening of the Hindu Temple of Georgia

The Hindu Temple of Georgia opened Aug. 27 in the Atlanta suburb of Norcross, Ga., according to a press release. The temple has been founded by Sri Sri Selvam “Siddhar,” also known as Dr. Commander Selvam to the Indian community. Selvam has personally pledged $22 million, the release added.

The temple prana-prathistha ceremonies started Aug. 25 with Vedic rituals, and the idols were installed Aug. 27 after completing all rituals. The rituals were accompanied by a three-day temple celebration with Vedic ceremonies, music and dance.

The temple opened its first phase with idols of Ganesha, Muruga, Balaji, Sathyanarayana, Iyyappan, 16 Rudras, Shiva, Parvathi , Durgaa Maathaji Panchamuga Anjaneya, Santhoshimaatha and Rama parivar.

Priests L.V. Sharma, Umapathy Sivacharyar, Senthil Sivacharyar, Swamiji Sivaswamy conducted the Vedic rituals. Thousands of devotees participated in the pranaprathistha/ kumbhabhishekam.

'Jaan-E-Mann' Release Announced in NY

Speakers at the announcement of the release of “Jaan-E-Mann”

Indian entertainment conglomerate Adlabs Films Limited announced the release of Jaan-E-Mann in Oct. 20 at a recent event in Manhattan, New York City, according to a press release. The event also marked the launch of Sahara Filmy Channel on Directv satellite.

Jaan-E-Mann stars Salman Khan, Akshay Kumar and Preity Zinta with music by Anu Malik and lyrics by Gulzar. The film is produced by Sajid Nadiadwala, and marks the directorial debut of editor turned director Shirish Kunder.

“Set in the heart of New York, the film is, in every sense, an international production, much like a Broadway musical but infused with the emblematic traits of a romantic musical unleashed by Indian cinema that is rapt with allure, emotions and of course a surplus sprinkling of romance,” the release added.

“The music, comprising compositions by music maestro Anu Malik and lyrics by Gulzar, has debuted on the charts last week with some of this year’s most hummable scores. Gulzar has delivered ‘conversational lyrics,’ which provide an intelligent insight into the theme of the film and the underlying storyline.”

“Set in New York, the film has a very contemporary look with content interlaced with music, emotions, romance and drama, which, we believe, caters magnificently to the tastes of cinema-going audiences, both in domestic as well as international markets,” said producer Sajid Nadiadwala.

Off to Hong Kong, Singapore Pageants

Miss India America 2006 Melanie Kannokada (l) and Mr. India West Coast 2006 Sudhir Tewari.

Melanie Kannokada, Miss India America 2006, is now in Hong Kong preparing for the Miss Asia pageant to be held on Oct. 29 at the Macau Dome, according to a press release.

The Miss Asia Pageant is being held in Hong Kong Sept. 22-Oct. 29. The pageant has been organized for the past 18 years by the TV Asia Station in Hong Kong . The first prize is about HK $600,000 and second is about HK $400,000.

Melanie Kannokada recently won the title Miss India America at the Mr./Miss/Mrs. India America 2006 pageant, which was aired on Sahara One TV Sept. 30.

“As the newly crowned Miss India America, I am really happy that Melanie is representing India at the Miss Asia pageant,” Miss India America pageant creator and executive producer Jinder K. Chohan said. “She’s extremely beautiful and intelligent. I know she will make us proud at Miss Asia.”

Sudhir Tewari, Mr. India West Coast 2006, will compete at Mr. International in Singapore representing India, according to a separate press release. The Mr. International 2006 pageant will be held at the De Dynasty Pavilion/ Singapore Expo in Singapore Oct. 7.

From Sept. 29, 22 national male pageant titleholders from 22 countries will converge in Singapore to vie for the Mr. International title.

The Mr. International 2006 titleholder will win a prize package of at least $50,000 in value. The contestants will be judged in three categories: swimwear, evening wear and interview.

Jinder K. Chohan, president of SpiritOfIndia.com, was approached by Alan Sim, president of Mr. International, to send a representative for India. Jinder chose Mr. India West Coast 2006 Sudhir Tewari to do the honors.

Joins US Bank
Bay Area banker Dhruv Gupta has joined U.S. Bank as vice-president and commercial banking relationship manager for the San Francisco Bay Area, according to a press release.

Gupta has been a banker in the Bay Area since 1992. He started his career with Citibank in San Francisco.

Gupta will be based in San Jose and will cover the entire Silicon Valley market.

HAF Claims Victory
The Hindu American Foundation has announced in a press release that its legal team continues to receive wide acclaim for the landmark ruling that upheld its contention that the California State Board of Education followed an illegal process in adopting sixth grade social studies textbooks. The court, however, denied HAF’s demand that all of those texts already published must be thrown out and the adoption process revisited.

“It’s important to reiterate that HAF at no time submitted any edits or revisions in the textbook adoption process, and HAF only entered this controversy when the SBE acted arbitrarily and behind closed doors, depriving Hindus of a fair and open process, said Suhag Shukla legal counsel for HAF.

Interfaith Partnership
First 5 Sacramento formally launched its “Interfaith Partnership: Putting Children & Families First” program in Sacramento at a breakfast meeting attended by more than 20 faith leaders representing various faiths from throughout Sacramento County, according to a press release.

“First 5 Sacramento looks to collaboration with the spiritual leaders of our communities in order to truly make a difference in improving the lives of the children and families living in Sacramento County,” said Sacramento County Supervisor and First 5 Sacramento chair Roger Dickinson.

