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COMMUNITY | News in Brief: July 2009

Jalota Brings Bhajans, Warmth to a Worthy Cause | Singing for a Cause in Sacramento | Immigrant Campaign | CRY Demand | Chakri Birthday | Express Lane Status | Qatar Airways Expansion

Jalota Brings Bhajans, Warmth to a Worthy Cause

(Above, top): Anup Jalota during a performance at India Community Center. (Bottom): Anup Jalota with Bay Area-based doctor Bhupinder Bhandari, one of the organizers of the event.

Bhajan singer Anup Jalota  headlined a charity concert with a nearly sold-out crowd of 500 at the India Community Center that raised approximately $30,000 in ticket sales and pledges for the Nargis Dutt Cancer Foundation

The charity was founded in 1981 by Bollywood actor and politician Sunil Dutt, husband of yesteryear Bollywood star Nargis Dutt’s husband, following her death of pancreatic cancer in 1971.

Jalota, 55, opened the show with a song that was Sunil Dutt’s favorite — “Aisi Lagi Lagan” — and continued with songs like “Suhani Raat,” “Ishq Mein Aksar,” “Chaman Se Kaun Chala” and “Bade Dinon Ke Baad.” over the two-hour-plus show.

Ishmeet Narula, a finalist in the U.S. version of “Sa Re Ga Ma Pa,” opened the concert with entertaining versions of “Lambi Judaai” and “Kaisi Paheli Zindagani.” Later, local singer Alka Bhatnagar joined Jalota onstage.

The money raised will go toward the foundation’s fifth Nargis Dutt Mobile Hospital, a mobile medical van equipped with a mammography unit, X-ray equipment, a small laboratory and an ultrasonography machine. The van will travel around the poorest areas of Assam as part of Project Assam and will be managed by Deepsikha, a nongovernmental organization already making progress with cancer patients in rural Assam.

“Sunil Dutt was very clear about wanting to support very poor people in India,” said Mahesh Pakala, vice president of the Nargis Dutt Cancer Foundation’s San Francisco Bay Area chapter, who said he wanted to keep people involved beyond the fundraisers the group holds every two years.


Singing for a Cause in Sacramento

Donation box for victims of the recent turmoil in Swat, Pakistan.  Some of the proceeds at the “Singing Stars 2009 Concert” in Sacramento went to support the victims. [Ras Siddiqui photo]

They may be young and are not major stars yet. But even Noor Jahan and Lata had to start somewhere, as did the late Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. Plus the city was Folsom, Calif.,  and not Sacramento.

Billed as the “Singing Stars 2009 Concert” and featuring the vocal talents of Faisal Lucky, Rasika Sekhar, Zaheer Abbas and last but not least Musarrat Abbas, the concert delighted a local South Asian crowd June 13 at the Folsom Community Center.

Viewers who watch Zee TV and especially its Sa Re Ga Ma Pa program with its talent competition (somewhat like American Idol) can relate closely to the young people that periodically come on the show to be discovered. Earlier this year, Sacramento had the privilege of seeing Darshana Menon and Jeffrey Iqbal perform, two finalists from the same show.  And now this second wave came to hit us, segments of which were quite pleasing to the ear.

Faisal Lucky started things rolling immediately with “Shahbaz Qalandar,” “Sohniyay” and a couple of other Punjabi hits. The spectators were reminded that they were welcome to donate to the cause of displaced people in Pakistan and that boxes for their contributions were there to make this event meaningful in more ways than one.

The second performer Rasika Sekhar started with a surprisingly lovely ballad “Aaj Jaanay Ki Zid Na Karo” made famous by Habib Wali Mohammed.

Rasika’s duet with the next performer Zaheer Abbas of the song “Billo Rani” was very well received. Zaheer’s version of “Haulay Haulay” and “Shawa Shaawa” were also very popular.

Musarrat Abbas sang “Terey Bin Jia Jayay Na, Dholna,” “Piya,” “Afreen Afreen,” “Yaari,” and the Punjabi hit “Maujain Maujan.” One needs to give full credit to his effort.

