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Do You Know the Anti-Microbial Properties of Copper Alloys and Silver?

By Kollengode S Venkataraman

Traditional Indian brass “Kudams”

One of the rewards of aimless drifting on the web is the gems of information you unexpectedly get in the pile of worthless sand, known as gangue in the mining industry. It is like the story in the Yoga Vaasishtham: A miser desperately searching for the copper coin he dropped in the pile of rocks, after his long search, accidentally ends up with the chintamani — something like the philosopher’s stone — that would grant him all his wishes. The Chintamani story is another story for another day …  Let us stay with copper for now.

Indian Brass Tumblers

Many readers now in their 60s and 70s may remember growing up in simpler times in barely functional homes in Indian cities, towns and villages. Before the now ubiquitous stainless steel and aluminum invaded Indian kitchens, copper, copper alloys (brass and bronzes) and sterling silver were the metals of choice for vessels for storing water, cooking and eating. 

Traditional Indian Brass vessels

I still remember using brass vessels in our homes and the homes of my friends and relatives for storing water, and brass tumblers for serving water. The more affluent in South India used silver plates and tumblers for dinner ware. See the traditional copper/bronze cookware still available in India shown in pictures used in this story.

An important note:  Many items commonly used in Indian cooking like tamarind (imli or puLi), lemons and lime (as juice, or as cut pieces in pickles), even milk, dahi, yogurt and buttermilk, all chemically react with copper and brass surfaces. This is because the acids (tartaric acid in tamarind, citric acid in lime, lemon and even in oranges, and lactic acid in milk and yoghurt and butter milk) used in cooking react with copper and brass surfaces. This releases copper and zinc tartarates, citrates, and lactates into the food prepared and stored and destroy the taste of the of food products. Traditional Indian women knew this very well, and never used copper/brass vessels for cooking that required boiling.  But in Indian homes for storing water at room temperatures and serving water and eating food already prepared in meals, brass plates and tumblers were the choice.

Indian kitchen with brass vessels common even 40 years ago

 Today, copper, brass, silver and bronze utensils, plates and tumblers are gone in kitchens in middle class and above-middle-class homes all across India in the name of modernity. They were first replaced by stainless steel and aluminum. In recent decades, thermosetting plastics, glassware, and porcelain have entered the cookware market in big ways. 

Among the working poor, however, copper and bronze are still used for storing water, cooking and eating. One hopes this stays this way. But plastics and aluminum are making inroads.

This is a great tragedy because copper and copper alloys have antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral — generically known as antimicrobial —  properties even at room temperatures. This is something I came to know accidentally in my internet forays. This property of copper and copper alloys can be used cost-effectively for preventing to the extent possible water-borne diseases among the working poor. Poor water quality and sanitation facilities are the bane for the working poor in India. To mitigate this issue, all we need to do is to selectively reinvent copper and brass alloys in kitchenware through proper public health programs.

Here are fascinating reports that the simple copper and copper-rich alloys and the expensive silver have effective antimicrobial properties:

Traditional special bronze vessels from Kerala, India

In controlled experiments in labs, when gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria came into contact with metallic copper as foils and plates in water at room temperatures, within in two hours, the water was purified of the disease-causing pathogens, with over 99% of the disease-causing pathogens getting killed.  Here is the reference to the first technical paper: Antimicrobial Properties of Selected Copper Alloys on Staphylococcus aureus and Escherichia coli … … by a group of Polish healthcare professionals and metallurgists Anna Rozanska and coworkers. Reference:

Here is the authors’ conclusion in their study:  “This study confirmed the antimicrobial properties of copper alloys, and additionally showed that Staphylococcus aureus (SA) was more resistant than Escherichia coli in the variant of the experiment without organic contamination. However, even for SA, a total reduction of the bacterial inoculum’s density took no longer than 2 h.”  But stainless steel, the ubiquitous metal used today in India for cooking and eating did not have this beneficial property. 

Modern medicine has been using silver ions in skin care and for healing wounds. In the prestigious journal Nature (June 19, 2013) is this article by Brian Owens on silver’s efficacy for fighting bacteria: Silver makes antibiotics thousands of times more effective: Ancient antimicrobial treatment could help to solve modern bacterial resistance.  The title tells it all.  Here is the reference for the article in Nature:

A ton of information is available on the web on the antimicrobial properties on copper and silver. You can start in Wikipedia.  