At the breakfast meeting, faith leaders learned more about First 5 Sacramento and the many early education and health-related services and programs it provides children ages zero to five and their families. In addition, faith leaders were asked to provide input on the development of the Interfaith Partnership.

First 5 Sacramento is working to improve the lives of Sacramento County’s youngest children and their families through the passage of Proposition 10 in 1998. Research shows that 90 percent of a child’s brain develops before the age of five. First 5 Sacramento’s ultimate goal is to enhance the health and early growth experiences of children, enabling them to be more successful in school and provide them the greatest opportunity to succeed in life.

Yahoo!: Build, Buy, Partner | IBM to Hire 3,000 at New Center in Kolkata | Channel 4: Data Leak Charges | 3G by 2007 | Satyam: Deals in Australia, Asia | Dell to Set Up $30-Million Plant in Chennai | ICICI OneSource: Expanding Footprint | Infosys: China No Threat | Smaller Firms Eye India | TCS Overtakes Infosys in Market Capitalization | IBM: Teaming Up

Yahoo!: Build, Buy, Partner
U.S.-based internet giant Yahoo! hopes to sustain its policy of build-buy-partner in India, where it plans to provide multiple language offerings and mobile access to its portal, according to its chief operating officer Dan Rosensweig.

“The mobile products in the pipeline adhere to build strategy, whereas the company also looks forward to developing tie ups with Indian mobile carriers and handset manufacturers to carry its products,” he said. Yahoo! is also not averse to buying certain application based portals, where they continue to engage and serve large audiences, he said explaining Yahoo!’s strategies. 

The company has acquired a minority stake in wedding portal Bhartamatrimony.com a month back. “It is very rarely that we acquire equity stake in our partners, but this particular offering integrates well with our other products hence we had picked up a stake, “Rosensweig said. 

Yahoo has been offering its internet-based services, content, email, messengers etc, in India for more than four years. While the company claims it touches 85 percent of the internet users in India at least once a month, several local companies in the internet space are much more popular. 

Anecdotal evidence suggests that Google, which is a leader in search and email worldwide is also equally popular in India. Yahoo seems to be renewing its focus in India, and lured away Sify’s ex-head George Zachariah to head its operations in India in February.

IBM to Hire 3,000 at New Center in Kolkata
IBM, the world’s largest computer services company, will hire up to 3,000 new staff in Kolkata to meet robust demand for outsourcing, a company official said. 

“We are very bullish to fill up this capacity very soon because the business is growing and customers are showing more and more interest in sourcing of global delivery services,” Amitabh Ray, vice-president for application services at IBM India, told Reuters. 

The new centre at Kolkata, an emerging IT hub, will provide application development and application maintenance services. 

In June, International Business Machines Corp. said it would invest $6 billion in India over three years as part of its move to increase outsourcing services and client management from Asia’s fourth-largest economy. 

“India is by far the largest global delivery centre within IBM,” Ray said. 

India’s low-cost, English-speaking engineering workforce has attracted a slew of global companies, which outsource services such as supply-chain management, payroll processing, handset designing and financial analytics. 

India’s software services sector is likely to grow by more than a quarter in the year to March 2007 due to rising demand for outsourcing, India’s National Association of Software and Service Companies has estimated. 

Contracts worth a total $100 billion are coming up for grabs over the next two years, it said. 

IBM, which has more than 319,000 staff in 170 countries, is India’s largest multinational employer with more than 43,000 workers in 14 cities.

Channel 4: Data Leak Charges
India’s IT software and services business group has urged Britain’s Channel 4 and Star News to cooperate with authorities in India and provide basis for allegations of data security lapses in BPO centers.

“We are concerned about the verifiability of such stories, especially sting operations where monetary inducements were provided. These operations sometimes go beyond uncovering wrongdoing and actually induce criminal activity that is then recorded and aired,” said Kiran Karnik, president of the National Association of Software and Services Companies.

“In this particular case, one of the alleged criminals has stated the data he offered for sale was fake. This, and the lack of prompt cooperation by the producer with enforcement agencies, makes difficult the task of bringing to book the criminals involved,” said Karnik.

Channel 4 has broadcast a program showcasing security lapses in Indian call centers.

The program is based on a year-long effort to locate security lapses in India’s call center industry.

In a letter to Dispatches (Channel 4), Nasscom has sought immediate cooperation and “requested details of the allegations which Dispatches intends to make together with the evidence/support documentation that they have”.

Dispatches have refused to provide that information.

3G by 2007
India expects to launch 3G mobile telephone services in the second half of 2007, Telecom Minister Dayanidhi Maran has said.

“The process for introducing 3G service has already been initiated in India, and it is expected that we should be able to launch 3G services by the latter half of 2007,” Maran told an industry conference.

India recently allowed four major carriers, including Bharti Airtel Ltd., to conduct indoor trials of mobile services based on the 3G spectrum so they could test equipment.

Carriers can offer services such as faster Internet access, movies on demand, and high-end online gaming on the 3G spectrum.

The minister also said the government aimed to provide one mobile phone for every two rural households by 2010 — about 80 million connections.

Every village with a population of more than 1,000 will be hooked up to the existing network by the end of 2007, Maran said.

“One of the gaps in India’s mobile success story has been the relative absence of the participation of rural India, which has to date remained somewhat isolated from the many benefits of mobile services owing to inadequate coverage,” he said.

Maran also said he wanted to increase access to broadband Internet services in villages, adding that the main hurdle would be providing a useful service where few can read English.