It was good to see the local south-Asian community in the Sacramento area having some fun and seeing these newcomers perform.

— Ras H. Siddiqui


Immigrant Campaign

In June 2008, more than 30 community-based organizations around the country came together to announce the formation of the National Coalition of South Asian Organizations, according to an NCSO press release.

“Members of the NCSO came together around shared progressive principles and social justice values,” the release added. “Since our formation a year ago, the coalition has issued statements in response to current events, published joint opinion editorials about relevant issues and gathered for the 2009 National South Asian Summit that took place in Washington, DC in April 2009.”

On the one-year anniversary of the formation of the coalition, the thirty members of the NCSO have unveiled a new campaign — “One Community United: A Campaign for Immigrant and Civil Rights.”

The One Community United campaign will raise awareness about the immigration challenges and civil rights violations that South Asians encounter; mobilize community members around these issues; and encourage policymakers to strengthen civil rights protections and reform immigration laws in a just and humane manner, the release added.

“Over the next year, broad changes in immigration and civil rights policies are expected. These opportunities highlight the need for South Asians to speak out about our community's experiences and mobilize towards policy change,” the release said. “As part of the campaign, members of the NCSO will be advocating with policymakers, conducting town halls around the country and sharing stories with the media.”

One Community United kicked off with an inaugural town hall in Atlanta co-sponsored by coalition partners including Raksha and South Asian Americans Leading Together June 16. Town halls in New Jersey, Chicago, the Bay Area, and the Washington, DC area will occur over the next few months.


CRY Demand

On the occasion of Anti-Child Labor Day June 12, CRY America joined its partner CRY India in asking  the Government of India to ensure that every child goes to school, not to work. 

“Twenty-three years after child labor was banned in India through the Child Labor Prohibition and Regulation Act 1986, the country continues to be home to the largest number of child laborers in the world,” CRY America said in a press release.

CRY America seeks the following action: Send every child to school, not to work;  Ensure quality public education for all children;  Ensure effective implementation of the current Act that bans all forms of child labor; Make sure that marginalized families are ensured livelihoods, healthcare, education and housing, so the pressures of poverty do not force children into labor.

All children up to the age of 18 should be banned from labor and ambiguities in the current act must be removed, the release added.

“On the occasion of Anti-Child Labor day, CRY America along with its partner CRY India urges the Government of India to renew its commitment to children by putting the weight of its political will behind the ministries and departments responsible to send children to school, not to work,” the release added.

“The act to ban child labor today covers only 15 percent of the total child labor population in India. Sectors like commercial agriculture and unregulated factories which employ close to 70 percent of the child labor are not covered by the act,” said CRY American president Shefali Sunderlal. “Every census in India throws up larger numbers of children laboring across the country. Child laborers come from impoverished families and work in harsh unhealthy conditions leading children to grow into illiterate, unskilled, unhealthy adults who will not even be employed by the very industry that exploited them. “Furthermore, child labor depresses adult wages, impacts adult employment, perpetuates poverty and severely deprives children of their childhood.”

Rather than limiting action to what is visible, the Government of India must address the problem in a comprehensive and effective manner including quality public education, quality healthcare services and adult employment, the release added.


Chakri Birthday

Telugu composer Chakri with Tamil film star Vijay Lakshmi at his birthday bash in Fords, N.J.

Prominent Telugu movie music director Chakri was felicitated June 14 at an event at the Royal Albert Palace in Fords, N.J., June 14 on the occasion of his birthday, according to a press release from organizers. Various Telugu Associations, Telugu music lovers came together for the event. Around 300 people with families attended the program including Chakris’s wife. Shravani and Telugu community leaders from New York and New Jersey.

Chakri’s birthday was celebrated across Andhra Pradesh in different towns by his fans.  Chakri’s recent songs from Gopi Gopika Godavari are currently topping the charts in Telugu circles, attendees enjoyed his melodious songs in the live concert. Well-known singer and Tamil star Vijaya Lakshmi joined Chakri.

