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A Bentley “Stolen” in London Found in Karachi

By K S Venkataraman

A bizarre story indeed: A Bentley Mulsanne luxury vehicle costing over $200,000, allegedly “stolen” from London was found in Karachi’s upscale Defence Housing Authority (DHA) residential area, originally developed for high-ranking retired Pakistani military officers. Many retired officers sold their homes at HUGE profits to private citizens.

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In September 2022, the Customs Office in Karachi received a tip from a “friendly country” on the precise location — the street address in the DHA complex — of the Bentley. When Pakistan’s customs officials went to the upscale house, lo and behold, the Bentley was in the parking garage. In a story in Dawn, Imtiaz Ali reports this:

The officials asked the ‘owner’, Jameel Shafi, to provide the title for the vehicle. Instead of producing the papers, Mr Shafi stated that the vehicle was sold to him by one Naveed Bilwani with the agreement that Mr Bilwani would bear all liabilities to clear required documents from authorities before November 2022. As the “owner” could not produce the document of the vehicle, the customs department took possession of the vehicle.

Later, during investigation, Bilwani informed officials that he had only helped broker a deal between Shafi and another person named Naveed Yamin as a guarantor of payment and papers and Mr Yamin received cash from Shafi as payment against the vehicle.

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n a later story Dawn tells that the 2014-model Bentley was imported in 2019 by the Bulgarian ambassador to Pakistan, who later sold it to a Pakistani, which is illegal because it circumvents a whopping 300% import duty for such luxury vehicles. A whole bunch of government officials in Pakistan’s customs department, DMV and other agencies are now caught up in the scandal. Once so many government officials are involved in a scandal, as it happens in that part of the world, nobody will be held accountable.

The expensive car had a microchip installed to track its location. If only any one of the people in this scandal knew to deactivate the microchip, this scandal would not have exploded the way it did.

London’s British Museum displays artworks the empire stolen from India during its colonial occupation. One wonders if Pakistan would remember this and keep the Bentley for display in Karachi or Islamabad. 

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Book Review: Dhananjay Joshi’s “No Effort Required”  

No Effort Required is the English translation of Dhananjay Joshi’s articles in Marathi, serialized under the title Sahaj in Lokamat, the Marathi daily. The word सहज, taken straight from Sanskrit, means born with, natural, effortless, or congenital. Arun Jatkar, known to our readers, and a cousin of Joshi’s, translated the series into English.

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The theme of this book is the author’s reflections on his decades-long spiritual quest on the purpose and meaning of life. This takes him from his cultural moorings in his traditional Hindu upbringing and interactions with family elders like his grandmother and several teachers in India. This search continued through his engineering education in Poona. Later, when he came to the US for higher education at the Illinois Institute of Technology in electrical engineering and mathematics, his quest continued. He had long interactions in the US with the monks at the Ramakrishna Math and with Zen masters from Korea and Japan.

As many Hindu/Jain/Buddhist/Sikh teachers in India have repeatedly advised us in each generation, tranquility and freedom (Moksha in Sanskrit) are to be realized here and now when we are alive, and not in Swarga, Heaven or Jannat, post mortem — I use post-mortem in the literal meaning of the phrase, namely, after death. This idea is also central to Buddhist teachings all over Asia.

The author’s spiritual journey continued while he was living in Chicago, starting his career in corporate America, with him organizing meditation retreats in his rented apartment. And later, leading life as a married man, paying taxes and educating his children. He did not run away to the foothills of the Himalayas between career transitions, or out of disillusionment in life in the US. When people are predisposed to these kinds of pursuits, they get — or find — their teachers, even in Chicago, even in the midst of all the regular grinds that overwhelm most of us.

Serious English readers in India — the book’s target audience since it is published there — are in a hurry,  used to rapid reading. The short, easily readable stand-alone stories in the book are suitable for these readers. However, just because the articles are short and readable, it does not mean that readers can absorb their central messages in rapid reading. Several articles in this collection, described as “pointillist” by Margaret McKenzie in her foreword, are cryptic and end abruptly. If readers do not pay attention in their speed reading and do not pause at the end of each story, they may altogether miss their import.

This pointillist style of the short pieces, each standing on its own has a long history in Indian literature. Examples are the one hundred verses in Vedanta Dindima (attributed to Adi Shankara, perhaps incorrectly), or the 1330 couplets in the 2000-year-old Tamil classic Tirukkural. These individual verses are like bananas in a cluster, each complete by itself, independent of others in the bunch.

Many of the lessons the author learns from his Zen masters are the same that the Hindu tradition teaches, namely patience, frugality, simplicity, honesty (to oneself) in one’s life and lifestyle, and diligence, persistence, efforts, and dispassion in one’s pursuits.

On reading the short pieces in the book, spontaneously I recalled  the great line मन एव मनुष्याणां कारणं बन्धमोक्षयोः (Mind and mind alone is the cause for both the bondage and liberation of man) from the Amritabindu Upanishad, or अभ्यास-वैराग्याभ्यां चित्तवृत्ति निरोधः  (A vacillating minds is quietened with practice and detachment.) from Patanjali’s aphorisms.

Another lesson that comes out in Joshi’s writings is what is stressed in traditional Indian teachings, namely, the importance of right motivations in our pursuits. Even if we pursue the right course of action, but with the wrong motivations, we are advised, we will be dissatisfied with the outcome. And even when we pursue seemingly wrong objectives, but with the right motivation, eventually we will come out OK.

The stories are easily digestible, but are difficult to read because of the small font size and tighter line spacings. The publisher could have fixed this since there are wide margins on the left-hand-side pages in the book. And there are random distractions of missing spaces between words, a feature that is easily fixable with today’s editing software. But for these features, the book is worthy of the reader’s time since it addresses in a contemporary style and context many issues young professionals face.   

No Effort Required  Author: Dhananjay Joshi, Translation:  Arun Jatkar, Publisher: Rohan Prakashan, 155 pages. Pune, India.  INR 300.00

Reviewer:  Kollengode S Venkataraman     

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Continuing Education at CMU for Seniors in Retirement

By Sankar Seetharama, Pittsburgh, PA

One of the best kept secrets in the Pittsburgh metropolitan area, the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), offers its members, primarily the senior community, opportunities to expand their knowledge, enhance their skills, interact with their peers, and increase their social and cultural awareness. It provides members a range of short-term, non-credit courses, lectures, and field trips, taught by faculty from CMU and other institutions, retired business professionals and representatives from community organizations, all eager to share their knowledge and expertise.

In August 1991, Robert Mehrabian, Carnegie Mellon University President, brought in Steve Calvert as assistant VP and director of alumni relations to found an adult education program. Mehrabian’s vision was to strengthen alumni relations, including a focus on education programs for alumni and the University’s neighbors, primarily retired adults still thirsty for knowledge.

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Guided by Gretchen Langford, a Margaret Morrison Carnegie College alumna, and Edwin “Ted” Fenton, alumnus, Director of CMU’s Center for University Outreach, the Academy for Lifelong Learning (A.L.L.) came to be in 1992. In its first year (1993-1994), it drew three hundred students.

By 2007, A.L.L. had grown to over 1,200 members. Following a grant from the Bernard Osher Foundation, the A.L.L. Board of Directors recommended joining forces with the Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes, dedicated to the same goals. By early 2009, Osher at CMU had new offices in Hunt Library, two classrooms in Wean Hall, a website, and an endowment from the Osher Foundation.

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Now all of these have been consolidated in a lovely new Learning Center in Cyert Hall on campus funded by the Osher at CMU and local foundations. Osher, not part of CMU, is an independent, 501(c)3 non-profit organization. Most importantly, it is volunteer-driven. From the Board of Directors to its committees and its instructors, everyone is a volunteer. It helps reinforce a sense of community. There is also a dedicated staff, responsible for running the show. Led by an Executive Director, they produce course catalogs, schedule courses, maintain the website, help with registration, and take care of all the business aspects of the organization.

Each year, members can choose from over four hundred courses, covering an incredible range of subjects from the study of a Shakespeare play to under-water photography, secrets of Pittsburgh, architecture, Indian history, music, personal finance, legal issues, health & wellness, and much more. Most of these classes are taught in the Learning Center in Cyert Hall.

Beginning in August of 2019 Osher’s Executive Director and then President had a series of meetings with Chatham University’s President. These meetings led to the Lifelong Learning Program partnering with Chatham University offering courses at their Eden Hall Campus in Gibsonia, PA providing closer access for residents of surrounding communities.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, all classes were held on Zoom®. Some classes will be offered on Zoom in addition to the in-person classes to accommodate those unable to attend classes on campus.

Osher at CMU is always happy to welcome new members & instructors! Check us out at www.cmu.edu/osher/  

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Aishwarya, daughter of Gopal & Sasikala Krishnamoorthy of Monroeville, PA and a student of Kamala Reddy, had here Kuchipudi  rangapravasam on Saturday, June 25, 2022, at the S.V.Temple auditorium in front of a large number of invitees. Aishwarya learned the artform for over ten years, during which she was part of Kamala Reddy’s many Kuchipudi dance-dramas.