Satyam: Deals in Australia, Asia
India’s number-four software exporter Satyam Computer Services Ltd expects to secure new contracts in Australia by March and larger deals of $100-$150 million from Asia, thanks to a robust IT outsourcing trend. 

Satyam, with a market value of $12 billion and customers such as General Electric, builds computer networks, develops software applications, manages IT infrastructure, and offers consulting and engineering services. 

“We see much larger deals coming our way which never used to come our way, which means we are being treated on par with big companies like IBM and Accenture,” said Virender Aggarwal, Satyam’s senior vice president for Asia Pacific, Middle East, India and Africa. 

“Going forward, we expect to participate in large deals around $100-$150 million range. We should see the maturing of some deals in Australia before March 2007.”

Dell to Set Up $30-Million Plant in Chennai
Dell Inc., the world’s largest maker of personal computers, has said it will set up manufacturing operations in India in the first half of 2007. 

The company will invest $30 million over five years in the plant, which would be set up in Sriperumbudur, on the outskirts of Chennai, an official at its Indian unit said. 

“We will start with a production capacity of 400,000 units and quickly ramp up to much higher numbers,” Rajan Anandan, Dell India’s vice-president and general manager, told reporters. 

The manufacturing plant, which will be sixth for Dell globally, will employ 1,100 people, he said. 

It has two manufacturing sites in China and one in Malaysia in the region, where demand for computer hardware is soaring due to relatively lower penetration rates compared with Western markets. 

Dell, which competes with IBM and Hewlett-Packard Co. and local firms HCL Infosystems Ltd. and Wipro Ltd., said the new facility would help it raise its share in the Indian market from 7 percent. 

The company’s revenue in India rose 63 percent in April-June to about $100 million from the same quarter last year, he said. 

“We are building this factory with the simple objective of accelerating our growth in India. We will start with manufacturing desktop products and over a period of time we will expand our product line,” he said. 

Dell already employs 12,000 people in India across its three business segments — call centre operations, research and development activities, and computer and server sales business.

ICICI OneSource: Expanding Footprint
ICICI OneSource, a Business Process Outsourcing company, commenced operations at its 400-seat facility in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

This is ICICI OneSource’s fourth global delivery center outside of India and expands its delivery footprint to the U.S., Ireland and Buenos Aires, in addition to 10 centers across India. The current operation will also add Spanish language capabilities to ICICI OneSource’s service offering. ICICI OneSource will provide one of its U.S.-based telecom clients with a variety of back office transaction processing functions from this center.

ICICI OneSource CEO Ananda Mukerji said, “This reflects our transition from an offshore partner to a preferred outsourcing partner for our key customer relationships.

The Buenos Aires centre has highly experienced staff and it will significantly deepen our offering to our telecom clients. The telecom outsourced services market is expected to grow at a 10.7 percent CAGR over the next five years. Currently 30 percent of our revenue comes from our telecom vertical and we intend to grow this vertical aggressively.”

Infosys: China No Threat
Infosys Technologies, which is a contender to break into the Nasdaq-100 by year-end based on its market capitalization, doesn’t believe that China will prove to be a threat to the Indian IT model. 

The Infosys management believes that India scores on two fronts: wage and project management skills. Chinese wage levels are higher than India by 20 percent. China, Infosys officials say, also lacks much of project management skills which are critical in execution. Infosys, which like many of its peers, has set up operations in China and expects business to ramp up. The Chinese operations are critical not just for penetrating into the domestic market but are being positioned to address opportunities in the Far-East, notably Japan. 

At an analyst call after this fiscal’s Q1 results, the company’s CFO V. Balakrishnan had said that Infosys China as well as Infosys Consulting were in the investment phase. In the interim, India’s second biggest IT exporter is betting heavily on U.K., a market which it believes would grow much faster than the company’s average growth rate. Revenue from Europe is reportedly growing at 55 percent to 60 percent year-on-year.

Smaller Firms Eye India
Although the past trend in outsourcing was confined to larger technological firms moving research and development resources overseas, the phenomenon is now catching up small and mid-sized software companies moving into India. 

Additionally, by getting into India, where resources are still available at a fraction of American prices, the smaller start-ups are able to catch the attention of larger firms looking to make promising investments, The Washington Post noted in a recent report. 

The report also pointed out that many Washington DC metro-based firms were fanning out to different parts of India, including Chennai, Pune and Bangalore. 

For example, when WebMethods looked at tiny California technology firm Infravio Inc as an acquisition candidate, the Fairfax, Va., company knew that Infravio’s product would be a perfect fit for its software suite. But the “real head-turner” about the 65-person start-up was the location of its employees — 50 software developers in Chennai. 

WebMethods paid $38 million as a premium price for a small company that made less than $1 million last year but in the longer term perspective the purchase plays into the cost-cutting strategy WebMethods has adopted 

“Two years ago, WebMethods opened its 58-person India Development Centre in Bangalore and chopped millions of dollars from its budget as a result. The Infravio purchase nearly doubles the company presence in India,” The Post said.

TCS Overtakes Infosys in Market Capitalization
Tata Consultancy Services Ltd has replaced Infosys Technologies as the country’s biggest IT firm and second biggest private sector company in terms of the market capitalization. 

TCS, the country’s largest software exporter, recently achieved a market cap of Rs 1.02 trillion, surpassing Rs 1.01 trillion of its closest rival in the IT space Infosys. 

TCS has also replaced Infosys as the country’s fourth most valued publicly listed corporate entity after ONGC, Reliance Industries and NTPC. TCS had re-entered the Rs 1 trillion market-cap league earlier Sept. 20. 