Water-borne diseases are a big problem in Africa and Asia and the Americas as well.  People are advised to boil the water — at great expense given the high cost of fossil fuels, or fossil-fuel-generated electricity.  So, maybe we need to reintroduce — and rediscover — copper and brass as complementing metals of choice Indian kitchens for storing and serving water in homes. This will help in cost-effectively managing water-borne diseases among the Indian poor, a chronic public health problem having great social and economic costs. End$$$$

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Qingdao, A Chinese Gem Along the Yellow Sea

By Kollengode S Venkataraman

I was on business in Qingdao, a major city in Shandong Province in Eastern China.  It is on the western shore of the Yellow Sea, with the South Korean shore to the east, around 500 miles across. With a population of 9 million, it is China’s 18th largest population center. China’s Guangzhou’s population is 45 million; Shanghai’s 35 million; Beijing’s 22 million; and Chengdu’s 18 million. So, you can call it a second-tier city of China. By comparison, Allegheny County’s population is 2 million. 

A major city in China’s One Belt One Road (OBOR) Initiative that connects Asia with Europe, it has the highest GDP of any city in the province. Qingdao is a major seaport, has a naval base, and is an industrial center. It has the longest sea bridge (over 17 miles long), linking the main urban areas, straddling the Jiaozhou Bay. The bridge was designed and built by Chinese engineers to survive larger typhoons and earthquakes.

Thanks to German colonization during the 19th century, Qingdao is also famous for Tsingtao beer, and has the second largest brewery in China.  With its long coastline along the bay, it has several beautiful beaches and vista points.  In 2018, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization held its summit in Qingdao, in a sprawling brand-new building specially built for the meeting.  Several heads of states participated.  The aquatic portion of the Summer Olympics 2012 was held in Qingdao.

With so many high-visibility events staged in Qingdao, the whole area has received much attention from China’s governments. They have executed massive infrastructure projects against tight schedules. 

The prosperity among China’s organized sectors is visible everywhere. In fancy malls, people are in fashionable clothes; they have the latest models of high-end cell phones and European automobiles. They spend their weekends in fancy, mostly Chinese restaurants, and in excellent open-air entertainment centers, . Even with divided 4- and 5-lane city roads, they have traffic jams during peak hours.

During my stay, on a weekend, my colleague Robin Cao showed me around Qingdao’s waterfront and cityscape, and restaurant scene. It was a pleasant, mild, sunny spring day. Flowers were part of the sidewalks in the city, and not just in any park. You can imagine how many resources  the city government spends on beautification!

China has the widest possible choices in food.  In one grocery store, different sizes and types of eggs from a variety  of birds were on display. You have to see to believe the range of vegetables, grains, noodles, and Chinese buns — like our modaks — with all kinds of vegetarian and nonvegetarian fillings. And for seafood fanatics and meat-eaters, the choices are endless, with a whole range of fish, crabs, lobsters, turtles, and other reptiles (including snakes); in addition to pork, chicken, beef, lamb, and goat, you also get wild game, and also body parts of large animals such as livers, brains, tongues, etc. A whole range of tropical and subtropical fruits are available, both locally grown, and imported from Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, and Indonesia.

Eggs from different birds and reptiles

Even as a vegetarian, I had no problem in getting what I wanted in restaurants. When I went with my colleagues, they took care of me. But on several occasions, I explored the restaurant scene all by myself.  No one speaks English and they are not embarrassed or apologetic about it. After all, 1.3 billion people speak Mandarin.

So, language was a big problem for me in exploring the restaurant scene all by myself. I asked my colleague Robin to prepare for me a list of my food restraints written in English and translated into Mandarin. See the figure on the side. In restaurants, the waiter and I would exchange the menu card and my card on food preferences. The waiter would look at it, giggle/smile/chuckle and take me around for me to pick what I wanted from among the items on display. I was never disappointed with what I got.

The many pictures shown here tell you how far China has come. Yes, there is poverty and there are ghettoes.  Show me one American or European city that does not have their share of poverty-stricken areas, where working class and poor people live servicing the needs of the affluent.

I had the privilege of having an elaborate 15-course all-vegetarian dinner that my colleague Robin hosted for me in his elegant apartment near the Qingdao University with the mountain range as the backdrop. His wife Jessy, who teaches computer science at the university, was the most gracious host; she told me that in her entire life, this was the first time she had ever made an all-vegetarian luncheon for their guest. Robin and Jessy live with his mother and his 20-year old daughter Anne, who is pursuing her IT degree at Qingdao University. 

Instead of writing long passages on how the Chinese have adapted to Western influences, the two pictures of women in restaurants shown below can be a metaphor on how China deals with Western influences. I took the pictures in random restaurants where I was having my meals. These women were total strangers to me. (I got their permission for the pictures.) They were elegantly dressed; the woman in the red dress is having her Belgian waffle; and in the other picture, the woman is having a tandoori roti.