At Gateway High School, Aishwarya was part of the marching band and learned to play on the trumpet. At school, she received the Noah Gray scholarship for her commitment and achievements in the band. Graduating this year from Gateway High School, Aishwarya is now a freshman at University of Pittsburgh, pursuing engineering. 

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Obituary: Manjeri Raman — A Life Well-Lived (1942 to August 4, 2022)

By Som Sharma, Monroeville, PA

Manjeri Raman, known as Jeri to his colleagues and friends, who lived in the Pittsburgh metro area for decades before moving to Savannah, GA, died on August 4, 2022. The cause of death was complications from esophageal cancer.

He graduated in chemical engineering from the Alagappa Chettiar College of Technology in Chennai in the early 1960s. He came to the US in 1967 for his graduate studies in chemical engineering at the University at Buffalo in the SUNY system. Krishna, whom he married in 1970 in Chennai, India, joined him later.

Manjeri’s long career in marketing was with Spencer-Kellogg (Buffalo, NY), Calgon Corporation (Pittsburgh, PA), and SNF Holding Co. (Riceboro, GA). With his easy-going disposition in working with people from diverse backgrounds and his natural leadership skills, he rose to senior positions. In retirement, he worked as a marketing consultant. He traveled extensively, both domestically and internationally for work.

I first met Manjeri and Krishna as curious students of Advaita Vedanta during Swami Chinmayananda’s first visit and Jnana Yajna in Pittsburgh in 1978. He was drawn into the Chinmaya Mission’s activities. With him and many others, we organized several week-long lecture series on the Gita and Vedanta topics by Swami Chinmayananda himself and by other monks of the mission. A special one was the Chinmaya International camp at the Slippery Rock University in 1984, when we rented the entire campus for 10-days, a one-of-a-kind event then. We travelled together to many Chinmaya spiritual camps in other cities. In Savannah, he started the Chinmaya Satsang, which is quite active today, with participants both of Indian heritage and from the American mainstream.

He was in the S.V.Temple’s governing bodies, where he was known to run committee meetings and participate in them with great elan.

Manjeri was cosmopolitan and open-minded and had a unique gift of making everyone feel special. He was comfortable with his circle of friends from diverse Indian linguistic and sub-cultural groups, as well as other nationalities and races. He did not let his vulnerabilities get in the way of learning or seeking help from others in any aspect of his life. Raman and Krishna loved to travel, going to many tourit and pilgrimage sites.

He volunteered with Hopelink in Redmond, a Seattle neighborhood in Washington state. He also tutored fifth graders in math at Gould Elementary School in Savannah.

Raman was a voracious reader with interests in politics, society — he admired Mahatma Gandhi — and football, tennis, golf and, of course, cricket. He was an avid tennis player and a golfer. He loved Karnatic music and light entertainment movies in Indian languages. A loving and caring partner and father, Raman was a friend, philosopher, and guide to his children Anandi and Arvind. He was fond of his wonderful life partner, Krishna, a courageous and independent woman in her own right, for fifty-four years.

 A storehouse of information, a loving and caring partner and father, a sports enthusiast, a spiritual seeker, a “servant leader,” a trusted, large-hearted friend, a conscientious citizen, a fun-loving and easy-going guy, a man of conviction, yet respectful of opposing viewpoints — an almost perfect human being. A life well lived. The mortal remains of Raman were cremated in Savannah, with his adopted son Arvind doing the last rites for him. Later, his family organized a memorial gathering for Manjeri on Friday, September 9, in Savannah, where a large number of his friends from different cities gathered to reminisce and celebrate his memory. 

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The Raghupathis Move to San Diego After Their Four Decades of Active Life Here

By V. Vasudevan, Monroeville, PA

Janaki and Narasimhan Raghupathi, known to many among the Indian diaspora here, and very well-known people associated with the S.V.Temple, moved to San Diego last July after their over four decades of productive years living amongst us. They moved to San Diego to live close to their son and daughter there.

Janaki arrived in Pittsburgh in the early 1970s to pursue her master’s program in structural engineering at the University of Pittsburgh, after graduating in 1971 from the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras in civil engineering. In the mid-1960s, she was one of the very first “girls” to enter the IIT to pursue the coveted BTech in engineering. One of the reasons she chose Pitt was that her fiancé Narasimhan Raghupathi was pursuing his PhD in Chemical Engineering at Pitt.

Pandits Venkatacharyulu and Gopala Bhattar offered a garland to the Raghupathis

After their marriage, they had a brief stint at Ford Motor Co. in Detroit before moving back to Pittsburgh to spend over four decades here.

Janaki spent all her working years at the Westinghouse Energy Center in Monroeville and Cranberry in various capacities in structural engineering projects related to nuclear power plants.

Her background in civil and structural engineering came in handy at various stages of finalizing  the plans for the S.V.Temple that was consecrated in 1976. Her volunteer work at the temple continued in various roles in planning many one-of-a-kind festivals and procuring a variety of unique supplies against deadlines from all over the world in the pre-Internet, pre-Amazon, and pre-Walmart days.

Raghupathi recalling a poignant moment with Sthapati Ayyachami Narayanan with his audience. Pandit Venkatacharyulu looks on.

Janaki was there to help anyone at any time, whether it was for arranging arangetrams, marriages, and hosting visiting artistes; or helping people in medical and any other type of emergencies. There was no end to the selfless and tireless work she did for all who approached her.

Raghupathi, her husband, on the other hand, is quiet, complementing Janaki’s gregariousness. Often, he introduced himself as Janaki’s husband. He did his master’s in chemical engineering from VJTI, Mumbai and earned his PhD in ChemE from Pitt. After his brief stint at Ford in Detroit, he joined PPG working in various capacities in managing projects. He travelled widely for work, meetings with customers and vendors. He regaled with stories on his visits to Moscow and other cities in the Soviet Union during the collapse of the USSR. He too was associated with the S.V.Temple management in various official capacities.

The women who made the event happen with some others. (Picture by Sripriya Vasudevan, North Hills, PA)

Raghupathi has been the unofficial tax consultant for the priests and office staff at the temple from the time the temple started, making sure that they got all the applicable deductibles and refunds. He also made sure that they also set aside money for their retirement.

The friends of the Raghupathis organized a farewell party at the Murrysville Community Center on July 8, 2022, where they recalled fantastic stories and anecdotes in their interactions with Janaki and Raghupathi. While all their friends miss their presence here, I join them wishing Janaki and Raghupathi well in their retirement with their two children in the sunny San Diego, enjoying their life living close to the beach, the mountains, and the desert. 

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Opportunities for Middle/High School Children at Civil Air Patrol

By Kollengode S Venkataraman

How many of you have heard of the Civil Air Patrol (CAP) and their activities across the nation? Maybe a few. And among school-going children focused on their curricular activities, even less. 

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Civil Air Patrol, an organization of citizen airmen, was formed in 1941 during the early days of World War II, committed to volunteer services to America. Focused to mobilize the nation’s civilian aviation resources for national defense during WW II,  CAP has evolved over the last several decades into a premier public service organization that still carries out emergency service missions, when needed, in the air and on the ground, and much more.

Civil Air Patrol plane with the trainer pilot and trainees.

As an auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force, CAP is there to “search for and find the lost, provide comfort in times of disaster and work to keep the homeland safe.” Its tens of thousands of volunteers scattered across the nation devote their time, energy, and expertise toward the well-being of their communities, while promoting aviation-related fields through aerospace/STEM programs and helping shape future leaders through its cadet program.

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CAP volunteers serve America’s communities, save lives, and help shape the future with its core values of Integrity, Volunteer Service, Excellence, and Respect. CAP’s programs on Aerospace  Education, Cadet Services and Emergency Services, are funded by the US Air Force and the local chapters’ fundraising activities.

In August, I went to a weekly meeting of CAP Squadron 602 held at the Baldwin High School close to the Allegheny County Airport in West Mifflin.  The Squadron 602 of CAP is located at the Allegheny County Airport (airport code AGC) in West Mifflin.

A cadet with the CAP plane.

Incidentally, AGC, a fully functional airport within the city limits of Pittsburgh, has a long and unique history. Built in 1931, it was the third largest airport in the nation with hard-surface runway, decades before the Pittsburgh International Airport came into being. More details here: www.tinyurl.com/AGC-Airport-Pittsburgh and here: www.flypittsburgh.com/allegheny-county-airport.  

The classes at Baldwin High were conducted under the guidance of Major Naor Wallach (e-mail address here) , Pennsylvania Director of Recruiting and Retention of CAP’s Squadron 602. The module they showed was on how they solved the problem when an oxygen tank in the capsule exploded in NASA’s Apollo 13 mission’s near-disaster moon mission. NASA’s ground control folks in Houston struggled against all odds to remotely instruct the astronauts in the orbiter floating 200,000 miles above earth to fix the problem with the very limited resources in the capsule.  

After initiating a new member into the program.

The CAP program is open to all middle and high school students who are either US citizens or legal immigrants (Green Card holders) for a nominal fee of $40 per year. A team of over 1500 volunteers, who have their own full-time jobs as USAF staff, railroad consultants, graduate students in universities, and others run the program nationwide. 

