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 Pittsburgh Area Indians’ & Indian-Americans’ only news magazine

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July, 2017 Issue  

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Unsettling Early Days of Trump’s Presidency

By Kollengode S Venkataraman

The erratic management style of Prwesident Donal Trump is unsettling to not only his White House Staff and his cabinet members, who are his most loyal servants, so to speak, but also to the GOP Congressional leaders, whose help he needs to get his legislative agenda to become them law of the land.  His  condescending attitude towards the US’s NATO allies in Europe will hasten the further weakening of the US as the Sole Super Power, and the emergence of another EU-led political-economic-military power in Europe that may not always tow the US line.

Desi Transitions: Insider Trader Rajat Gupta Blames the Aggressive Prosecutor His Jail Term

By K S Venkataraman.

On Rajat Gupta’s fascinating journey in life from working middle class background in India, to IIT, to Harvard MBA to Wall Street, to Chief Executive of MsKensey when he was barely 45.  After his stellar rise in Wall Street, which was the dream for every Indian MBA student in the US, he got involved in insider trading with hedge fund manager Raj Rajaratnam of Galleon Group.  He was given a 2-year sentence for insider trading.  Now out of prison, in an interview to Indian media, he was blaming the “aggressive” US attorney Preet Barara for his conviction.  He talks about his prison life in a letter to his friends.

Shanthi Chandrshekar’s Paintings on Cosmic Design

By Premlata V

Shanthi Chandrashekar, originally from Chennai, and now living in Baltimore, MD, has her paintings based on Cosmic themes on exhibition in Pittsburgh in June.  Here are the samples of her paintings.  She graduated from Anna University in Physics, and was associated with theoretical physicists while growing up in Kalpakkam (near Chennai) where a nuclear power plant is located.  She is interested in complex symmetries she sees in the physical and biological world.

Pittsburgh Sahana’s Successful Fundraiser

By Subash Ahuja

Pittsburgh Sahana, an active amateur Bollywood-based music group since 2009, had their Spring music program in Wexford this year.   This year, they raised $25,000 in their ticketed program, which they donated to Association of India’s Development (AID).

An Endemic Feature in Indian Music Programs

By K S Venkataraman

For-profit entertainment programs based on Indian film music are popular, with tickets sold in the thousands in big cities. In these events the emcees go to great lengths to introduce the songs with details and filmi trivia — the year and films in which they appeared, the playback singers, the music directors, the actors who lip-synched for the song… even vividly describing how the song was picturized. One thing they often miss is crediting the lyricists (kavis) who penned these memorable songs.   This was the case in the Sahana-2017 event also for very many songs, as we observed in their 2015 fundraiser.  While big-name poets don’t care for this omission, this practice does great disservice to less-known lyricists and poets (kavis).  This bad habit is unlikely to disappear anytime soon.

Veerashaivas — Rebels Against Orthodoxy in India

By K S Venkataraman

In the long tradition of rebellion against religious orthodoxy in India come the 12th century Veerashaivas in Southern India, against the rigid Vedic Brahmin orthodoxy of the era in Southern India. The movement got its impetus through the works of Basavanna, Allama Prabhu, and Mahadevi Akka. Anna (elder brother), Akka (elder sister) and Prabhu (gentleman) are respectful appendages to their names. Some scholars believe Jedara Dasimayya (10th century) was a forerunner in this Movement.

The Veerashaiva Movement campaigned against the ossified caste division of its time. Even though millennia ago, this division had a rationale for organizing society in terms of skills, it got stratified as “high” and “low” castes in later centuries. By the 12th century, the system was further fossilized, based exclusively on birth.

The impact of the Veerashaivas in the social, political, cultural and educational life of today’s Karnataka is quite significant.  The paradoxical Indian twist is that Veerashaivas, like many other reform movements, ended up becoming a caste, even though they rebelled against the caste system.

Today’s Rebellion is Tomorrow’s Orthodoxy

By K S Venkataraman

It is one of the paradoxical twists in all reform movements all over the world — whether religious, social, political — that the rebels rising against the orthodoxy in their times eventually end up as a sect by themselves, or a subset within the system. They create their own traditions, and after a few generations, are constrained by their own orthodoxy.  Veerashaivas are an example here.  There are other examples in Christianity, Buddhism, Sri Vaishavism, and even among Indian Communists.