I took the pictures in different restaurants on different days. Waffle is a European breakfast item, and tandoori roti is an Indian item. And without giving up or modifying their lifestyle, and without any embarrassment, they were elegantly using chopsticks to eat food items from all over the world. And there are millions like them all over China. 

This goes beyond their eating habits. They are comfortable in being Chinese, even when they become affluent and college-educated.  They do not want to change their essential Chineseness. All through the Communist Revolution of the Mao era and the economic boom initiated by Presidents Deng and continued by Xi, the core tenets of Confucian values are still strong. In this regard, the Chinese, Koreans and Japanese are quite different from Indians. 

Twenty- and thirty-story high apartment complexes are scattered all over China to meet the ever-increasing demand for the affluent professional middle class. Since no one can own land in China (they can be only taken on 100-year leases), the affluent invest in apartments as a hedge against inflation. This has given rise to a unique situation of having large apartment complexes with only 60% or 70% occupancy. Arab sheikhs, Russian oligarchs, and Indian/Chinese tycoons do  the same in London, Paris and New York. Same story with NRIs in urban India.  

On the Qingdao bay, the young and affluent Chinese were relaxing in their yachts and speed boats. And in the plaza, a whole bunch of people varying in age from 85 to 2 years and toddlers — great grandparents, sons and daughters and grandkids — were enjoying the sun.

Even on a bright day, some days, the sky was muggy due to pollution.  But the government is hell bent on doing its best to reduce the carbon footprint. Public buses and light rail transits are increasingly becoming popular among youngsters.

In China taxis are retired after a certain number of years or after a certain number of kilometers on their odometer. So, taxis are relatively new and clean. All taxis are metered and accept credit cards.  I was surprised that in all my rides, the taxi drivers did not wait for my tip, and refused even when I offered, as did waiters in restaurants.  This is a huge difference between the US on the one hand, and Europe, China, and Japan on the other. Maybe the money they earn in these occupations given them enough incomes.  In the US, waiters in restaurants live only on their tips.  In most places in the US, their hourly salary is around $3.00 per hour.  Taxi drivers in the US will frown if you don’t tip them.

A young couple at the Qingdao marina.

I was getting ready for my return journey early in the morning. I got into the taxi. The taxi driver turned the ignition key on and pressed a button.  A 1-minute audio tape came on asking me one last time:  Did you check your passport?  Did you check your flight is today?  Did you check in already?  Do you want to check anything else before we go? 

It was a 40-minute taxi ride to the airport.  Along the way, the driver wanted to ask me a few details about my flight.  He opened an app and said something in Mandarin. The English translation came:  Which airline?  Domestic or International? Flight number? Departure time?  I replied in English and he got the translation in Mandarin. That is how far advanced China is.

It took China over 70 years to become a vibrant and confident nation to challenge the Western and Japanese domination in the 20th century from the feudal society that it was before Mao’s Revolution. For 1700 years up to the Industrial Revolution, the world GDP of those times was split between India and China. See the adjacent chart. China is fast regaining its past, lost glory. It has become the manufacturing hub for the rest of the world.  Its technology base is good and getting better by the day, and its business acumen is something for the rest of the world to worry about.  It has developed its own version of the bullet train. It is close to develop a commercial equivalent of the Boeing 737 and Airbus 320  for its own market, which is huge, and later for the Asian market. There is reason for the U.S. and EU to worry. The rest of the world has a lot to learn from China -— on what to do and how to do it; and, more importantly, how to adapt modern technologies to local conditions. If other nations are smart, perhaps they may even learn how o avoid some of China’s missteps along its path of rapid growth. $$$$


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25th Year and Going Strong!!

By Kollengode S Venkataraman

The Pittsburgh Patrika enters its 25th year. Reaching this milestone for a financially and editorially independent small-town Ethnic Media publication is noteworthy. Publishing is a time-consuming job requiring attention to detail, working against deadlines from the get-go. Editing, proofing, and laying out in the format, then getting it printed and mailing them for free to 1800-plus addresses every three months takes time.

By choice, we do not seek financial support from any social, political, cultural, religious, or other entity. We pay all our ever-rising bills through our advertisements. Three of our readers on their own send us unsolicited small contributions every year. We owe a big Thank You to all our advertisers and these supporters for their trust in our integrity.

People living among us find time to write articles for the magazine, informing readers about many topics. All the stories in the magazine are about ourselves or on a topic that interests our readers. And deliberately we stay away from the juicy Indian filmi tidbits and also from local gossip. After all, are we all not naked underneath our clothes?