They meet weekly completing different training modules that focus on developing leadership skills and skills to work in teams (sometimes leading sometimes following), ER services, aerospace/STEM education, physical fitness, and character building. In programs with school kids as the trainees, they use real life examples of how crises unfold — many of them one of a kind happening for the first time. The students are shown examples of how to form teams with the required skills and temperament, how to brainstorm the issues to define the scope, and how to assign priorities and assess progress and performance, and how to make changes in the approach as the situation dynamically changes.

Major Naor Wallach at the podium.

For middle and high school students, programs in the Civil Air Patrol offer great opportunities to acquire skills on how to lead and take part in teams to accomplish any set goals, how to communicate clearly and precisely with peers and seniors in any organization. And the training they get in their formative years may even open opportunities for them in ROTC programs in the US Air Force, commercial flying, Medevac flights, or aeronautical engineering in universities. For more information, visit GoCivilAirPatrol.com or contact Major Naor Wallach (e-mail address here).

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Elect Arvind Venkat, MD to the State House

By Martin Karl and Cathy Poole, Co-Chairs, Franklin Park Democratic Committee

The last few years have been extraordinarily challenging for our families and communities. A once-in-a-century public health crisis, economic challenges, disruption of our kids’ education, threats to school safety, attacks on the very foundations of our democracy, and now, the possibility of ending reproductive rights – the list goes on and on. Our state legislative leaders are critically important to address all these issues. In this election year, the communities of Franklin Park, McCandless, Ohio Township, Kilbuck, Emsworth, Ben Avon, Ben Avon Heights, and Western Hampton Township have the opportunity to elect a capable member from the Indian American community to represent them in the State House in Harrisburg. He is Dr. Arvind Venkat, son of Indian immigrants and the Democratic candidate for the 30th District. He will ensure that we have bold leadership in addressing all these important challenges.

We have gotten to know Arvind over the last six months in his campaign to represent the communities of our district. From the beginning, he has emphasized his background as an emergency room physician with the privilege and responsibility of treating our neighbors in their time of greatest need. Arvind recognizes that just like there is no Republican or Democratic heart attack, we need leaders who will work for all of us, setting aside partisan extremism to solve problems in our community. Having worked on the frontlines of the pandemic, Arvind knows we have under-invested in public health, public safety, and public schools, leaving us vulnerable to the disruptions we have seen. He recognizes that we must fully fund these services to be there for all of us when needed.

Over the last few months, the stakes of this election have only risen. With the US Supreme Court overturning the federal constitutional right to an abortion, the future of women’s reproductive freedom is on the ballot. Similarly, whether we enact commonsense gun safety laws to prevent school shootings and reduce gun violence will be decided in Harrisburg. Finally, whether we continue to nurture our democracy by ensuring that a) every eligible voter has access to the ballot box, and b) our elections, regardless of their outcome, reflect the will of the people,  will depend on the members we elect to the General Assembly in Harrisburg.

Arvind Venkat on his campaign trail.

As a father, husband, emergency physician, member of the Indian American community, and long-time resident of the North Hills, Arvind will be the right representative for us in Harrisburg. He will ensure that our communities are cared for and protected. We are proud to support his candidacy for the State House and urge all voters in our communities to vote for Arvind this fall.On election day this November, vote for Dr. Arvind Venkat.

You can reach out to his team at his website www.VenkatforPA.com.

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Why I am Voting for John Fetterman for US Senate

By Mary Ganguli, Pittsburgh, PA

Editor’s Note: Mary Ganguli lives in the Point Breeze neighborhood of Pittsburgh.  She is Professor of Psychiatry, Neurology, and Epidemiology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and School of Public Health.

I first heard of John Fetterman while he was the Mayor of Braddock, a small Mon Valley municipality, which was once a bustling, vibrant, steel town, but never recovered after the steel industry collapsed in the late 1970s. John is not originally from Braddock; the details of how he, a Harvard graduate in public policy, moved to Braddock make a fascinating read. 

John, a Democrat, currently the lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania, is contesting for the open US Senate seat from PA in this November’s mid-term election. Here are his positions (www.johnfetterman.com/issues) on the issues that matter to us as Pennsylvanians.

John Fetterman

John became a national media sensation early in his career. This is partly due to his unusual appearance and demeanor —  6’ 8” tall and muscular, a casually dressed, straight-talking man of the people, and not the typical suit-and-tie equivocating politician.

I attended a Pitt Public Health graduation ceremony in 2014 when John was the commencement speaker. His Harvard  crimson hood looked like a mere ribbon over the black academic robe draped on his giant frame. He congratulated the graduates, reminding them that they were graduating in the beautiful Carnegie Music Hall built with the steel made in Braddock. He shared the desperate situations of the poorer Braddock families whose homes lacked heating during the winter polar vortex. He then told the graduates to go out and make a difference in the world with their public health degrees — pretty much describing his own career.

I also came to know John personally in 2014 while he was the Mayor of Braddock. I was chasing him down to officiate at our son’s wedding. I had left him notes and voice mail and was wondering how else to reach him. Then, my phone rang and the voice on the other end said, “Mary, this is John Fetterman.”  I started to repeat the details I had already put into my earlier messages. He stopped me abruptly, saying. “Mary, this is clearly the first wedding in your family. I have done dozens of weddings. You will have a million things to worry about, and I will not be one of those things. Just tell me when and where to show up, and what you want me to do and say, and I will be there.”  And he did. Since then, the Fetterman family has come over to our place for dinner and we found that John has a secret passion for Indian food (gobi mattar is his favorite).

John met with the Indian American community in the Pittsburgh area and with the Indian American organization IMPACT in Philadelphia. John tells me he is proud to receive not only our support but also our input on the issues that matter to us. He is particularly focused on the economy, health, and education, and if elected  — only we can make that happen — he hopes to serve on the relevant Senate Committees.

If he is our next Senator, he will show up as promised for us in Washington and do what needs to be done for us Pennsylvanians. So, Let’s get together and Vote for John Fetterman in the November elections.

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Every Election is Important — More So This Midterm Election

By Kollengode S. Venkataraman

Midterm elections draw only highly committed, partisan citizens to polling stations, compared with the quadrennial presidential ones. Voter apathy, particularly among independent voters, is the root cause.  These independent voters, if only they go to midterm polls, can change the tone of the political discourse and outcome of elections even in partisan districts.

In both State House and the Senate in Harrisburg for the last three decades Republicans have been in control most of the time. See the table below (source: www.tinyurl.com/PartyinControlofPA-StateHouses):

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For the last twelve years, in the General Assembly’s both chambers, the GOP has been in the majority, with a Democrat in the Governor’s office for the last eight years. In 2018, only with a Democratic governor, the state was saved from the GOP-controlled General Assembly gerrymandering the electoral districts to unfairly benefit them, when they redrew the electoral districts. See the article here: www.tinyurl.com/PA-RedistrictedMaps. In this background, this November, three elections are important:

1. For Governor’s office: In the November election, it will be an uphill task for Democrats to gain control of either chamber in the General Assembly in Harrisburg. However, the chances for individual house districts have improved because of the redistricting of the electoral map. So, a Democrat in the Governor’s office is necessary for checking the GOP’s muscle power in both chambers of the General Assembly. Besides, the GOP gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano’s extremely conservative position on women’s reproductive rights is troublesome after the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade earlier this year. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Josh Shapiro is moderate on this important issue. We need to elect him as our governor. His veto power will have a moderating influence on the GOP-controlled General Assembly.

2. US Senate: Our Lt Gov. John Fetterman is the Democratic candidate for the US Senate. He is known to our readers as the mayor of Braddock.  Mary Ganguli in her article is persuading voters to send Mr. Fetterman to the US Senate. Besides, his GOP opponent, the TV morning show star Dr. Mehmet Oz,  appears clueless to the needs of our moderate working class voters’ anxieties and needs. 

3. Pennsylvania House District 30: Arvind Venkat, a practicing ER physician, is trying to expand his horizon beyond ER medicine. He wants to represent District 30 in Harrisburg’s House of Representatives as a Democrat. Martin Carl and Kathy Poole are persuading voters in their write-up to vote for Arvind Venkat. 

So, on November 8, please go to the polls and discharge your responsibility to do the right thing.   

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Juginder and Dolly Luthra: Reviving Weirton’s Festival of Nations

By Nandini Mandal  e-mail:  nandini@nandanik.com

Note:  Nandini Mandal, the artistic director of Nandanik Dance Academy, recently spoke to Juginder and Dolly Luthra of Weirton, WV, on their participation in reviving Weirton’s Festival of Nations, last held in 1944.  She met the Luthras at CMU.

Nandini Mandal (right) with Dolly Luthra (left) with Juginder Luthra (centre).

Their story started as a Bollywood-style romance. From the forced migration during India’s painful Partition in 1947, to fifty years later, reviving a defunct Festival of Nations in Weirton, WV, through organizing an Indian Cultural Day there. And their story still continues.