Wipro retained its position as the third largest IT firm.

TCS had attained a market cap of about Rs. 1 trillion with a surge of 1.71 percent in its share price to Rs. 1,027.50 at the Bombay Stock Exchange. The country’s largest software exporter had first hit the Rs. 1 trillion bracket on April 18, 2006, but had failed to sustain at that level. 

Currently, TCS and Infosys are the only two IT companies with a market cap of over Rs. 1 trillion, while Wipro has also previously breached this level. Wipro is the only company to have attained a market cap of Rs. 2 trillion, which was achieved Feb. 2, 2000.


IBM: Teaming Up
IBM announced that a dozen key India-based solution providers will incorporate IBM’s self-managing autonomic technology, based on open standards, into their software and solutions. By working with IBM, these companies can deliver software that can radically automate and simplify IT management and the underlying systems, while reducing costs for their customers, claims IBM.

The India-based solution providers will build IBM self-managing technology into their offerings over the next six months as part of IBM’s global Autonomic Computing Business Partner initiative.

IBM estimates that autonomic technologies can reduce IT administration costs by up to 40 percent and increase IT utilization by up to 25 percent.

Dressed Up SUV: 2007 GMC Yukon Denali
The 2007 version of GMC’s top-of-the-line SUV has a redesigned exterior with improved aerodynamics, new design elements, a quieter interior, a new chassis for a quieter ride, and new engines, writes Sally Miller Wyatt.
The Yukon Denali is GMC’s top-of-the-line SUV and it is all-new for 2007.

Yukon Denali fans will find 2007 versions have a redesigned exterior with improved aerodynamics, new design elements that emphasize chrome, a quieter interior, a new chassis for a quieter ride, and new engines. They will also find, as expected, that Denalis have been dressed in all the accouterments you would expect to find in a top-of-the-line vehicle.

The Denali’s new engine has been designed to deliver more power and fuel economy than the ones they replace. This new version is a Gen IV small-block V8 engine with variable-valve timing and it has been paired with a new six-speed automatic transmission.

The 2007 Yukons have also been built on a full-size SUV platform, which opens up the interior an even larger space, enhanced handling and more safety features.

Like all Yukons, the Denali has been built on a 116-inch wheelbase, with an overall length of 202 inches. The Denali’s platform is also based on a wider track, which does a lot to make the vehicle handle more easily. You might not expect that from a full-size SUV, but this version handles very well and is easily maneuvered. That may be good news for smaller drivers. As for safety features, the Denali was designed to offer “a 360-degree perimeter safety system of occupant protection and crash avoidance technologies,” according to GMC’s press materials. I like the way that sounds, but what does it mean? Well, for starters it means the Denali earned five stars for its performance in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s frontal crash tests, which is the highest rating the NHTSA gives out.

Some of these safety features include head curtain side air bags with increased rollover protection for all rows of seating. The system is operated with sensors that monitor acceleration and roll rate. If the sensors detect an impending roll over, the roof-mounted curtain side air bags deploy and stay inflated longer than bags designed only for side impacts, because rollover events can last longer.

Other standard safety features include StabiliTrak, GMC’s version of stability control; dual stage driver’s front air bag; tire pressure monitoring system; rain-sensing wiper system; ultrasonic rear parking assist; an optional rear-view camera and an optional navigation system.

All Denalis also come with the OnStar system, which includes the Crash Notification ability. This system makes crash data – such as air bag deployment and vehicle location – immediately available to local emergency services.

Comfort and convenience features abound in the Denali. Leather seating with heated first and second row captain’s seats are a nice touch, as is the available heated steering wheel. While not a feature we tried out (summer temperatures heat the steering wheel naturally), this can be a nice thing to have in winter time. Power fold-and-tumble second row seats are standard and make it easier to access the third row of seats. A power lift gate is also a convenient feature to use when your arms are full of packages and grocery bags.

Our test car came with the roof-mounted DVD entertainment system, a nice feature to keep everyone entertained on long trips. The system is also CD and MP3-capable. The test car was equipped with sharp-looking 20-inch chrome wheels, sold as a $1,995 option.

The GMC Yukon and Yukon Denalis are full-sized SUVs, which means both versions offers passengers ample room to completely stretch out legs. The rear cargo area – even with the third row of seats in the “up” position – is large enough to accommodate golf clubs and groceries without a problem.

Whether you select the mid-range Yukon or the dressed-up Yukon Denali, you’re going to get a powerful, full-sized SUV that is large enough to accommodate a full load of adults or growing children. The difference lies in the number of extra accouterments and a higher price tag.

- Sally Miller Wyatt is a freelance writer who writes family-oriented auto reviews for newspapers, magazines and the Web.


From Karachi, With Love | No ‘Splitsville’ for Rushdie and Padma Lakshmi | Hollywood-wali | Off to Hollywood, to Play Pakistani Gen. Zia | No Sex Please | Munnabhai at Oscars | Hot Water | Bollywood Dolls | Tops in U.K.

From Karachi, With Love

Amitabh in “Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna”

Fame, you got to admit it, can lead folks to strange places. We know that Amitabh Bachchan is famous beyond borders, and Pakistanis adore him every bit as Indians do.

But who would have expected Karachi’s billboards to be plastered with advertisements showing the Big B with the Pakistani flag in the background?

So what gives?

Well, what has happened is a Pakistani phone company got went overboard with its marketing campaign.