The Pittsburgh Metropolitan Area, with a population of nearly 2.4 million, is the 22nd in the nation. The Indian population in our area is only around 20,000, yet we do have vibrant practitioners of Indian classical and contemporary dances, and vocal and instrumental music, with support from a handful of individual patrons. We can do better with more ticket-buying audiences, given our better education, higher earnings and net worth.

As is the case with all print publications, the Patrika too is facing tremendous headwinds in these days of information overload and other social media choices being available. TV and cell phones have cut into our reading and writing on complex issues. This is a global trend.

In the next several issues, you will see occasional reprints of articles from yester years. In the meanwhile, bouquets and brickbats from readers on the magazine’s 25 years of journey are also most welcome.   $$$$


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Affordability of the Retirement Communities in India and in Pune City

Balwant Dixit, Pittsburgh, PA     E-mail: 

In recent years, many reports describing the beginning of a new era in providing much needed shelter, well prepared meals and affordable basic medical care to an estimated 100 million senior citizens of India have appeared in Indian papers and magazines. Not to be outdone, several Indian publications and organizations in the USA have given glowing reports of the retirement communities established in India. Simultaneously, in the USA efforts are underway to build retirement communities for Indians with great enthusiasm. Such stories in print give Indians living outside India and in India a sense of accomplishment and make them feel confident that the problems senior citizens in India are facing will rapidly be solved by just building a few more retirement communities in India. However, if one looks at the ground reality in India one cannot escape the conclusion that the solutions to the difficulties the 100 million seniors in India are facing today are far from being realistically addressed to.

The majority of India’s current population is less than 30 years old. The traditional joint family system that works in safeguarding the social and economic security of the seniors has been lost. With the emergence of nuclear family, many seniors are exposed to emotional, physical and financial insecurity. In countries like India the magnitude of economic insecurity is very high with more than half of seniors in India are dependents.

According to the 2012 census, the population of India was 1210 million, with a close to 100 million (8.6%) seniors. By 2026 the population of seniors expected to increase to 175 million. Currently, there are 35-40 large independent retirement facilities or communities in India, located in Bangalore, Hyderabad, Dehradun, Chennai, Delhi, Coimbatore, and Pune and in few other cities.  The cost of 1BR and 2BR condos in these communities ranges from Rs. 45 lakhs ($50,000) to Rs. 15 crores ($250,000). In addition, monthly service charges range from Rs. 35,000 to 80,000.  However, the demand is outstripping the supply by such a wide margin that facilities are sold out before even they are completed. Assisted care, Nursing Care, Alzheimer and Memory Care services are also now available at some of the retirement communities, but costs are very high.  Nationally, with the average occupation ranging from 300 to 600 seniors in each of these facilities they can accommodate not more than 15,000 seniors. Usually, the buyers of condos in such facilities are from the top 1% of the Indian population or rich NRIs returning home or some of them buying condos for their old parents living in India. Most of such facilities are located within or near the large urban areas, with relatively easy access to hospitals and large shopping complexes.

Apparently, there is a significant need for these types of relatively high priced facilities in India. For example, a new private, not-for-profit trust, Age Ventures India (AVI), has recently been established to start planning construction of retirement facilities in Bengaluru, Ahmedabad, and Greater Gurgaon area. AVI is partnering with HelpAge India for knowledge sharing and with the USA based Pacifica Senior Living for various aspects of strategic planning. AVI plans to offer comprehensive services necessary for the welfare of the senior citizens

In addition  to these large retirement facilities, almost every city in India such as Pune, Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, Bengaluru, Mysore, Kolkata, Hyderabad have 15 to 20 small retirement facilities offering a mix of amenities such as long or short stay, assisted care, memory care, hospice care with 2 to 4 beds in each room. The quality of bedroom furnishings and associated furnishings vary significantly from one to the other. Meals are usually provided and the monthly service fee ranges from Rs. 40,000 to 70,000 and some facilities even charging up to Rs. 50,000 to get on the waiting list. Such small facilities are always located within the city limits for easy access to medical care and other amenities. These small size facilities can accommodate an additional estimated 6000 seniors.

HelpAge India is a leading charitable organization working with and for seniors and older people in India for the past 40 years. It runs a gamut of programs with the aim to serve needs of elders in a holistic manner, enabling them to live active, dignified and healthier lives. HelpAge India has established 26 old age homes for the seniors in places such as Patiala, Tamil Nadu, Mumbai, and Kolkata accommodating estimated 2,000 seniors and old age persons. Their facilities can provide comprehensive support to their inhabitants at a relatively low costs since HelpAge operates principally on donations they receive from individual donors, corporations and Trusts & Foundations.