Shyamaa: Tagore’s Portrayal of Passion Ending in Tragedy 

By Siba Ray

On April 22 and April 23, the Nandini Mandal’s Nandanik Dance Troupe presented Rabidranath Tagore’s dance drama SHYAMAA. The Kelly Strayhorn Auditorium in Pittsburgh was the venue.

The story revolves around Shyamaa (Nandini Mandal), the court dancer, instantly falling in love with a handsome merchant Bojrosen (the talented dancer Hari Nair from Toronto) from a neighboring country, the moment she sees him. Many men of substance in the kingdom amorously desire the gorgeous Shyamaa.  Shyaamaa eventually marries Bojrosen.

Behind the straight story of great tragedy, the story is a metaphor for life itself:  While people are unhappy not getting what they want, people who get what they want also end up unhappy, after all their tribulation in their pursuits.

On Frenemies and Frenemity

By K S Venkataraman

The writer sometime back came across a syrupy multiserial-forwarded e-mail from India that talking about  Friends and Friendship, which in reality, is a very complex relationships in human interactions.  The oozing syrup in the e-mail  was too much for the. That triggered him to explore a paradoxical relationship everybody recognizes and nobody can escape from. This unnamed complex relationship, present in all cultures, now has a portmanteau word in English for those in this relationship – frenemies.

One-of-a-Kind Delectable Shehnai House Concert

By Rishi Nigam

Rishi Nigam, a new resident in Pittsburgh — he moved from North Carolin last year — is a music enthusiast.  He is a consultant in the healthcare industry. Interested in music, he is working on his own album. Here he shares with readers his impressions on Ustad Hassan Haider Khan’s Shehnai recital in a house concert at Sama Saha’s home.  Ustad Kham was accompanied by Pt. Samir Chatterjee on the Tabla.

Sincerely,

Kollengode S Venkataraman, Editor and Publisher

================   End of July 2017 issue   ==============

On the Recent Jallikattu Protests in Tamil Nadu

By M. Meenakshisundaram (aka M. Bhaskar), Tiruchi, India

Meenakshisundaram, a long-time resident of Tiruchirapalli in Tamil Nadu shares with readers his shock and astounding surprise on the totally peaceful protest against the ban on Jallikattu, an old agrarian game in which youngsters try to tame a well-groomed and well-fed bull.  (Full disclosure: The author is also a dear friend of mine for over 40 years.) Here is video clip of the actual Jallikattu event.  Obviously, this high-adrenaline game is not for the faint-hearted.

 Hundreds of thousands of people gathered in many places — not only young men, but also middle aged men, retirees, young women, young mothers, even pregnant women participated with no violence whatsoever for nearly six days.  The origin of this game goes back to the Sangam time since we find references to this game in the literary works that are 2000-years old.  The protesters got what they wanted — the Jallikattu game was restored without any violence reported anywhere.

As it happens in India, though, on the seventh day, after most of the protesters had gone back, several unruly elements joined the crowd and in the tussle between the police and the leftover crowd, a police station was set on fire, several buses and vehicles were torched, and several people were injured.

Red & Blue Counties Paint a Starker Picture

By K S Venkataraman

When we drill down the 2016 election results into Red and Blue counties, it gives a stark picture on the wide divide among rural and urban population.  The country is divided sharply between urban and rural Americans on every measure — age, race, education, income, social values, beliefs…  So, governing becomes difficult since the rancor never subsides after the elections. We could as well be living in two different countries. 

Clinton lost in the Electoral College even after getting 2.5 million more popular votes than Trump. If she had reduced the margin of loss in rural counties by reaching out to the rural, less educated, and mostly white voters, she would have won the election.

We can only say this to both political parties on the way they strategize their calculus in national elections:  This is no way to run your railroad.  To the Democrats, you can even add this rhetorical flourish:  This is one hell of a way to run your railroad!  

Madhu Aggarwal Recognized for Helping Weirton’s Uninsured and the Needy

By Kollengode S Venkataraman 

Dr, Madhu Aggarwal was inducted into the Weirton’s hall of Fame for her philanthropic work for the uninsured and needy population’s  OB/GYN needs.

