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COMMUNITY | News in Brief:

U.P. Heritage Day Marked with ‘Shamaa-e-Ghazal’ | Zee USA Marks 10th Anniversary with Zee Carnival | Bihar Fundraiser | Minister Visits | Named Aetna VP | India Expert Speaks | New Book | Heritage Month
U.P. Heritage Day Marked with ‘Shamaa-e-Ghazal’

Shalini Ved and Alka Bhatnagar (r). [J. Sindhi photo]

The Uttar Pradesh Mandal of America marked U.P. Heritage Day 2008 on Sept. 14 with “Shamaa-e-Ghazal,” a concert held at the India Community Center in Milpitas, Calif.

Shalini Ved and Alka Bhatnagar were the main performers.

Ved, who has trained under Girija Devi, Gangadhar Rao Tailang and Ajay Chakraborty, began with a Madhya Khayaal in Shuddha Sarang.

Her superb performance included the Shamim Jaipuri ghazal “Kyon mujhe maut ka paigam diye jaate hain” in the same Raag, in her own music composition. She presented Gopal Das Niraj’s “Abke saawan mein sharaarat,” set to music by herself in Raag Des, followed by classics like “Woh jo hume tume qaraar tha” and “Uzra aane mein bhi hai.”

Bhatnagar, a well known performer in the Bay Area, is a disciple of Ganesh Prasad Misra, Vinod Chatterji, Altaf Hussain and Mohammed Wazir.

Her performance included ghazals with beautiful lyrics like Sehba Akhtar’s “Aaj jane ki zid na karo,” “Aawaz de kahan hai” by Tanvir Naqvi, “Aapki nazron ne samjha” by Raja Mehndi Ali Khan, and “Chain se humko kabhi” by S.H. Behari made immortal by the genius of music directors like Naushad, Madan Mohan, O.P. Nayyar and singers like Farida Khanum, Noor Jehan, Lata Mangeshkar and Asha Bhosle. Bhatnagar impressed the audience with her perfection and skill.

UPMA strives to be the largest leading organization of Uttar Pradesh in North America, and promotes and preserves its rich cultural legacy and creates a platform for enhancing socio-economic growth, charitable causes, and cultural exchange through mutual participation. More information can be found on the Web at www.upmaus.org.

Chanchal Sahai


Zee USA Marks 10th Anniversary with Zee Carnival

Saif Ali Khan at the Zee Carnival in Secaucus, N.J.

Zee USA celebrated its 10th Anniversary with Zee Carnival 2008 Aug. 30-Sept. 1 in Meadowlands Expo Center in Secaucus, N.J., according to a press release.

Bollywood stars Saif Ali Khan and Kareena Kapoor set the ball rolling when they walked to their fans and shook hands and signed autographs. Given the enormous popularity of Bollywood stars, the response in the community was understandably overwhelming.

Prime-time television celebrities such Ram Kapoor (Jai Wali of Kasamh Se), Sharad Kapoor ( Nahar of Saat Phere), Kadambari Kadam (Janaki of Teen Bahuraaniyaan), Keerti Kelkar and Roshini Chopra were also in attendance, and they signed autographs and took pictures with fans.

Saif, emboldened by the cheering fans, picked up a guitar and went on to do an impromptu show that delighted the crowd.

“The three day event went off as predicted — wholesome entertainment for the family, the reel characters were real,” the press release added.


Bihar Fundraiser

The recent floods in Bihar have wrought devastation in over 3 million lives. Twenty-four of the 38 districts in Bihar, an area of over 390 sq miles, are under water. Over 850,000 people have been evacuated.

Several San Francisco Bay Area organizations are Oct. 17 jointly hosting a fundraising event — National Bihar Relief Day — at the India Community Center in Milpitas, Calif., according to a press release from organizers.

In Bihar, families have been displaced from their homes, crops and cattle have been lost, as have the means of a livelihood. Flood water has damaged roads and railroads, making it difficult to reach the hardest hit areas. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has declared the situation in Bihar “a national calamity.”