All these facilities collectively can accommodate a total estimated 30,000 seniors, i.e. about 0.003% of the total senior population, leaving 99% of the seniors in need of affordable retirement facilities.   How that can be done is a big question that defies easy answers since verifiable data on the needs of seniors is not available.

There are several hurdles in the planning of future facilities in India. No oversight agencies or regulations to monitor the financial stability of the retirement communities. Nearly a total lack of reliable data about the living and economic conditions, social profile, and assistance available for the activities of daily living (ADLs), the primary caregiver and the health and nutrition across the population of seniors. There is no standardization of services and costs associated with them. The Indian population is divided into rural (65-70%) and the urban (35-30%). Only scant data are available is on a small sample of the urban population. The value system and family dynamics is different in many respects when one compares the rural and urban population of seniors.

The relevant questions that need to be answered are: How many of the estimated 100 million seniors can afford to move away from their current place of residence and live away from their relatives to live independently? How many can afford to pay for their health care?

In India there are laws that allow the parents to sue their sons and daughters who refuse to provide financial support to them. In cities like Delhi, Mumbai and Pune there are examples of aged parents suing and winning cases against their children for kicking them out. In some of the metropolitan areas and in rural communities there are cases of sons or daughters dropping or abandoning their elderly mothers where they are given help by NGOs and Mandirs for survival.

In 2016 the Tata Institute of Social Research completed a survey, “The Situational Analysis of Elderly in Pune City” about the seniors in Pune City on the conditions senior citizens are living and the difficulties they are experiencing on a day to day basis.  The survey evaluated (i) Living conditions (ii) Economic conditions (iii) Social profile (iv) Activities of daily living (ADLs) and instrumental activities of daily living (v) Primary caregiver (vi) Health and nutrition. 

This type of study is a rare in India, while a lot of credible studies related to the problems faced by seniors have been conducted in the West.  The Pune City was selected because it is one of the fast growing cities in India and has been touted as the retirement capital of India.  In 2016, the population of Pune was 6 million, with seniors estimated at 500,000 (8.5%); greater than 30% of them living in slums.

Currently there are four (55+) independent living retirement facilities (Athashris) and an estimated 20 small Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC) type facilities in Pune. The cost for a one BR condo is about Rs. 45-60 lakhs in Athashris. Monthly service cost in a CCRC type of facilities varies from Rs. 35,000 to 45,000. All these facilities together can provide housing for only about 2000 seniors i.e. for 0.005% of the estimated population of seniors in Pune.

The main conclusion of the survey indicates a very difficult situation being faced by seniors in Pune, with the conclusion that these types of facilities are unaffordable for the 99% of the seniors in Pune. To make the situation worse politicians of every political persuasion announce before the election that they intend to build retirement facilities in every town and villages in India if elected, and after getting elected, they comfortably forger there promises.  $$$$


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Dekho Hamara Hindustan — Story of A Missing Elephant

Premlata V

This could happen only in Hamara Hindustan. An elephant went missing, not in one of the Kerala-Karnataka Temples where elephants are part of the temple retinue. And not in their natural habitat in the Western Ghats in Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka, where road signs display elephant corridors warning motorists of herds of wild elephants crossing — like deer crossing signs here. Remember, these winding roads in India go through the natural forest habitat of the elephants. So, on these roads elephants have the right of way over motorists for road crossings. See the picture below.

But this elephant went missing in July this year in — hold your breath — of all the places, metropolitan New Delhi with a bulging population of over 18 million people. And Laxmin, the elephant, was the only one in the entire Delhi Metro area at that time.  

According to the story in the Indian Express (September 17, 2019), the missing elephant Laxmi kept the Delhi Police and wildlife officials on its tail since July, with a nationwide alert being sounded. The 35-year old pachyderm was last seen along the banks of the Yamuna. But Laxmi was kept right in New Delhi all the while by her mahout Yusuf Ali.

The relationship between elephants and its owners and mahout is symbiotic. Often, elephants outlive their mahouts and when the mahouts die, elephants weep in grief and refuse food for days.   

Delhi’s wild life officials said in early January, Laxmi and five other elephants in Delhi were kept in “poor housing and health conditions and lack of suitable space and water facilities in Delhi, violating the 2008 guidelines by the Union Environment Ministry.” 

One wonders why these “wild life” officials don’t recognize the wild species of Homo sapiens in Delhi living in fancy high-rise apartments living their “wild lives” with impunity.

In mid-September, The Indian Express staff met the elephant’s owner Yusuf Ali (45), who was with Laxmi in Delhi. Evading arrest, Ali said he and Laxmi never left the capital. Initially, he “hid” Laxmi in a wooded area along the Yamuna.