The company, Telefun, charged callers 14 rupees per minute for taking part in a quiz show, making them believe that it was being hosted by Bachchan on the lines of his famous Kaun Banega Crorepati quiz show, according to the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority. Then it put out billboards with Big B and the Pakistani flag in the background.

The Pakistani authorities figured enough was enough, and decided to step in. They first cracked down on the billboards. Telefun countered by changing the background of the billboards to a simple green.

But Telefun are not out of the woods yet. PTA is still on its case.

“We have issued a show-cause notice to the company and asked them to stop running the show until the probe is completed and they respond to our notice,” a PTA official said.
What does the Big B think of all this hera-pheri? We don’t know yet.
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No ‘Splitsville’ for Rushdie and Padma Lakshmi

Padma Lakshmi and Salman Rushdie

Are they together or are they not? Like a recurring attack of backache, the question keeps popping up about the relationship of author Salman Rushdie and glamour gal Padma Lakshmi.

Now, you can’t blame rumormongers for continuous speculation. There is a huge, several-decade age gap — mean gossipmongers claim there are similar gaps in other departments — between the two lovebirds who had once said things to each other which were not nice. (Padma called Rushdie “boring,” which drew the vitriolic response that she was a “birdbrain.”)

There are others who wonder whether all of this is a bid for publicity.

As the Sepia Mutiny blog noted once, “I guess Salman Rushdie and his supermodel turned cook-book author-wife Padma Lakshmi are of the school that there is no such thing as bad publicity.”

The fact that Rushdie was working on a script for Padma to direct drew the disdainful remark? “This wouldn’t be that unusual, but the thing is, Padma can’t really act, What makes him, or anyone, think she can direct?”

In any case, Rushdie has taken a page out of Mark Twain and said that rumors of his split were greatly exaggerated.

“All I did was say to some journalist that in the last couple of months we haven’t seen much of each other because she’s been making a TV series in LA.

“It’s kind of difficult. It’s difficult for any working couple to deal with this question of separations. But actually, there is no ‘splitsville.’ We are extremely happy.”

As Regis Philbin would say: Is that your final answer?
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The sultry Haryanvi jathni is at it again. Bollywood sexpot Mallika Sherawat is making headlines again, and as always, it has got nothing to do with her acting skills.

The latest news is she is going all phoren again, and this time she is headed towards Hollywood, no less.

Rumor has it that Hollywood filmmaker Mark Roemmich is thinking of signing of Mallika for the lead role in an upcoming film.

Which has some people scratching their heads. After all, acting has never been this sizzling star’s strongest suit. The source of her sizzle is, shall we say, elsewhere.

On top of that, her recent foray into the international scene has been an unmitigated disaster. Despite all the hype and hoopla about her performance in Jackie Chan’s The Myth, her fans were shocked to discover that her role was quite insubstantial.

As The Hindu noted scathingly: “The biggest myth about the latest Jackie Chan movie is that Mallika Sherawat has a role.

“The Indian actress plays a glorified cameo, the dancing beauty living in the land of snake-charmers and levitating sadhus. She does one brief stunt, gets saved by Jackie after she gets stuck onto a conveyor belt full of rat glue before she waves him, and the rest of us, goodbye in the first half, after less than 5 minutes of screen time in all.”

Those who know about her acting skills say that may not be an entirely bad thing.

Now comes news of this Hollywood film. There’s no running away from the fact this time around, because it’s a lead role. So what will Mallika do?

Not to worry, says an insider. The film doesn’t aim to be Oscar material — how can you with a name like The Lost Gold of Khan?

So Mallika and her fans can breathe a sigh of relief.
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Off to Hollywood, to Play Pakistani Gen. Zia

Om Puri (l) with K Bikram Singh on the sets of “Tarpan”

An Indian actor in a Hollywood film with the likes of Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts?

You have to hand it to this guy. In cinema, Om Puri has been India’s best export. He has done solid roles and done them well. Now he adds another feather to his cap after being chosen to play Pakistan’s former military ruler General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq in a Hollywood production about the CIA’s role in arming Mujahideen rebels in Afghanistan.

Om Puri, known for playing strong, serious characters, said he had been cast in Universal Pictures’ Charlie Wilson’s War alongside Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts.

The film, based on a book of the same name, revolves around Charlie Wilson, a charismatic, wheeler-dealer Texas Congressman, played by Hanks.

Wilson teams up with a rogue CIA agent to manipulate U.S. Congress, the CIA and a host of foreign governments in a covert operation.

“The film discusses the entire political scenario of the time,” 56-year-old Puri told Reuters.

“I appear as a well-settled Pakistani president who strikes a deal with the Americans that money and arms to the Afghans must flow through his country,” said Puri, adding that he loved the character of Zia.

Zia ruled Pakistan from 1977, when he took power in a bloodless military coup, until 1988 when he died in a still unexplained plane crash.

Puri has starred in several Hollywood productions in the past, including Gandhi, City of Joy, East is East and The Ghost and the Darkness.
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No Sex Please

He may be the reigning queen of Bollywood, but she draws the line when it comes to doing steamy scenes. A little bird tells us that Aishwarya Rai has firmly declined the lead role in Rakesh Mistry’s Train when told she would have to get all hot and bothered.

The film stars Emraan Hashmi, Geeta Basra and model Sayali Bhagat, who is making her debut in this film. According to news reports, kiss king Emraan Hashmi will do an erotic kissing scene for the film. The film will also have lot of steamy love-making scenes featuring Emraan Hashmi and Geeta Basra. Director Raksha Mistry boasts, “Let me tell you that the film has a lot of hot scenes; in fact many more than you may have seen in an average Hindi flick!”