He was born in Multan, in Pakistan now. His family, like other millions, was uprooted during the 1947 Partition and settled down in Panipat, in today’s Haryana, India. Seventh child in the family, he joined the medical school in Amritsar in 1961, obeying his father’s decision.

Three years later, a lovely young lady joined the same medical school in dentistry. Originally from Bombay, she moved to Chandigarh as her father was part of Le Corbusier’s architectural team that built Chandigarh. At the college social, they were part of the play together, with the lovely woman getting the best actress prize.  He, Juginder, was in his third year, and she, Dolly, was in her first. And the rest was their destiny together.

The Luthras with their three daughters, circa 1975.

Juginder and Dolly were married in 1968, and they moved to the U.K. in 1974 with their first daughter Namita.  Juginder Luthra, an ophthalmologist, got his advance diploma in UK. Soon after, their twin baby girls, Rohini and Rashmi, arrived. The Luthras eventually wanted to reach the US shores.

With America still recovering from the Vietnam War, there was a dearth of qualified and experienced doctors in many cities, including Weirton, WV. One of his friends already in Weirton asked him to come to Weirton to practice medicine. In 1975, the Luthras arrived at Weirton with their three daughters.

While Dolly stayed home for eight years to raise their daughters before starting her dentistry practice, Juginder worked as a house physician at the Weirton Medical Center. Weirton was now their home away from home. Juginder recalls, “Our neighbors embraced us, giving us car rides, taught us driving in our very early days as immigrants.”

… … The Luthras with their three daughters over two decades later.

To find out how this Punjab da puttar (son of Punjab) became intertwined with the heart and soul of Weirton decades later, we need to understand Weirton’s history built around steel. The economy of Weirton (population 30,000 at its peak) was driven by the steel mill with 13,000 employees at its peak.

In 1909, Ernest T. Weir established a Tin Plate Mill near Holliday’s Cove, a farming village, calling it Weirton, an unincorporated company town. With the expanding mill and an influx of European immigrants, Weirton was incorporated in 1947 by merging several neighboring communities around the mill.

As is the case with all steel towns in the US, Russian, Polish, Greek, Slavic, Italian, Finnish, Hungarian, Welsh, Dutch, Spanish immigrants, and native African-Americans flocked to Weirton in the early 20th century. The interactions among the disparate immigrant groups were not always smooth. A large number of immigrants living in close proximity in a small, isolated town without a strong common American identity was a cause for concern for leaders of the community.

So, in 1934 Weirton’s civic and business leaders conceived a Festival of Nations to foster a sense of fellowship and social and cultural interactions among the ethnic groups. They wanted to showcase the diverse culture in a noncompetitive atmosphere. They succeeded in their mission, and until 1939, the Festival of Nations continued in this spirit with ten nationality groups’ participation in the thousands.

Then World War II started in 1939, ending in 1945. The returning victorious soldiers and the people at large were forged with a common American identity. With this, the rationale for the Festival of Nations too ended, the last one was in 1944.

Good times roared for decades. But with steel’s decline in the 70s, Weirton was devastated like other US towns built around steel.  Today Weirton’s population is only 19,000, with only 1000 in steel! Weirton is a now a bedroom community to people working in Robinson Township and the Airport areas.

With their friends in the Sargam music group.

Flash forward to 2006. The Luthras, now well-established in Weirton, and both ardent art lovers and patrons, decided to showcase India’s dance and musical extravaganza to the people of Weirton. They dipped into the Indian talents in Pittsburgh with artistes trained in India’s rich musical and dance traditions. Sponsored by the Weirton Area Museum and Cultural Center, the Luthras organized the event with Nandanik Dance Academy, Nidrita and Asish Sinha, and Sushanta Banerjee performing in an hour-long program. It was a hit with the audience.

Impressed by the event, Weirton Mayor William Miller, surprised the Luthras by declaring November 18, 2006 “India Heritage Day” in Weirton. The Luthras, now members of the Board of Directors for the Weirton Area Museum and Cultural Center, added a new dimension to Weirton’s cultural landscape.

Then came the Weirton’s centennial in 2009. In a meeting participated by Weirton’s civic and business leaders and community organizers, old-timers wanted to revive the Festival of Nations. Juginder says, “Many of us, including those who have lived here for a long time, had never heard of it before. When they heard about the festival from old-timers, everyone asked me, Why don’t we create something like you did on India?'”

Dolly Luthra emceeing the Festival of Nations program.

Weirton’s glorious legacy, now seen through faded photographs and recalled by elders helped in its revival in 2009. The Luthras were active for three years — they were the chair and co-chair of the organizing committee — trying to reconnect to Weirton’s past with help from countless citizens of Weirton.

The Festival of Nations was re-started in 2009 with a parade, all singing We are the World at the Municipal Building, with artistes from Weirton and its extended neighborhood including Pittsburgh participating

Every year, attendance improved, starting from mere 400 to over 1600 people this year with twenty-one ethnic groups participating. Indians, Chinese, Koreans, and Japanese are the new entrants. People come back to participate in the parade, buy artifacts from display tables, and taste the featured multiethnic food. The Luthras made sure the gala started with an invocatory piece by Dell Fryer, or Chief White Panther, a Delaware Native American chief.

Now having acquired a building for the museum with a grant of $30,000 from the J.C. Williams foundation, the Luthras and their fellow townsmen are pleased that they were able to revive the Festival of Nations. While recognizing that the festival had seen better days in the past, they hope that it will grow in the years ahead.

Dolly Luthra says, “When my father, a PWD (Public Works Department) engineer, was part of the team that built Chandigarh in India, little did I know that decades later, I will be involved in trying to rebuild another city not physically, but culturally, far away from India. That is very satisfying to me.”

L ro R: Dennis Jones, President, Weirton Area Museum and Cultural Center; Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin of West Virginia; and Dolly and Juginder Luthra.

The Luthras are also path breakers in other ways. They are the founding members of Triveni, a cultural organization with Bangladeshi, Indian, Pakistani members to share the common ethos of the Indian subcontinent. Under the Triveni banner, in 2010 the Luthras were instrumental in showcasing the creativity of visual artists among Indians in the Pittsburgh Metro area under one roof in Monroeville to display their works.

Soft-spoken and warm, the Luthra’s dedication to Weirton that has seen better days is admirable. The Luthras went forward with the limited resources they had.

Along the way, in their efforts to rebuild the Weirton’s glorious legacy, they have befriended a diverse cross section of people in the community. Weiron too, has embraced them even tighter than before.

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British Airways Revives Its Nonstop to London Heathrow from Pittsburgh

British Airways resumes its nonstop services to London Heathrow starting in June, four days a week. On Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays the flight departs from London Heathrow at 4:45 p.m. and lands in Pittsburgh at 7:50 p.m. The return flight will depart Pittsburgh the same day at 9:50 p.m., arriving in London at 10:10 a.m. the following day

.British Airways started the service to Pittsburgh in 2019. The flight operated successfully for a year before Covid-related travel restrictions led to the flight’s suspension in 2020.

The flight is expected to generate more than $50 million annually to the Pittsburgh regional economy. For people traveling to the Indian subcontinent, this convenient flight offers several options to reach many big cities with one stopover in London Heathrow, and all second-tier cities via Dubai, Abu Dhabi. Qatar, or through Mumbai and New Delhi.

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रामायण सारांश में

लेखक: जुगिन्दर लूथरा, वियर्टण, पश्चिम वर्जीनिया

Summary of Ramayan

By Juginder Luthra, Weirton, WV

Father agreed with what wife said
Son agreed with what father said
Marich transformed to a golden deer
Ravan kidnapped Sita
Filled his bag of sins


Monkey burnt Lanka with his tail
Lanka fell by leaked family secret tale
Ram Lakhan brought innocent Sita home
Bharat removed sandals from throne
People joyfully lit lamps in homes


Due to washerman, earth swallowed Janaki
Sita bore sufferings, even lost her life
Since then people keep saying,

Victory to Sita’s husband, Ram Chandra!”
Victory to Sita’s husband, Ram Chandra!” .

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“The Kashmir Files” Portrays the Brutal Genocide and Exodus of the Kashmiri Pandits

By Bupesh Kaul, Squirrel Hill, PA

Bupesh Kaul, a resident in our area for over twenty-five years, is a practicing physician, now in semi-retirement. He was an associate professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. This is his review of Vivek Agnihotri’s acclaimed film The Kashmir Files.

The release of the movie, The Kashmir Files, has led to a renewed interest in the happenings in the verdant vale of Kashmir over three decades ago. The history of Kashmir is very tangled and complex — as all history usually is.

In the Indian context, Kashmir was an important center for learning — arts, literature, religion, and spiritual quest -— a place where Adi Shankaracharya preached as he revived Hinduism during his travels in the eighth century, CE.

The advent of Islam in the valley in the 14th century, though initially comparatively peaceful, became particularly brutal for the Kashmiri Hindus (Kashmiri Pandits) resulting in mass conversion to Islam, not always by persuasion. At one point, only a small number of Hindu families were left in the valley. Following the Anglo-Sikh war in mid-19th century, Kashmir, which was a part of the Sikh Empire and was mostly Muslim, was “sold” to the Raja of Jammu by the British for a princely sum of 75 lakh Nanakshahi Rupees. The State became Jammu & Kashmir (J&K).