 One of Ali’s friends then told Ali he had a large farmhouse where he could keep Laxmi. And that is where she had been ever since she went “missing.” Ali took her out every evening for a walk for about an hour or two. Ali would occasionally step out of hiding to buy food for Laxmi and to meet his family. Even when he didn’t have enough to eat, he took care of Laxmi.  He would arrange a 500-litre water tanker every day along with sugarcane and jowar.

 Mr. Ali now has a non-bailable warrant against him under IPC sections 353 (assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty) and 186 (obstructing public servant in dis-charge of public functions). Ali says he will abide by the court’s decision. “This is my elephant, and I have an emotional attachment with it.”    $$$$


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Uncertainty for the Near Future in South Asia

By Kollengode S Venkataraman

All abrupt changes need time for adjusting to new realities. With India making J&K a Union Territory, the Line of Control is now the de facto International Border. The on-again-off-again India-Pakistan diplomatic relationship will be off-again for the foreseeable future.

For starters, there will be only minimum diplomatic contacts between India and Pakistan. The already dormant South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) is now dead, buried in Pakistan and cremated in India. Pakistan has banned direct trade with India, even though it benefits its economy and its working poor, given the economic crisis Pakistan is experiencing. People-to-people contact are gone. It may close its space for airlines for all flights to and from India. 

In his tweets, speeches, interviews and writings, Imran Khan repeatedly throws incendiary terms like fascist, racist, Nazi, Hitler, Mussolini, ethnic cleansing, Hindu Supremacists and Muslim persecution, when referring to Modi and his government. This he does to whip up anti-India, anti-Hindu feelings in Pakistan and draw the Western media’s sympathy.

Pakistan, given its severe economic crunch, cannot afford a full-scale conventional war stretching even a few weeks. So, border skirmishes will be the norm, with frequent terrorist attacks in J&K and elsewhere in India. The two countries spying on each other will intensify. Military and security outlays will increase further, possibly hurting Pakistan more.

Given the severe strains in Pakistan’s economy and its aam-aadmi problems, its faujis will not be interested in a coup. The current arrangement of having a pliable, weak prime minister allows it to let the elected nominal government face all problems, while appearing to keep its hands clean. 

If Pakistan’s military thinks it has nothing to lose — or the loss it will inflict on India will far more severe — nothing will stop it from initiating skirmishes in Kashmir that could escalate into war. In desperation, Pakistan’s military may even consider the nuclear option. Imran Khan repeatedly warns the world of this possibility, trying to force the global powers to intervene.  But even an adventurous and foolhardy military will count its beans before getting into a mess much bigger than what it can handle.

For India too, conventional war with Pakistan will impede its efforts to leap forward from new projects critical for its growth to catch up with China on many fronts. But if Pakistan attacks India again as it did in the Indian Parliament in 2001 and in Mumbai in 2008, India will be forced to respond.

The several invectives that Imran Khan raised against Modi on the abrogation — like changing the demographics of Kashmir, ethnic cleansing, ill-treating minorities and others — are more applicable to Pakistan. The Hindu population in Pakistan in 1971 (after  the Bangladesh war) was nearly 2.9%. Now it is around 1.7%. Pakistan’s Hindus, Christians, Ahmedis, and Sikhs complain about violence against them and their women. Balochs complain that Pakistan’s Punjabis and Sindhis are changing the demographics of Baluchistan, the mineral rich, thinly populated region. Christians, Sikhs and Hindus are prohibited by law from holding the office of president, prime minister, or chief Justice, or in the military. Ahmedis are hounded out and persecuted, and cannot even contest elections. And Pakistan has already changed the demographics in the part of Kashmir it occupies and in the Gilgit/Baltistan region with people from the Punjab. Pakistan-occupied Kashmir is now directly administered by Islamabad. So, on these matters, Imran Khan has to only stand in front a mirror before accusing Modi. 

The real winner are the Ladakhis. People in Jammu have welcomed the abrogation. The Ladakhis, now in a directly administered Federal Region after the abrogation, are ecstatic since they will be no longer  exploited by Kashmiris in Srinagar and in the Valley. While the Muslims in the Valley in J&K complain about New Delhi’s domination, they have been dishing out the same thing to Hindus in Jammu and to Buddhists in Ladakh. The Ladakh region has been exploited and neglected since 1947 in every way possible by the Kashmiri Muslim political leaders.