The birthday celebrations for Chakri began  June 13 in Tampa, Fla. He also celebrated his birthday  June 14 with the Telugu community organization North America Telugu Society.

Chakri and Vijaya Lakshmi sang a wide range of songs ranging from old melodies to the latest hits.

Baba Sontyana composed a melodious song on Chakri “Balemanchi Roju” with Chakri’s personal details and major milestones in profession as music director.

Chakri thanked all the fans and friends for the felicitation and hosting the party on the occasion of his birthday. “It was a thrilling experience… an experience that is etched in my memory forever," said Chakri. “I am happy to celebrate my birthday with my NRI friends and fans in New Jersey.”


Express Lane Status

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke June 17 announced an important step forward in the strategic partnership between the United States and India during remarks to the U.S.-India Business Council’s 34th Anniversary Synergies Summit.

General Electric India has been tapped as the first Indian company to qualify as a validated end-user in India, allowing the company to enter a pre-approved, export express lane as a trusted end user.

After an extensive background review, the VEU designation will allow GE India to receive certain controlled items from the United States, including civilian aircraft technology and explosive detection equipment without an individual license, cutting red tape and making the flow of trade more efficient between the countries.

That the VEU program was opened for India is an indication of the increased importance of the U.S.-India bilateral and commercial relationship.

“This is an important step in enabling a more rapid and efficient flow of sensitive technology between India and the United States,” Locke said. “It also is a significant effort to build trust between the United States and India. We're looking forward to reciprocal actions from our partner.”

The program is administered by the Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security and implemented by an interagency committee consisting of representatives from the Departments of Commerce, State, Defense, Energy and, when appropriate, the Treasury. 

GE India will become eligible as a validated end-user later this month after the regulation is published in the Federal Register. Locke also encouraged additional Indian firms to take advantage of the VEU program.


Qatar Airways Expansion

Qatar Airways’ expansion in the United States is making it more convenient for the Indian community in the United States to travel to India, according to a press release from the airways. The airline is adding flights and service in the communities where there is a large Indian population residing in the United States including New York, Houston and Washington, DC. 

The airline recently announced new daily flights from New York's JFK airport to Doha and the service is experiencing strong appeal from the Indian community, the airways said. Approximately 44 percent of the people traveling from the United States to Qatar on Qatar Airways connected to Qatar Airways flights to India last year. Qatar Airways also has entered the Houston market to capture the Indian community.  Qatar Airways already operates direct flights from Washington, D.C. to Doha.  Strong interest from the Indian communities in New York, Houston, and Washington is helping to drive Qatar Airways’ expansion in the United States.

“While other airlines are cutting back and charging for basic amenities, Qatar Airways is one of the few airlines that is increasing the number of flights at the same time as they expand in-flight luxuries for passengers,” the release added. “As value is important, it must be noted that Qatar Airways’ Economy Class was voted the Best in the World.”



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The Warrior Gentlemen:
Samurai Exhibit

The Asian Art Museum in SF takes an intimate look at the lords of the warrior class of feudal Japan, circa 1300-1860. A Siliconeer report.

A Poet and A Rebel:
A Tribute to Ved Vatuk

Scholars, friends and admirers gathered in May for a special tribute to poet and activist Ved Prakash Vatuk, writes Kira Hall.

Double Whammy:
The Onslaught Against Adivasis

Adivasis in southern Chhattisgarh are caught between the violence of the Maoists and the state. write Somnath Mukerji, Umang Kumar and Garga Chatterjee.

EDITORIAL: Samurai Exhibit
TRIBUTE: Ustad Ali Akbar Khan
SUBCONTINENT: Obama Fatigue?
COMMUNITY: Himachal Day
MEDIA: Ethnic Media Growing
REMINISCENCE: Trip to the Fair (Part II)
TRAVEL: Atlanta: Coke, CNN and Aquarium
AUTO REVIEW: 2009 Dodge Challenger
BOLLYWOOD: Review: Kal Kissne Dekha
RECIPE: Gulab Sandesh Cake
TAMIL CINEMA: Maasilamani
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