In August 1947, J&K had four distinct regional ethnicities. The Kashmir Valley (Kashmiri), Jammu (Dogri), Ladakh (Ladakhis) & the Northern territories (Gilgit and Baltistan). The Valley had a Hindu minority, about 2-3% of the population. The Kashmiri language was spoken only in the Valley.

It is beyond the remit of this article to trace or debate the political machinations, calculations, and intrigue from 1947 to 1990 that led to the exodus of the minority Kashmiri Pandit community from the Valley in 1990. But what is indisputable is that a premeditated, calculated effort was made to rid the Valley of its Hindu natives. Long before the term “ethnic cleansing” gained currency in the West, it was a reality for the minority Hindu community in the Kashmir Valley. A targeted and carefully orchestrated campaign resulted in a premeditated brutal murder of scores of Pandits that led to the mass exodus of the minority Hindu population from the Valley.

The film also brings into sharp focus the inability/unwillingness of the Indian state and its media to recognize this issue as an Indian issue instead of seeing it as a Kashmir issue. The film does not portray the planning, coordination, and orchestration of the attacks by India’s immediate neighbors. Excepting for this and other minor quibbles, the movie graphically captures what should only be called genocide by terrorism, leading to the exodus of almost all Kashmiri Pandits from the Valley.

Watching the movie at the Waterfront Multiplex, I and other members of the Pandit community had a cathartic release, with many in the audience sobbing through the screening. The makers of The Kashmir Files do not shy away from making bold statements and that is the strength of the movie.

The director, Vivek Agnihotri gives voice to alternate viewpoints for which he needs to be commended. The Pandit community hopes this film will initiate a dialog to bring out the deafening silence by both the media and a spate of weak, corrupt politicians and officials who conspired, perhaps unwittingly, to condemn the whole Pandit community to become refugees in their own land. And bring to justice the perpetrators of the murder, loot, rape, and pillage perpetrated on a peaceful community.

The Pandits believe in the idea of India and in law and order, and not in vigilante justice. Which is why not one Kashmiri Pandit picked up a gun to avenge the murderous wrongs perpetrated on the community.

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Coming of Age for Indian Americans in the ‘Burgh

 By K S Venkataraman

Bhavini Patel, Veena S. Szymkowiak and Mandal Singh at the event.

People of Indian origin in our area, while continuing with their careers as professionals and entrepreneurs, are expanding into public life in elected offices in schools and local governments.

Last December, Ravi Balu and his volunteers felicitated three members of our community who made small steps in their public lives by seeking and getting elected to various offices. They are:

Ravi Balu at the Podium

Bhavini Patel (Democrat), the council member of Edgewood Borough; Veena S. Szymkowiak (Republican), Board Member of the North Allegheny School District; and Mandal Singh (Democrat), Director, the Gateway School Board.

Ravi Balu organized a well publicized event open to the public at the Triveni Center in Monroeville. He introduced the three elected officials, giving them the podium to talk about what motivated them to seek elected public offices in the midst of their busy careers and entrepreneurial commitments. There was also a Q/A session at the end.

The three elected officials with the volunteers who hosted the event

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Snow Leopard Expedition in Ladakh


By Nitin Madhav, Washington, DC

Nitin Madhav was born and raised in Pittsburgh, graduating from Penn Hills Senior High School and the University of Pittsburgh. After his bachelor’s and two master’s degrees, he began working in public health in several countries around the world. He has traveled extensively and is an avid photographer. His work is on nitin.photography and on Instagram at @nitinmadhav.

Location of the national park indicated with the star

I have never packed fourteen pairs of long underwear for a trip to India! When my friend, Behzad Larry, invited me to join him on an expedition to see snow leopards in Ladakh in November — he warned me it would be cold — I jumped at the opportunity since this was not the usual thing a guy from Pittsburgh does. I have been to India many, many times to visit family or for religious festivals, but never had to pack for the cold. This was a first — a snow leopard safari in the high mountains of the Himalayas.

Behzad worked with his Ladakhi partners, Abdul Rashid and Dorjay Stanzin, to set up a camp for snow leopard safaris near Hemis National Park (32 miles from Leh at 16,000 ft elevation), which has only about 70-80 of these cats, out of a worldwide population of about 3500.

Behzad, who is from Indore, India and an accomplished wildlife photographer-turned-conservationist, saw a void in the tourism experience that Ladakh offered. While most people came to Ladakh to trek, there is an incredible story for these visitors to share with people interested in wildlife, especially the critically endangered snow leopards.

Conservation in India has seen a positive change in the last few decades. While there is still human/animal conflict where man is encroaching on wildlife habitat, there is a renewed urgency in maintaining the biodiversity of India. There are several national parks where one can see tigers, but few with the world’s most elusive big cat — snow leopards. Ladakh happens to be the place with the highest concentration of snow leopards in India.

The altitude is important to factor into travel plans in Ladakh. I flew from Delhi to Leh, the capital, and spent two days acclimatizing to the high altitude. I am pretty fit, but still found simple tasks like putting on my shoes left me gasping for breath. Behzad told me that this was normal, and I would acclimatize in a few days, which I did.

Since I have been on many safaris across Africa, the Ladakhi experience is not significantly different… just miserably colder. Behzad works with highly skilled spotters who can identify snow leopards on high mountain ridges from great distances, sometimes up to seven kilometers away. They depart early in the morning, radioing back to camp when a cat has been spotted. Then, we bundle up, grab our cameras, and hop into the jeep.

Snow leopards are most active at dawn and twilight, so it is key to make the most of this time. The spotters look for blue sheep, known as bharal in the local language. A hungry snow leopard will often target blue sheep in its hunt; so, if these local experts spot these sheep, it is most likely that a cat is somewhere around.

Snow leopards camouflage themselves in the rocky terrain. They roll around in the dirt before stalking bharal, covering their coats in soil. Their spots make them blend in with rock formations, making them difficult to spot. Thus, it is important to work with trained spotters who know what to look for. Sometimes, the spotters will see a cat and will try to track it; however, the cat will disappear over a mountain ridge. They carefully scan the mountains paying attention to the bharal and the condition they are in. If they are agitated or seem on edge, a snow leopard could be nearby. Sometimes the wait can take all day in the cold, which is why I made sure to pack all those long johns!

While there are others that offer snow leopard tours, it is vital to ensure that these are done ethically, without baiting the cats. When snow leopards are baited, it creates the expectation that domestic livestock are easy prey for the cat — which leads to ongoing human/animal conflict as herders can lose their entire herd to a snow leopard, and they, in turn, would prefer to kill the snow leopard to avoid future losses.

The first time I saw a snow leopard, I mistook a group of bharal for bushes, and I asked Behzad to stop for a second, when one of our trackers hollered “Snow leopard!” and indeed, it was. It was a scruffy beast, not at all like the supermodel snow leopards I had seen in photos. This was a beast who had worked hard to find every meal — and he slowly approached the bharal which fled in fear — but not before Behzad got a few shots of the snow leopard close to the bharal.

The next day, we got a call telling us that a snow leopard had gotten trapped overnight in a shepherd’s corral in a village about an hour away, and were invited us to take part in its rescue. The snow leopard snuck into a corral at night. The shepherd heard the commotion of the cat attacking the sheep, and let the other sheep out and locked the gate with the snow leopard captive inside.

The Indian Wildlife Service rangers came by, tranquilized the snow leopard and after it was sedated, brought it out of the corral and took some biometric data before releasing it into the wild.

While it was sedated, I got to pet it and be a part of the biometric measuring. It was a beautiful male cat about five years old. I have been told many times that that is an unusual occurrence — I am the only one who has had a chance to do that, of the several hundred people who have gone on Behzad’s expeditions. It was an experience I will never forget — which made the trip so much more worthwhile.

Behzad kept saying he didn’t know if he could top that experience, and to be honest, nothing quite as interesting happened the rest of the trip. But this was the thrill of a lifetime.
If you are interested in a snow leopard expedition in either Ladakh or Kyrgyzstan, Behzad is offering a discount to readers of the Pittsburgh Patrika — mention that when you contact him on his website: https://voygr.com/   ∎

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Obituary: Parvathi Gutti (1944 – Dec 17, 2021) Anesthesiologist, Affable & Anchor to Her Husband


By Nangali S Srinivasa, Murrysville, PA

Parvathi Gutti, a long-time resident of Jeannette, Pennsylvania passed away surrounded by her family on Friday December 17, 2021, after an abdominal surgery needed for a complicated medical condition.

She was born on January 12, 1944 in Brahmapura, a small village in Krishna District, Andhra Pradesh, India. Her father Perrysetti Subbiah and mother Mahalakshamma were traditional weavers. Parvathi was the last of sixteen siblings. Born of humble beginnings, she was the first girl in her village to get a formal education, which led her to earn a medical degree from the Andhra Medical College, Vishakhapatnam, the oldest and a top-ranked medical college in Andhra Pradesh.