Emraan has been kissing so many film stars on screen lately that he has been dubbed “The King of Kiss.”

You would have thought he is having a ball, but he denies it.

Bollywood women are great but you get bored with them after a while, he says. “I didn’t want to do the kissing scenes in my recent movies, but they were integral to the script, so I couldn’t refuse them,” he says. “But I will not be doing them anymore, because every time I go to the theater to watch my film I see myself kissing - and it’s boring.”

Emraan you’re breaking our hearts. We realize now it ain’t easy being the King of Kiss.
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Munnabhai at Oscars

So what if this wildly popular film didn’t get to be India’s official entry to the Best Foreign Film category of the Oscars? Following the irreverent chutzpah of its goonda Munnabhai, whom it has made a household name, the makers of Lage Raho Munnabhai have decided to take matters into their own hands and enter the film for the regular Oscar competition on their own.

Overwhelmed by the response from fans and audiences internationally, producer Vidhu Vinod Chopra has decided to send the blockbuster sequel to Munnabhai MBBS to the Oscars.

“The record number of fan mails that we have received worldwide have supported our belief and inspired us to go ahead with sending the film across to the academy as an independent entry,” Chopra says. “We strongly believe that Lage Raho Munnabhai is a film that should be screened at all international film festivals.

“Our belief has been further strengthened by an invitation extended to us by the University of Southern California for a special screening of Lage Raho Munna Bhai Oct. 27 which has been organized for their cinema students and the press from Hollywood. “USC is one of the top film schools in North America. Many notable filmmakers including George Lucas, Ron Howard, James Ivory and Walter Salles, among others, have graduated from USC.”

Lage raho, Vidhubhai.
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Hot Water

Svelte siren Katrina is in hot water, and we are not talking about a bathtub. Devotees are crying foul over Bollywood actress Katrina Kaif wearing a skirt to Sufi saint Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti’s shrine at Ajmer, over 140 km from Jaipur.

Many have objected to Katrina Wearing western outfits inside the shrine, which did not cover her legs completely, when a large number of people were offering their prayers.

“The shrine members should not have allowed Katrina to keep part of her legs uncovered,” said Iqbal, a pilgrim.

The actor was in the shrine with Rishi Kapoor to shoot for producer-director Vipul Shah’s Namaste London.
Anjuman, a representative body of Khadims who are workers of the shrine and claim to be descendants of the Sufi saint, has been silent on the issue.

According to tradition, women offering prayers in the shrine must have their head, hands and legs covered.

However, one Khadim who was there said the matter is being blown out of proportion. “She wore a skirt that covered her knees, and was quite respectful,” he said, requesting anonymity. “These people are just looking for an issue to beat up the shrine administration. The only commotion we had when Katrina was here was people jostling to get a glimpse of her.”
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Bollywood Dolls
Move over, Barbie and G.I. Joe. Here comes, Hrithik, Kajol, Shah Rukh and Preity.

No, the real stars, the action figure version.

Amid cheering fans, Bollywood actors Hrithik Roshan and Kajol Sept. 14 launched the sale of dolls of Indian film stars in London.

Most of the fourth floor of Harrods, where the function was held, was filled with the 12-inch replicas of Shah Rukh Khan and Priyanka Chopra, besides those of Hrithik and Kajol. The biggest sale was that of Hrithik Roshan in action and Kajol in a bridal attire.
Both Hrithik and Kajol arrived at Harrods in a spectacular horse drawn carriage adding a fairy-tale atmosphere to the event, followed by a visit to the Toy Kingdom where Kajol and Hrithik signed the dolls purchased by their fans.

Entrepreneur Shameen Jivraj first came up with the creation of the Bollywood Legends Dolls four years ago.

She brings with her an array of toy industry experience having headed the “Sindy Doll” development team as well as many other well-known children’s brands such as “Star Wars” “Playdoh” and “Teletubbies.”

Kevin Jones, managing director of Spin Master Toys UK, said he was delighted that the Bollywood Legends dolls were released in Harrods.

“Having the dolls released at such a well-known and prestigious department store is a great coup for us, not to mention having two of the stars at the event,” he said.
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Tops in U.K.
Eleven of the 20 most successful foreign-language films released in the United Kingdom last year were from India, a media report said. A record 74 Bollywood films were released in the U.K. last year, compared with 61 entirely British productions, it said.

In 2004, the Indian film industry was worth around 2.4 billion pounds, and it is projected to grow by 18 percent each year in the foreseeable future.

According to the report, The Merchants of Bollywood, a spectacular song-and-dance theatre production, directed by Toby Gough, is due to begin touring Britain next month.

The idea for the show originated from his friend Mark Brady, a producer based in Sydney with whom he had previously worked. “I kept reading so much about what was happening in Bollywood, that I called Toby and said I was putting him on a plane to Mumbai to check out the possibilities,” he said

As an industry, Bollywood is as extraordinary as Mumbai itself. Bollywood turns out about 800 films in Hindi every year and sells 15 million tickets at the box office daily.

“The industry provides a cultural bridge for the Indian diaspora, particularly in Britain:,” the report said. “Eleven of the 20 most successful foreign-language films released last year were from India,” The Sunday Times said.
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Charming Whiff of Whimsy: Khosla Ka Ghosla

As a rule, Bollywood doesn’t do humor terribly well. I know, I know, Bollywood buffs will loudly protest and point out to the Munnabhai franchise, but may I humbly add that that exceptions like that just prove the rule?
Even the keenest Bollywood fan will concede that subtlety is not Bollywood’s strongest suit. Whether it’s yesteryear’s Mehmood or today’s Johny Lever, Hindi cinema humor tends to be lean heavily towards slapstick. Mehmood’s gender-bending effeminate antics or Johny Lever’s facial contortions, I would submit, may draw laughter, but it also doubtless makes many an audience member wince.