This article would be incomplete without presenting the plight of the Kashmiri Hindu Pandits, who are part of the larger Saraswat Brahmin community. The Kashmiri Pandits’ contribution to Indian intellectual life has been enormous through the millennia. Here are some of the big names: Charaka (300 BC, the father of Ayurveda); Vishnu Sharman, the author of Panchatantra (300 BC); Nagasena (200 BC) Buddhist Scholar; the famous Kalidasa (5th century AD); Somananda, the famous teacher of Kashmir Saivism (9th century); the polymath Abhinavagupta (10th century); Utpala, a mathematician (10th century); Kalhana, poet and dramatist known for Rajatarangini (12th century); Sarngadeva, the musicologist (13th century AD); and the list goes on.

In the 1980s, over 450,000 Pandits were in the Kashmir Valley, having lived there for millennia. The Jammu-Kashmir Liberation Front run by Muslim separatists, securing money and arms from Pakistan and other sources, targeted the Pandits and their women with gruesome violence and threats of violence and drove them out of the Valley. Now, hardly 3000 Pandits live there. Their exodus from the valley is hardly highlighted as ethnic cleansing, even in the Indian media. 

[Many Kashmir Pandits converted to Islam over several centuries, and are now prominent political leaders. Kashmiri Muslims carrying the same DNA as the Hindu Pandits are responsible for the ethnic cleansing of the Hindu Pandits.  That should send a chill through anyone’s spine.]

In the next few years, if the Modi government proves that it is serious about delivering all things to the people of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh that the abrogation of the articles promises, there is a good chance that after some hiccups and initial difficulties, ordinary Kashmiris in the valley will see their own self-interest and accept the abrogation. This will weaken the hands of the militants and the Hurryat separatists asking the Kashmiri youth to indulge in violence, thus jeopardizing their future. It is unconscionable that the Hurryat leaders live in relative comfort in Kashmir, and their sons and daughters live in and outside India leading placid, secure lives as doctors, engineers and professors. Kashmir deserves a respite from the corrupt Abdullahs, Muftis, Gandhi satraps, Hurryat leaders, and the violence let loose by the separatists and the terrorist outfits with Pakistan support. $$$$


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Chinmayananda’s Mahasamadhi Day Celebrated with Reverence

By Ganesh Krishnamurthy, Volunteer Chinmaya Mission Pittsburgh

Chinmaya Mission Pittsburgh (CMP) hosted its first Chinmaya Mahasamadhi Camp from July 29th to Aug 4th at the Doubletree Hotel in Greentree. The camp is an annual week-long family spiritual retreat for people active in the Chinmaya Mission, and is also open to the public, hosted by different centers in North America. San Diego and Chicago hosted the last 2 camps.

The camp’s thrust is to celebrate the life of Swami Chinmayananda, a great exponent  of the Hindu Vedantic teachings in the 20th century.  Swami Chinmayananda left this world on August 3, 1993 in San Diego and the annual camp culminates on Aug 3, with a devotion filled Mahasamadhi puja.

The main topic for this year was Krishna Leela and was presided over by Pujya Swami Swaroopananda of the Chinmaya Mission. The attendees also heard discourses by Swami Shantananda on Chapter 8 of the Bhagavad Gita and Swami Prakashananda on Purajana Gita.

The organizing team of volunteers endeavored to make the campers like the members in Gokul and Vrindavan with exhibits and murals of child Krishna.

To help complement Swami Swaroopananda’s discourses, several well-known episodes of Lord Krishna’s stories — like Krishna’s birth, Kaliya Mardhanam, and Raasa Leela — were brought to life through dance recitals staged by members of Chinmaya Mission.  Abhang recitations, and painting jugalbandi were other attractions.  

On August 3, all participants offered a Mahasamadhi Puja showing their veneration to Swami Chinmayananda. A highlight of the day was the traditional Kerala-style authentic meal on banana leaf in remembrance of Gurudev who was from Kerala. A separate exhibition showcased pictures, quotes and audio clips of Gurudev.

Many guests associated with Chinmaya Mission for a long time were thoroughly impressed with how the retreat was organized and said this was the “best they have gone to.” Guests also visited the Sanjeevani ashram and the SV Temple on one of the afternoons. Guests were amazed that Pittsburgh, in spite of being a smaller city, had places of worship, spiritual centers and a thriving cultural network, supported by a warm and well-connected Indian community.