Losing her parents when she was very young, Parvathi was raised by her elder brother. Being the youngest of sixteen children, she was content with household chores. She started school when she was nine, on the recommendation of her home-school teacher, who recognized her intelligence. In small villages in those days, girls were not sent to school. During her school days she was acquainted with a Kuchipudi dance student, who was the younger sister of Varaprasad Gutti Rao, whom she would later marry. With financial support from others, Parvathi went to Hindu College in Machilipatnam, a nearby coastal town. Later, she earned a scholarship to go to Andhra Medical College, Visakhapatnam.

Parvathi Gutti during her college days

Soon after graduation, she married Varaprasad in 1968 before he went to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY, for his PhD in Nuclear Engineering on a NASA fellowship. Parvathi joined him, pursuing her studies in anesthesiology at Albany Medical Center, later completing a 6-month Fellowship in Gyne-Anesthesia at the Yale University hospital.

The Guttis moved to Latrobe in 1974 where she joined the Latrobe Area Hospital, which later became part of the Excela Health System and worked as a staff anesthesiologist for nearly 48 years. She started the first Pain Clinic in Westmoreland County, becoming the chairman of the Department of Anesthesiology at the hospital. She was an early donor for the expansion of the Latrobe Area Hospital in the 1990s and was the Co-Medical Director of the Westmoreland Latrobe School of Anesthesia during 1981 and 1986. She set up an annual award for outstanding nurse anesthetist. After retirement, she continued to work part-time. She was well liked by the physicians, nurses, and support staff who worked with her.

She loved the performing arts, especially Indian classical music, dance, and theater. She took keen interest in training her children from a very young age and developing them into mature artists. She served as a secretary of SPIFPA Foundation for performing arts, affiliated with the Pittsburgh Foundation and Community Trust.

A sheet anchor for her family and a strong supporter of her husband in many of his endeavors, Parvathi was quite stoic in accepting personal losses. In the early days of S.V.Temple in the 1970s, when people were not even sure of a need for the very idea of a Hindu place of worship here, Parvathi and her husband supported the concept by donating his very first month paycheck to the temple project. The Gutti family has generously supported the growth of the temple in many ways to this day.

Parvathi was well liked by members of the temple community for her simplicity, mild nature, loving spirit, and above all, her warm hospitality. She leaves behind her husband of fifty-four years of marriage, her daughter Bindu Madhavi, son-in-law Kumar Rachuri, and two granddaughters Krishnaa and Siri. A large number of her extended family and friends virtually attended the funeral at the Frederick Funeral Home, Latrobe. She was given a Hindu burial, with Shri Samudrala Venkatachayulu from the S.V.Temple helping the Gutti family with the religious rites.

From the Gutti Family: Thanks for Your Support in Our Time of Grief

Dear Friends: We thank you very much for all your help and support during our time of grief. So many of you offered your condolences, came to pay your respects and share in our grief, provided us with nourishment (both physical and emotional), gave us your shoulder to lean on, helped us with all the funeral logistics that we did not have the presence of mind to deal with and in so many other countless ways, big and small. Your thoughts, words and actions mean more to us than what you will ever know.

We owe our thanks to the S.V.Temple staff, Officers and the Board, including the temple community, as well as to the entire Pittsburgh Indian Community and the entire Excela Health Medical community.

So many of our personal friends went out of their way to care for us. Thank you all.

The Gutti Family and the Rachuri Family
Varaprasada Rao, Bindu, Krishna, Kumar, and Siri
 ∎

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In the Globalized World, Even Internationally, All Politics is Local & Personal

By Kollengode S Venkataraman

I read with anxiety Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau’s warnings to the Canadian truck drivers’ mostly peaceful protest against the Covid vaccination, blocking truck traffic between the 2000-mile-long US and Canada border. These trucks provide smooth supply chains and logistical support between Canada, US, and even Mexico. They deliver parts for factories and move finished goods, industrial machinery, large volumes of agri and animal products, pharmaceuticals, medical supplies, and vital components for the auto and aerospace industries. Delivery delays from this protest were choking the already snarled post-Covid global supply chain   costing billions of dollars to the economy. Consider this: In 2020 Canadian merchandise export to the US was $375 billion (70% of its total exports) and import from the US was $349 billion (62% of its total imports). And over 55% of  US-Canadian merchandise moves in trucks.

So, Justin Trudeau, the Liberal Party Canadian Prime minister, with the truckers only a few days into their protest, assumed emergency powers to manage the strike. The last time this happened was when his father Pierre Trudeau declared an emergency fifty years ago during the violent protests (“terrorism”) by Quebecois.

Justin Trudeau’s warnings to the weeks-long truckers protest was stern. “It’s high time that these [striking truckers] illegal and dangerous activities stop… … They are a threat to our economy and our relationship with trading partners. They are a threat to public safety.” His other words of warning: “Blockages, illegal demonstrations are unacceptable, and are negatively impacting businesses and manufacturers. We must do everything to bring them to an end.” 

“If you joined the protests because you’re tired of COVID, you now need to understand that you’re breaking laws. The consequences are becoming more and more severe. You don’t want to end up losing your license, end up with a criminal record, which will impact your job, your livelihood, even your ability to travel internationally, including to the U.S.”

Then, he leaned on President Joe Biden for support: “President Biden and I both agree that for the security of people and the economy, these blockades cannot continue,” Trudeau said. “So make no mistake, the border cannot and will not remain closed… Canada’s banks are governed by laws … that ensure funds cannot be used for criminal or illegal activity, and these blockades are illegal…” Trudeau said he updated U.S. President Joe Biden on the situation, including discussing the influences of U.S. right-wing citizens and foreign money funding this illegal activity.

The same Trudeau, last year, when farmers’ protests in New Delhi went on for over a year led mostly by Punjabi farmers with financial and political support from the active Canadian Punjabi diaspora, addressed the Sikhs on the Guru Poornima day with these words:

“I would be remiss if I didn’t start by recognizing the news coming from India about the protest by farmers. The situation is concerning. We are all very worried about family and friends… Let me remind you, Canada will always be there to defend the rights of peaceful protesters. We believe in the process of dialogue. We’ve reached out through multiple means to the Indian authorities to highlight our concerns. This is a moment for all of us to pull together.”

The Indian farmers protest was against the Modi government’s efforts to bring market reforms in the farming sector by giving additional options for farmers to sell their produce to whomever they want to sell, while a) preserving the minimum support price for their products guaranteed by the government, and b) retaining their option to sell their products to existing cartels in Punjab now controlling the grain market for over 60 years. 

The Trudeauvian hypocrisy of supporting the year-long Indian farmers’ agitation blocking national highways around New Delhi in the middle of the Covid pandemic led by the Punjabi farm lobby on the one hand, while assuming emergency powers to quell the mostly peaceful just week-long protest of Canadian truckers is astounding. Remember, Justin, like his father, Pierre Trudeau, is the leader of the Liberal Party in Canada.

Trudeau’s political address to the Sikh’s in Canada on a religious festival (Guru Poornima Day), was not just out of  political compulsion, with 17 MPs of Indian origin (many of them Sikhs) in his parliament, and four Indian-origin ministers (three of them Sikhs) in his cabinet.

Trudeau’s support for the farmers protest in India orchestrated by farmers from Punjab has a larger Canadian context.  Today, of the over 300,000 truck drivers in Canada, nearly 20% are of Indian origin, more specifically, Sikhs. By comparison, in 1995, only 2% of the truck drivers in Canada were from the Indian sub-continent. In and around Toronto, Ontario and Vancouver, British Columbia, Sikhs account for nearly 50% of truck drivers.

And trucking being a lifeline for trade between Canada and the US, it is no wonder that Trudeau was trying to please not only the Sikh members in his cabinet and in the parliament, but also the nearly 60,000 Sikh truck drivers and many Sikh owners of trucking companies. The Sikhs are a vital link sustaining the Canadian economy. Incidentally, Punjabi-style dhabas are coming up in many truck stops across Canada and the US.

Trudeau was also trying to placate the 500,000 Canadian Sikhs, who are 50% of the  Canada’s 1,000,000 people of Indian origin. In Canada’s population of 35 million, Indians are 3%, with Sikhs comprising of  1.5%. Remember, the population of Mumbai Metro area is over 20 million.

Pandering to his domestic Sikh constituency aside, there is no political or economic consequence for Trudeau in supporting the Indian farmers strike internationally. In the big scheme of things, Canada is a small potato for India. India’s foreign trade in 2019 is over $320 billion exports and $420 billion in imports, of which trade with Canada is paltry. Exports to Canada is only $2.9 billion and imports from Canada, $3.9 billion. For Canada too, trade with India is a small. The total volume of Canadian exports is $390 billion, and imports, $420 billion. Besides, Canada has no political gravitas internationally, being a weak second-tier partner in the Western alliance. In North America, the behemoth US dwarfs Canada in every measure.