There is another kind of filmi humor too. Call it the kinder, gentler version, or if you like, the feather-light, Bengali touch. In a genre perfected by the likes of Bollywood’s Bengali filmmakers Hrishikesh Mukherjee (Golmaal, 1979; Chupke Chupke, 1975) and Basu Chatterjee (Shaukeen, 1981; Baton Baton Mein, 1979), it’s a filmmaking style which wears its humor ever so lightly, looking at everyday life with a quirky, gentle eye as it pokes fun at the foibles of ordinary folks with good-natured warmth.

At a time when many Bollywood films revel in the mayhem and gore of gangster movies, or wallow in sexual titillation that borders on soft porn, films like this are like a whiff of fresh air (maybe the fact that the director is Bengali is not entirely coincidental).

Here’s the story for this one: Kamal Kishore Khosla (Anupam Kher), a retired Delhiwallah, is your typical everyman, with typical annoyances — a nitpicky, dense wife (Kiran Juneja-Sippy), a tomboyish daughter, self-centered elder son Cherry (Pravin Dabas) and aimless younger son Bunty (Ranvir Shorey).

In a word, the Khoslas are a dysfunctional family that nevertheless manages to muddle through. Cherry has one eye set towards America, and has little time for anything or anyone else. Bunty is a cocky, ne’er-do-well whose future doesn’t look particularly promising. Yet despite these personal shortcomings, the family is bound together in unspoken, understated affection, much like it happens in hundreds of ordinary families everywhere.

Khosla has a dream that is nursed in many a middle-class bosom — to have a home of his own. But as he goes about it, a real estate shark, Kishen Khurana (Boman Irani), stands in the way. Khurana is the sort of guy who would sell his grandmother at the drop of a hat, and he cooks up fake documents and pumps in lots of moolah to grab Khosla’s dream plot.

A decent, conscientious fellow, Khosla is outraged. He decides to take on Khurana, but he is no match for the crook. His plan to throw out Khurana’s henchmen with hired local bodybuilders is a disaster, and he is about to give up all hope.
This is when the fun begins.

Cherry’s immigration agent Asif Iqbal (Vinay Pathak) once worked for Khurana and continues to remain pissed off at his former boss. He is keen to teach his old boss a lesson. Cherry and Asif are joined by Cherry’s girlfriend Meghna (Tara Sharma) and Meghna’s theatre mentor (Navin Nischal)/ hatch a zany plan to give Khurana back a bit of his own medicine.

These skeletal facts don’t do the film justice. What makes the film work is a magic combination of superb directing (Dibakar Banerjee), a wonderfully witty script (Jaideep Sahni) augmented by some marvelous ensemble acting.

Filmmaker Dibakar Banerjee deserves all credit for proving the old dictum: “Less is more.” Instead of high drama, maudlin pathos, mayhem and violence, he takes the subtler, nuanced route. With poignancy, irony and humor, marvelously understated but all the more effective for that, the film captures the middle class sensibility of Delhiwallahs.

Ever so gently, the film makes several good points, but its moral messages of the need for courage to take on injustice and the need for nurturing in a family are understated. The humor is gentle but intelligent, and there is a cozy blanket of compassion that wraps this film that leaves the audience with a pleasant, warm feeling that lingers long after the film was been seen.

Despite minor flaws that do not deserve mention, debutant director Dibakar Banerjee and writer Jaideep Sahni capture the essence of Delhi and its middle class life with remarkable acuity. Whether a laughter club session or Khosla’s Karol Bagh-type neighborhood, many thoughtful details go into making this film a charming whiff of whimsy at a time when Bollywood continues to try to chase success with garish potboilers.


Fast Paced Action Entertainer
: Perarasu
Director: Udhayan
Cast: Vijaykanth, Damini, Prakashraj, Anandraj, Pandiarajan, Mansur Alikhan, Muthukalai, Sharat Babu.

A fast-paced entertainer that at times trips and stumbles with loose ends, flaws, and quite a few unanswered questions, what keeps it going, is its fast-paced narrative that leaves not a moment to dwell on the flaws or get distracted, The debutant director (with years of experience apprenticing under directors like Maharajan) keeps the action moving rapidly without a lagging moment.

The story centers on long-lost brothers and their reunion after about two decades, the duo finding themselves on opposite sides of the fence. The film opens with the kidnapping and murder of a judge. The CBI steps in, and taking charge is Kasi Vishwanath. As he zeroes in on the culprits, Kasi realizes that the brain behind the judge’s murder was himself the target of a killer. Two politicians and three cops were on the killer’s list and he was eliminating them one by one. The story behind the motive for revenge takes us to the village Panchalankurichi.

The rest of the story is about brothers separated in childhood, and the death of their father, the village bigwig, due to the machinations of some local politicians and cops. Now, decades later, one of the brothers, Perarasu, yearning for vengeance, strikes at the tormentors, while the other, Kasi, is determined to apprehend the killer even when the identity of the man and his motive is revealed to him. In the game of one-upmanship between the hunter and the hunted, Perarasu impersonates Kasi many a time to get his mission fulfilled.