Film producer-director-screenwriter Prakash Jha, known for his socially conscious films like  Damul, Mrityudand, and Gangaajal will attend as featured guest. The evening will feature musical entertainment by Praveen Chaddha and Ritee along with Sanjay Sen. The variety entertainment will also feature kathak by Tarangini School of Kathak Dance, film dance by Naach and Aavartan teams.

Bay Area organizations which have joined in the effort include the American Organization for Development of Bihar, Bihar Samaj, American India Foundation, India Community Center, Indians for Collective Action, India Literacy Project, Prabasi, Sewa International, Sunnyvale Hindu Temple, TiE, and Uttar Pradesh Mandal of America.

For more information, readers can call Varsha (408) 250-7408, Sujay (510) 651-3711 or Rajiv (510) 648-5093.

Tax deductible donations can be made online at www.aodb.org.


Minister Visits

Indian Minister for Overseas Indian Affairs Vayalar Ravi addressing the Indian community in San Jose, Calif. as local community leader Dr. Romesh Japra (l) looks on. [Siliconeer photo]

The Federation of Indian American organizations, the Department of Non-resident Keralites’ Affairs and the Malayalee Association of Northern California hosted a reception in honor of Indian Minister for Overseas Indian Affairs Vayalar Ravi on Sept. 21 at the International Christian Center in San Jose, Calif. 

India’s San Francisco Consul General Susmita G. Thomas was present at the event.

Ravi started his political activities in the early fifties and is the founding president of the one of the strongest student unions in India — the Kerala Students Union.  He became a member of the Congress Working Committee in 1972 at the age of 35 and is the youngest person ever to hold that position.  He served the AICC from 1967 and has held the position of general secretary and president of Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee.

Ravi was born in 1937 at Cherthala, Kerala. He is an attorney, political activist and a writer. 

He was elected to the Lok Sabha from Kerala in 1971 and 1977.  He was also elected to the Kerala Assembly in 1982 and in 1987. Ravi served as Kerala State Home Minister in 1982 to 1986.  He was elected to Raja Sabha in April 2003.  In his present position as Minister of Overseas Indian Affairs, he is responsible for the welfare of over 25 million overseas Indians who live in over 110 countries worldwide.


Named Aetna VP

Rajan Parmeswar

Health insurance giant Aetna has announced that it has appointed Rajan Parmeswar, 46, vice president, controller and chief accounting officer, reporting to vice president and head of corporate finance Kim Keck. He succeeds Ronald M. Olejniczak, who retired as controller and chief accounting officer on July 31. Parmeswar joined Aetna on Aug. 18.

Parmeswar joins Aetna from PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, where he has been a partner with the nation's largest accounting and business advisory firm since 1998. He joined the firm in 1989 in Sydney, Australia and transferred to the United States in 1994. He has specialized in the insurance industry, and his experience also includes serving companies in the pharmaceuticals/life sciences and financial services sectors.

"We're very pleased to have Rajan Parmeswar join Aetna," said Keck. "He has a solid financial control background and experience in insurance and financial services. His knowledge of GAAP and SEC reporting for public companies and involvement with public offerings of securities and M&A transactions should serve us well. I'd also like to thank Ron Olejniczak for his significant contributions during the past 13 years and wish him well in the future."

Parmeswar earned a bachelor of commerce degree at DAV College in India and is a member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in India.

Aetna is one of the nation's leading diversified health care benefits companies, serving approximately 37.2 million people. Aetna offers a broad range of traditional and consumer-directed health insurance products and related services, including medical, pharmacy, dental, behavioral health, group life and disability plans, and medical management capabilities and health care management services for Medicaid plans.