This is perhaps why India’s foreign policy establishment ignored Justin Trudeau’s hifalutin support of the Indian farmers strike as his pandering to his Canadian Sikh constituency, purely for his domestic consumption. However, for Indians, Trudeau’s iron-fist way of managing the Canadian truckers’ strike brought his hypocrisy into sharp relief.

In 1996, Ralph Wright authored the book All Politics is Personal, and in 1997, Tip O’Neill, the famous Speaker of the US House of Representatives authored the book, All Politics is Local in the “local” US context. These books came out before the advent of social media. But with social media bringing everything into the open globally, seeing Justin’s Trudeau’s hypocrisy, one can say, even in international politics, All politics is personal & all politics is local as well.

An ironic end note:  Many writers bearing Indian names were berating the Modi government in the American media for not negotiating with the farmers strike leaders last year. However, not one of them, to the best of my knowledge, had anything to say on Liberal Party Trudeau’s iron-fist tactics to break the mostly peaceful truckers strike in Canada. That is a fine example of the hypocrisy of  left-leaning Indian and Indian-origin intellectuals among social and political scientists.  ∎

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Provoking Russian Invasion of Ukraine

By Kollengode S Venkataraman

Henry Kissinger, in his Washington Post article (March 5, 2014) titled To Settle the Ukraine Crisis, Start at the End, didactically traced Ukraine’s convoluted political, cultural and religious history, and why Russia — not just Vladimir Putin — is obsessed with Ukraine. Kissinger’s advice was unambiguous: Ukraine “should not join NATO” while it “should have the right to choose freely its economic and political associations, including with Europe.” Kissinger is not alone on this. Among many other experts, George F. Kennan was the architect of American post-World War II strategy for containing the Soviet Union. In the late 1990s after the USSR imploded, Kennan called the expansion of NATO into Central Europe “the most fateful error of American policy in the entire post-Cold War era.” But US foreign policy machine and bipartisan Congressional leaders in the Obama, Trump, and Biden presidencies have been heedless. 

President Biden, so soon after ending the longest (20 years) and the costliest ($2 trillion) American war in Afghanistan, knows that Americans are not ready for another military adventure thousands of miles away in Russia. Further, the US military and foreign policy advisors to Biden recognize that Russia is no Afghanistan or Iraq. And EU nations are not ready to spill their blood and draining their treasury in a military confrontation with Russia over Ukraine. Besides, 40% of EU’s natural gas comes from Russia, with which EU is historically interlinked in complex ways.

No wonder, other than sanctions — including sanctions on individuals in Russia — there is nothing the US can do for now. So, Russia is militarily overpowering Ukraine and prolonging the conflict. No matter how this ends, we are in for a long Cold War II.

Media in the US talk in moral tones about Russia’s military ambition and penchant for interfering in US domestic politics. But then, since WW-II, the US has deposed democratically elected leaders, propped up despots, and made the USSR implode, not to speak of countless asymmetric wars, big and small, in many parts of the world killing and maiming civilians in the thousands and destroying their physical infrastructure. 

Russia is not, by any stretch of the imagination, an economic or technological threat to the US. Militarily, maybe. And yet, after dismantling the USSR, the US added fifteen new members to NATO, all encircling Russia, Wanting to admit Ukraine into NATO only provoked Russia. The American focus should be on China, a more menacing threat economically, politically, militarily, even culturally, and with deep pockets.   ∎

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Retirement Communities and Senior Centers for Indian Immigrants to the USA

Balwant N. Dixit PhD Phone: (412) 963-8023

(I respectfully dedicate this paper to the Late Dr. Ashok Sapre of Murrieta, California for his pioneering efforts in promoting ideas to help Indian immigrant seniors to the North America. His numerous contributions have led the path for all of us to follow. Dr. Sapre passed away on September 14, 2021)

Note: The most of the information mentioned in this article about the Indian Retirement Communities and senior centers is obtained from respective websites. Most often website information is given for promotional purposes and emphasizes most desirable aspects. The graphics are also not realistic since they are most often generated from computer graphics. It is very difficult to get the real information except when a person visits an establishment and spends time and gathers information from the residents and managers. Such visits are rare. One example is a brief report made by the late Dr. Ashok Sapre on ShantiNiketan.  

Indian immigration to the USA: I arrived in the USA from India in 1962 on a one year International Fellowship in Pharmacology.  At that time there were only about 4000 persons of Indian origin in the USA. Although Indian immigrants entered the USA as early as1920 significant immigration is of very recent origin because of the legislative barriers due to the laws such as the 1917 Immigration Act preventing any immigration from India. As of 2019 there were about 2.7 million Indian immigrants in the USA.  This increase was principally due to the passage by US Congress of the 1965 Immigration & Nationality Act removing national-origin quotas and basing immigration on having the economically desirable skills. This was the reason that from 1980 to 2019 the Indian immigrant population in the USA increased almost 13 fold, reflecting in the fact that most of the current Indian Immigrants (about 2,500,000) are comparatively a young ranging 35 to 70 yrs. in age. Then there is a significant income disparity between the early immigrants and the later arrivals. However, no reliable quantitative data are available. This highly skewed population in age and in income has important consequences as related to retirement readiness. In the USA population of 330 million, about 54 million are over 65 and retired (16.3%) and verifiable data on what USA Senior citizens want as far as their retirement is concerned are easily available, while in the Indian 65+ seniors estimated at about 200,000 (7.4%) it is very difficult to ascertain what Indian seniors want, since verifiable data are unavailable.

The Retirement Communities in the USA.

There are an estimated 80,000 Retirement Communities of various types, operated by organizations (for profit, non-profit, religious, self-managed etc.) serving 25 + million USA senior citizens, mostly complying with the Federal Fair Housing Act of 1968. As far as I know, several hundred Indian immigrants have moved into the age based American Independent retirement communities such as the Sun City Center in Florida, Age based Independent retirement Community in Marietta, California, Traditions of America near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and in a few other states.

Earlier efforts made to build “For Indians Only” Retirement Community in the USA.

In 2007, a workshop by the National Indo-American Association for Senior Citizens (NIAASC) was organized in New York and the following items were discussed. Where to spend golden years” for those who immigrated to USA in early 60s. Since the Joint family system was no longer a viable option for those in the USA and it may not be feasible for most NRIs to move back to India OR to stay with their children in the USA, a plan was announced to develop a retirement community near Atlantic City, (NJ), for the seniors of Indian origin, slated to open in 2008. For various reasons the venue was changed to Florida.  A suitable site was selected in the Taveres County near Orlando and plans were finalized to construct a facility called ShantiNiketan.  The ground breaking ceremony took place on June 17, 2009 at the hands of Iggy Ignatius, the originator & CEO.

Current, age based (55+ or 60+), independent Retirement Communities for Indian Immigrants, in the USA.

(i) Ownership:        

Name of the Community, type of housing & Contact detailsLocation (State)Type of the facilityAmenities  Present status and remarks
ShantiNiketan (Houses, Condos and townhouses). Contact: (352) 508.7060  Florida  Age based Independent living. No provision for long term care. Nursing care facility under considerationDining Hall/Theater. Daily chef prepared three vegetarian meals. Each residential unit with its own kitchen. Prayer room, Library/Computer room, club house with a gymDevelopment in several phases. Over 150 units sold out. Some of the houses/condos owned by seasonal occupants  
Serenity Reserve (85 Houses). Contact: (407) 212-0123 (JAGK7518@GMAIL.COM)  FloridaAge based Independent living. No provision for long term care.Club house, pool, central kitchen, banquet hall, outdoor lounge, fitness center, yoga and meditation room, library, movie theaterSold out. Opportunities for resale exist
Anand Vihar (Houses & Townhouses (Costs from $179,000 to $329,000)FloridaAge based Independent living. No provision for long term care.A recreation center, a swimming pool. A dining hall with flexible meal options, a fitness center, a movie/media room, tennis and pickle ball courts, a prayer & meditation room and a gazebo for relaxingSold out. Some of the houses/condos owned by seasonal occupants. Opportunities for resale exist             
Nalanda Estates (83 homes. Cost: $305,990 to $525,990. Contact:FloridaAge based Independent living. No provision for long term care.Club house, banquet hall, Commercial kitchen, fitness center, prayer room, walking trails, theater, zen gardenSold out. Opportunities for resale exist
Verandah (51 Townhomes, 75 Condos and several houses, Handicapped accessible (Costs from $390,000, with monthly charges, $4,637-$6,028. Contact: (312) 952-1802. (verandahretirementcommunity@gmail.com)  Illinois (Chicago)A CCRC with a 100 bed hospital on the campusDining room,  library, Beauty salon, Restaurant-style dining. Indian and American LifestylesSold out

(ii)  Rental Apartments

Priya Living: Various locations in California with completely furnished rental apartments for senior citizens, with unique shared spaces and Innovative programming.  Contact: 408 – 310 – 5112. (namaste@priyaliving.com). Monthly rent: $2,395-$3,100