In a Vijaykanth film one can expect a lot of action, and the director doesn’t disappoint. There are some punch lines with political innuendos, but well penned and not overdone. And there are some light moments too. Anandraj, playing the cop, reveals his flair for comedy. He keeps the scenes alive in company with Pandiarajan, who plays his assistant.

Muthukalai, as the beggar pretending to be blind, witnesses a murder and peps up his scenes. Prakashraj adds a touch of lightness to his scenes as Elakkiyan, the minister, who can’t resist doing a jig whenever folk dancers perform before him. In a fast-packed action flick the heroines are irrelevant, and not surprisingly, Damini is barely noticeable.

Vijaykanth’s recent spate of releases did not have much going for him, with him looking out of form. But here the actor looks trim and presentable, and back in form as he performs the dual roles with panache. Not a bad entertainer for lovers of fast-paced action flicks.

— Malini Mannath/Chennai Online


Diwali Treat: Potato Carrot Halwa

Sudha Gupta shows you how to make a fancy treat fit for a festive occasion from common kitchen items.

  • 1½ cup potatoes, boiled and mashed
  • 1 cup carrots, grated
  • ¾ cup unsalted butter
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ tsp cardamom powder
  • 2 tsp sliced almonds
  • 1 tsp sliced pistachios

Add ½ cup butter to mashed potatoes in a heated pan and stir till potatoes turn golden. Add milk and mix continuously till the mixture is thick and dry. Add ¾ cup sugar and mix and keep in stove for a minute. Move contents into a dish.

Add remaining butter, carrots to heated pan. Mix contents thoroughly in pan for 3-4 minutes. When carrots are soft and cooked, add to potatoes and mix thoroughly.

Garnish with cardamom, almonds and pistachios. Serve hot or cold.

Preparation time: 20 min
Serves six.

- Sudha Gupta lives in Elk Grove, Calif.


HOROSCOPE: October By Pandit Parashar

ARIES (March 21 to April 20): The time to lift your spirits has come. An offer will come from an interesting person. Your ambitions will rise and you may decide trying various avenues and making numerous phone calls to get the leads. You will also enjoy a trip with family. Spouse needs to keep an eye on blood pressure. You will be very fortunate with money and may make big bucks through stocks and bonds.

TAURUS (April 21 to May 20): You will find yourself under temporary financial pressure and this could be a result of wrong calculations made earlier. You will be offered a decent deal but it may take you away from home. A relationship could break if you are not careful. Some of you will start a new job. Legal issues on hold for long will come through in your favor.

GEMINI (May 21 to June 20): You will see light at the end of tunnel. There will be a big improvement on all fronts. Business will start picking up and you will be in line for a big promotion. A prestigious assignment will be deputed soon. You will have better control over finances and will be able to trim unnecessary expenses. You will get support from business as well as life partner. Try buying lottery.

CANCER (June 21 to July 22): There will be big achievements in life. You will spend time on making phone calls and get the results immediately. Some of you will buy another luxury car. You will be invited to several parties. Stocks purchased last month will appreciate sooner than expected. Spouse may argue over trivial matters. Let the past go by and try to enjoy life. A reunion will take place soon.

LEO (July 23 to August 22): You will spend time away from home and devote extra hours at business. You will think about quitting a relationship or partnership. Your mind will be restless and it will be better to consult someone you trust. You will receive a big check for a deal closed recently. You may be working on a very risky scheme. Do not ignore your health.

VIRGO (August 23 to September 22): Concentration of planets in second will help you make sound financial decisions. You may have to borrow money to fulfill your commitments. Money will flow in from various sources and you will spend on yourself and on buying valuable gifts for others. Be extra cautious at work and do not give others a chance to come after you for money.

LIBRA (September 23 to October 22): You will be caught between the right and the wrong bur eventually the right will win. Do not get excited too soon and keep an eye on your blood pressure. You will enjoy several evenings with close friends and relatives. Spouse will try to enforce impractical ideas on you. A property deal will close soon, bringing in much-needed and awaited money.

SCORPIO (October 23 to November 22): You will be working on a great plan. You will soon have better control over life. Expenses will reduce and the number of bills coming in mail will go down. A change in career is almost certain. You may invite a few friends at your place. You may also finalize an overseas trip. People will benefit from your expertise and one of your clients will send valuable gifts.

SAGITTARIUS (November 23 to December 22): You will lack confidence at the time of making all important decisions. Financially things are about to improve in a big way. You have big money coming through legal channels. There will be continuous improvement at work and you will be involved in an important project. A colleague trying to create problems will back off. Spouse will give you a lot of bright ideas.

CAPRICORN (December 22 to January 19): You will be going on a trip to a distant place soon. Changes in career at this point will prove lucky later on. You will keep investing time and money in a research projects. A new member will be added in the family soon. Health of an elderly family member will continue to cause serious concerns. You will make money in stocks and win lottery also.

AQUARIUS (January 20 to February 18): Planets are gathering strength to cause major changes in life. Some of you will be moving to another state in near future. Expenses will come down a lot. You will be invited by an old friend for dinner. You will be calling overseas more frequently. Someone with a political background will seek your help. The idea of taking a trip overseas for a family reunion may cross your mind.

PISCES (February 19 to March 20): You will regain confidence as offers will keep coming in from all directions. This is the best time to start that business you always wanted. A visit to a holy place will make your mind calm and relaxed. Value of recently purchased stocks will appreciate considerably. Financial juggling will help you save a lot but only in the long term.

Bay Area-based astrologer Pandit Parashar can
be reached by email at: pandit.parashar@gmail.com


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