India Expert Speaks

Prof Arvind Panagariya

To discuss the underlying transformative reasons for India’s ongoing accelerated economic growth and its implications for India and the rest of the world, the Global Organization of People of Indian Origin – Connecticut Chapter and Stamford Chamber of Commerce  hosted Prof. Arvind Panagariya, professor of economics and Jagdish Bhagwati Professor of Indian Political Economy at the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University in New York on Sept. 25.

In his address, Panagariya detailed nearly a dozen indicators to show that the growth level experienced by the Indian economy is real and is expected to continue in the next few years. Chief among the indicators were the progressively growing trade balance in favor of India, direct foreign investments into India, fast growing remittances, the phenomenal growth of the IT sector, telecom sector, automobile industry, textile industry, and the increase in the number of Indian billionaires.

One of the side effects of economic reforms launched in 1991 was the rapid increase in income inequality with the rich getting richer faster than ever before. Poverty reduction starts with growth, he said, and added that the number of people lifted out of poverty in the last 20 years is far greater than those in the 40 years preceding it.

Admitting that the economic growth experienced by the Indian economy has not been experienced by the vast majority of Indians, he said, there are limits to poverty alleviation through greater agricultural employment, currently at around 60 percent of the total labor force. India has now contributed, along with China and Russia, 40 percent of the global growth. Nevertheless, to maintain this growth momentum, India's growth strategy would need a reorientation with focus on agriculture. Thus, for effective poverty eradication, agricultural employment needs to shift to industry or services, he claimed. Even the improvement of so-called capabilities of the poor through health and education cannot be undertaken without growing incomes and revenues, he said.


New Book

India expert author Gunjan Bagla held two book launch events recently in Cerritos, Calif.,  and in Beverly Hills, Calif., for his book “Doing Business in 21st Century India.”

With India's annual economic growth of nearly 9 percent, Western business leaders are increasingly being  attracted to this land of extraordinary opportunity.

But corporate leaders who simply view India as the "new China" are destined for trouble, cautioned Los Angeles-based author Bagla.

"American exports to India rose 73 percent in 2007 and continue to rise further this year" stressed Bagla. "But significant cultural differences create a unique and demanding business landscape for western companies to overcome."

The California events were attended by luminaries from business, academia, Hollywood and entrepreneurs including Babu Subramaniam (India director of Disney's just released Cheetah Girls One World), dean Vijay K. Dhir of UCLA's Engineering School, Vrajesh Lal, CEO of fashion company Wrapper, Inc.;  also present were head of marketing for Hilton Hotels Corporation, Bala Subramaniam,  entrepreneur John Howard, whose startup (Distributed World Power) plans to bring "green" energy solutions to consumers in rural India, and CIO of OSI Systems Mohinder Chopra.


Heritage Month

Rep. Mike Honda, D-Calif., chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, released the following statement today in celebration of Filipino American Heritage Month, which begins on Oct. 1:

"As Chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, I am honored to join you in celebrating Filipino American Heritage Month and recognize the history, culture, and vast accomplishments of Filipino Americans.

"Dating back to 1763, Filipinos established their first permanent settlement in North America near New Orleans. Since then, Filipinos have migrated across the country settling mainly in Hawaii and California, and metropolitan areas such as Chicago, Houston, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Washington, D.C. and Seattle.  In 2007, the Filipino American community was estimated to be at 4 million, or 1.5 percent of the United States population.

"Many of our Filipino brothers and sisters have summoned the courage to leave their families and homeland to begin a new life in America. And with their hard work and contributions, they have provided new possibilities and opportunities for future generations. Individual leaders within the Filipino American community, like Philip Vera Cruz of the United Farm Workers of America, profoundly influenced the farm workers movement while contributing to the wider effort of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders to fight for justice and equality.

"The Filipino American community has embraced and actively participated in American society.  In addition to the tireless commitment of many Filipino American families to raise their children as positive contributors in their various communities – by investing in education, businesses, and opportunities for the future – individual Filipino Americans have distinguished themselves through their service and vision.”



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