Name of the CommunityLocationType of the facilityAmenities
CITY CENTER.  Fremont, CA.94538.Independent living. No provision for long term care  Outdoor recreation spaces, an indoor community kitchen, a pool and cabana.  Open Courtyard   All amenities not available at every campus.
WARM SPRINGSFremont, CA.  Located in the Bay Area   
CIVIC CENTERSanta Clara, CA. Silicon valley

Retirement Communities in the planning stages

Name of the Community & type of housingLocationType of the facilityAmenitiesPresent status and remarks
Athashri (Contact: Inquiry@dahlingroup.com). Costs:  $460,000 – $740,000            Hayward, CA.Independent living, with 150+ condominiums  + three single family homes (1-3 BR)  A kitchen + living space of 700-1800 sq. ft. Swimming pool, wellness centerOriginal developers: Pristine Homes, CA + Paranjape Schemes, Pune, India. Future plans uncertain due to problems with  financing       
Vishram Kuteer An active 55+adult community with houses. Prices: $123,000 – $215,000. Contact: (281) 337-5133    Rosenberg TXIndependent livingLocated on 23 Acres with two lakes, a recreation facility, a common vegetable garden, a meditation area, and a small Hindu TempleUncertain future
Apna Ghar. 7228 Blanco Drive, Irving, Texas 75039.  Contact: +1 (817) 891-7770Texas (Dallas)Independent living communityYoga classes, Health seminars,  Movie Theater next door, Relaxing room  with playing cards, domino, Carrom Game, Large outdoor Patio with pool and Waterfall. Three vegetarian meals,Proposed
Anand Vihar. Contact: Anand Patel, Pangea Realty Group, 1211 Tech Blvd. #150, Tampa, FL 33619Georgia (Atlanta)A high-rise luxury condo community for Indian seniors with a potential for an assisted living facilityA covered parking garage, indoor and outdoor pools, meeting spaces and a dining hall.Proposed

Nursing Care Facilities for Indian Immigrants

The “Indian Nursing Home” Program started by Dr. Mukund Thakar, a pioneer in providing nursing care services to Indian Seniors living in the USA located in (i) Kings Harbor Multicare Center (NY) (ii) Arista Care Centers (NJ) and at (iii) Smaller facilities at several other locations.

Care is provided by Indian doctors, Indian nurses and Indian therapists speaking Hindi, Punjabi and Gujarathi, with Indian vegetarian food, Indian Prayer service, a Hindu temple, Traditional Indian festivals, Indian television shows and Indian music.

The following statement by Dr. Mukund Thakar is worth mentioning here and I hope some Maharashtrian physicians and health care workers follow Dr. Thakar’s steps. “Taking care of the elderly has been my passion since I began my career as a medical professional and now I have the honor of catering to their needs 24 hours a day. I had a vision of establishing an Indian nursing home program to accommodate the Indian elderly. The Indian nursing home program was developed in 2005 by creating an environment where the Indian elderly would feel comfortable in their living arrangement and where their medical and personal needs are met to ensure their well-being and happiness.

My staff and I have been providing exceptional quality care to our Indian senior citizens from all over the country. The accurate formula of medical care enriched with the Indian culture has revolutionized the way our senior citizens are cared for in nursing homes. With multiple programs operating successfully in New Jersey and New York, I would personally like to invite you to take a tour of this unique program that brings comfort, culture, and care together under one roof.” Contact: (https://myindiannursinghome.com/)

Some observations, some questions and some freewheeling thoughts

(1)  “For Indians only” retirement communities currently provide housing for around 1500 seniors out of an estimated 150,000 to 20,000 Indian seniors in the USA

(2)  Almost all “For Indians” retirement communities have no provision for much needed assisted living /nursing care. Exception being Veranda in Chicago and a stand-alone Mukund Thakkar’s Arista care in NJ and New York

(3) Currently relatively very few “For Indian only” retirement communities are functional in the USA. What are the reasons? Is it the lack of interest or the lack of demand or the lack of capital or the lack of reliable market research?

(4) Why so few Indian Immigrants want to move into a retirement community for Indians?

(5) What factors determine where Indian seniors want to retire?

(6) Many Indian seniors prefer to move near their siblings, but not with them. Why?

(7) No reliable data to indicate the thinking of Indian seniors as what they want

(8) No representative business organization that can provide reliable data on Indian Seniors on retirement issues is present as it is there for the American Retirement Communities

(9) Let Indian seniors join a senior care community (such as a CCRC) that can provide all the necessary care from A to Z. Needs lot of financial recourses. There are 2000 such communities in the USA

(10) Go by yourself and take care of yourselves the best way you can with whatever resources you can muster and with whatever help you can get.

(11) Let us negotiate with our grown up children in what way we can help them in advancing their life objectives such as the education of their children (e. g. by         contribution to the 529 college savings plans), improving their house etc. and in return request them to accommodate us and our limited needs. This is already happening on a ver limited scale. It may be necessary to modify their existing house. Reestablish JOINT FAMILY structure with a modern twist!

(12) Let the seniors join any age defined Independent American Retirement Community, and sign up for a Continuing Care at Home Program (CCHP) or call any of the Home Care agencies, such as Home Instead, to receive the care one needs at home.

(13) Almost every city in the USA has several Indian Restaurant. Arrange a “Meals on Wheel” type of meal delivery program (e.g. 5 days/week) to seniors by subscription.

Senior Citizen Centers

A Senior Citizen Center (SCC) is a relatively recent origin in the USA and it is in the very early stages as far as Indian Seniors in the USA are concerned. SCC is a type of community center where older adults can congregate to fulfill many of their social, physical, emotional, and intellectual needs.  In the USA, many towns have senior centers that are usually locally funded, though some may receive state and federal money.  An estimated 11,000 such centers serving about 1 million seniors are functional in the USA.   Usual activities at a typical Senior Center: Health & Wellness Programs, Personal growth and learning, Computer classes, Woodworking and other hobbies such as Knitting, Painting, Photography, Ceramics etc., Driver’s safety program,          Nutrition & Culinary classes, Advice on retirement investments & financial planning and income taxes

Senior Citizen Centers for Indians in the USA: Relatively few, mostly located in large cities such as the New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco etc. “India Home” is one such Senior Centers, opened in 2014 serving the (60+) South Asian Seniors in the New York City.  It serves the South Asians-one of the fastest growing and most overlooked groups of elderly in New York City.

In the Pittsburgh area currently there are two Indian Senior Centers that are very effectively providing very valuable services to the India seniors.

(1) United Seniors Association of Pittsburgh (USAP) is a service organization of senior citizens. Currently it does not have its own facility but functions very effectively as a virtual senior center. It was founded in 2017 by the seniors and for the seniors. USAP is registered as a non-profit, charitable, tax-exempt organization under the State Laws of Pennsylvania. Its goal is to promote healthy aging not only physically, but also mentally and spiritually, through education and physical participation. Anyone above age 50 is welcome to join USAP irrespective of race, religion, or nationality. Contact: (412) 908-1711. (USAofPittsburgh@gmail.com).

(2) Dhru & Gul Bhagwanani Pittsburgh Indian Senior Center (DGBP ISC): 3955 Monroeville Blvd. Monroeville, Pa 15146 with an entrance from Business 22, 3946 Wm Penn Hwy. Monroeville, Pa 15146. Total area of 4500 sq. ft. to be opened in mid-2022: It consists of an office, exercise Room, a small prayer room (temple), a social hall, a dining hall, a nap room or a resting room (emergency use), a full service commercial kitchen and a meeting room/ social hall with the capacity of 100 and designated parking for the handicapped. All facilities will be compliant with the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The entrance and access will be located at the street level. It is being funded from a trust left by a physician & her husband, and donations received from patrons. The center is planned to have senior friendly & modern high-tech amenities as well as safety & security. The attendees will not need to pay any fees or charges for the facility, food & all the activities & programs offered.

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Aksharaabhyasam in Pittsburgh on Vijayadasami Day During the Sharada Navaratri in Fall 2021

By K S Venkataraman

During Vijayadasami (the 10th and the concluding day of the Sharada Navaratri in Fall, which was in October 2021 this year), the Pittsburgh Chinmaya Mission organized the traditional akshara-abhyasam ceremony, initiating the 4 to 6-year-olds to their long journey — 20 or more years — in studies, learning and education.

Pandit Shri Dharmateja Nagalingam at the Pittsburgh Chinmaya Mission helping parents with the Akshraabhyasam ceremony

In the picture above, Pandit Shri Dharmateja Nagalingam at the Mission is helping parents with children sitting on their laps to write Om Ganeshaaya namah, Om Vaagdevyai namah or Om Namasshivaya or Om Narayanaya namah on slates using chalk pieces while reciting Sanskrit hymns.

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At the Mookambika Temple: The priest is writing Om on the tongue of a child with her father’s gold ring.

Typical Aksharabhyasam ceremony at the famous Mookambika Temple where the presiding Devi is worshipped as Saraswati, Lakshmi and Parashakti.

This famous temple is situated close to Mangaluru in Karnataka, India. Here parents or family elders initiate their kids to writing on rice paddy spread on brass plates using turmeric root as pencils. A detailed article here: www.tinyurl.com/aksharabhyasam-MookambikeTmpl — END

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