Obituary:  Parandham Koduri (1936 to Oct 11, 2016) — E-R Physician, Affable and Helpful

By Bhanu Pandalai and Premlata Venkataraman

Dr. Parandham Koduri, a longtime resident of the area and an affable and well-liked emergency room physician passed away on October 11. He was actively involved as a volunteer at the S. V. Temple, serving in many official capacities. At the Temple he was the President of the Executive Committee and later the Secretary of the Board. Most importantly, he was known as a peacemaker among contentious key members of the temple who did not see eye-to-eye on the temple’s temporal matters. He was also active in the Rotary Club in Monroeville.

Britannia, You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby!

By K S Venkataraman

On the British prime minister Theresa May’s visit to India in Fall in the context of the British Colonial Occupation of India.

Sowmya Srinivasan’s Delightful Veena Arangetram

By Shriram Murthy 

Somya Srinivasan, a student of Latha Sekaran,  gave a delectable veena arangetram recital in early summer.  It is rare among youngsters growing up in America or even in India to learn to play on the veena and reach a level of giving solo recital. So, Sowmya’s dedication towards this pursuit is noteworthy.  Sowmya, her guru Latha Sekaran and Sowmya’s parents would be pleased that all their collective efforts paid off well.  We wish Sowmya well to reach greater heights in her musical journey in the years to come.

India’s Consul General Visits Pitt

By Premlata Venkataraman

On the University of Pittsburgh’s Center of International Studies hosted a reception for Riva Ganguly Das, India’s Consul General at New York on Thursday, November 10 at the Barco Law Building.

Balamuralikrishna: A Rare Artiste Who Honored Arts Patrons and Other Artistes

By Balwant Dixit and P. Sundararaman

Balamuralikrishna, a genius in Indian classical music passed away in November in Chennai. Balwant Dixit and P Sundararaman reminisce their interactions with this talented and versatile musicians.

Fortune Hunting in Far-off Lands is Not New

By Kollengode S Venkataraman

From this poem in Kalittogai, a 2000-year old anthology of Tamil literature, we learn that people leaving their native habitat searching for fortune is a very, very old Indian phenomenon.

Kalaa Arpan:  Babeena Sharma’s Pleasant Recital

By Jayashree Phanse

Jayashree Phanse reviews Babeena Sharma’s enjoyable vocal recital at the S V Temple in Fall.

The Blue Sweater in My Drawer

By Samar Sinharoy

The author in his retirement living alone in our area after the death of his wife reminisces the blue sweater he still cherished that his mother knitted for him over fifty years ago.  He wonders if our children would reminisce likewise the knick knacks we would leave for them.

Sunflower: A Short Film on Aging & Memories

By Premlata Venkataraman

Premlata reviews the 15-min short film in which the main character is played by our own Juginder Luthra on how the aged people living alone handle the haunting memories with dramatic effects.  This is in a way, a “silent” film with not a word of dialogue except for background music to convey the poignancy of the scenes.

Ha!!

By K S Venkataraman

Harish Saluja sent to the editor one of Akbar Allahabadi’s two-line dohas — somewhat cynical, somewhat philosophical, somewhat humorous, using boat and ocean as imageries.  The author puts this doha in the context of Indians’ fascination with boat and waterways as metaphors for life’s complex journey for each individual.

Hindu Temples are Getting Americanized… …

By K S Venkataraman

Lately, the Hindu Temples in the US are slowly — very slowly, one should say — opening their doors as polling stations during general elections, as many churches have been doing for a very long time.

Making the Authentic Tayir, Dahi, Mosaru, or Perugu

By K S Venkataraman

After struggling to make the authentic Indian yoghurt called Dahi (in Hindi, Marathi, Gujarati, Bengali, Oriya), Tayir (in Malayalam and Tamil), Mosaru in Kannada, and Perugu in Telugu, the author describes his simple pleasures of how he finally succeeded in making the authentic Tayir here in the US.

Points to Ponder: Muhammad Ali (January 17, 1942 – June 3, 2016)

Muhammad Ali in His Own Words

The greatest boxer ever lived, Muhammad Ali, passed away after suffering from Parkinson’s disease he acquired taking repeated hits to his skull in his career.  Here he describes his opposition to the draft for fighting in the Vietnam War at the peak of his career. He suffered huge financial losses for his decision borne out of his moral convictions.  No other athlete anywhere in the world since Muhammad Ali has taken such a morally convincing protest stand for his political beliefs.

 

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