Pittsburgh has a special connection to Gurudev since he came to Pittsburgh in the 70’s. He said Pittsburgh’s confluence point of the three rivers reminded him of the Triveni Sangam in Prayaag. For members of the Pittsburgh branch of the Chinmaya Mission who had met and interacted with Gurudev, it was a special and emotional moment to host the camp in Pittsburgh. The members of the Chinmaya Mission of Pittsburgh acknowledge with gratitude the  support and help they received from members of our community in various ways for making the retreat a memorable one.  $$$$


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Prthvi ka Swarg Pittsburgh — A Poem in Hindi

By Acharya Jagdish Chandra Joshi

Acharya Jagdish Chandra Joshi was born in the Indian state of Uttarkhand at the foot hills of the Himalayas. His high school education was at Haridwar. His father, Joshi says, never pushed him into any field, but insisted that he does well in the field he chooses. So modern!! His family was steeped in Sanskrit linguistic traditions. So, he was naturally towards Sanskrit classics. After topping his class in high school, when Joshi went to Varanashi, he was the first in his family, may be in his entire village, to go to the place for higher education in Sanskrit. He earned his master’s degree in Sanskrit literature. He also learned vocal and instrumental music there, along with Vedic literature. Working as a Pandit at the Hindu-Jain temple since 1999, Joshi has traveled all over the U.S. for conducting various services for Hindus.



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The Jammu-Kashmir-Ladakh Conundrum Straightened Out and Yet Not

By Kollengode S Venkataraman

The complex history of Kashmir from all perspectives is scattered throughout cyberspace. Atul Singh and Manu Sharma’s recent summary What Lies Behind India’s Bold Bet on Kashmir? in the on-line magazine Fair Observer is an example.

Pakistan does not even recognize Articles 370 and 35A of the Indian constitution, which, in 1954, gave special status as a temporary measure  to India’s Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) state after its accession in the 1947 Partition. In 1947, when Kashmir’s king Hari Singh joined with India, Pakistan sent its forces and took control of part of Kashmir. The maps below show how Kashmir is split among India, Pakistan, and China, with the former two claiming the whole of Kashmir. The Line of Control (LoC) is the current de facto border

To begin with, the two articles in the Indian constitution, included as temporary measures, are discriminatory Women face disparities in property and marriage rights vis-a-vis men. There is no constitutional protection for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes and minorities. Indians are prohibited from a) claiming residency in the state no matter how long they have lived there, b) acquiring property, c) getting assistance from government programs, and d) securing government jobs and scholarships for children in colleges.

These factors and the continual violence, particularly in the Kashmir Valley, has not helped in developing the region in the last thirty years, compared to the rest of India. But as happens with any government, once you put any rule to suit the need of the hour, vested interests take over, making it impossible to change them. 

In the meantime, Kashmiris have spread out all over India establishing themselves, buying properties, running businesses, educating their children, and getting all the other benefits of the Indian citizenship. 

The Kashmir issue is the “jugular vein” for its military and its politicians. So, Pakistan tries to “internationalize” India’s August 5 abrogation of Articles 370 and 35A, even though it does not even recognize them. Pakistan’s military has perpetuated its iron grip on Pakistan’s government and resources, penetrating Pakistani society through the thousands of businesses the military runs. So, India as an eternal threat is necessary for the military to continue its hold on Pakistan’s civil society.

In the politics of the J&K state since 1947, only a few families have had influence and control: the Abdullahs (Sheikh, his son Farookh, and Farookh’s son Omar); the Muftis (Mohammed Sayeed Mufti and his daughter Mehbooba); the Lones and the Ansaris; and finally, the Nehru/Gandhi family’s satraps. Corruption in public life in any system with only a handful of families having power for generations needs no explanation. This is endemic throughout India.

Given the pre-British bloody history of the region and how India and Pakistan violently sliced the region between themselves during Partition, it is impossible to mediate an acceptable solution. On Kashmir, there are more than two parties — the governments of India and Pakistan, Pakistan’s military, hardliners in each country, Kashmiri separatists, and then, China. So, the ulcerous issue has festered for over 70 years.

The British colonial occupiers left India in reckless haste in 1947, letting the “native coolies” fend for themselves and sort out the issues. If they thought that the ensuing confusion and violence would keep their influence and control on the natives, they were mistaken. Over the past 70-plus years, all options have been tried to resolve the issue:

a) Pakistan-initiated outright wars in 1965, 1971 and 1999; continual stealth operations by Pakistan across the LoC and in the Kashmir valley through the decades; and providing “political, moral, and diplomatic” support (which means providing arms, money and intel) for the Kashmiri separatists and terrorists; b) hyped up summitry between the India-Pakistan heads of governments, secret back channel contacts between government-approved interlocutors; c) soft power people-to-people contacts, sports and cultural exchanges, and train and bus services across the border; d) improving trade that will obviate the very idea of “borders” in the globalized world; e) nuclearization of the region with tens of atom bombs by India and Pakistan (and China) with sophisticated delivery systems with historically ominous names (Pakistan’s Ghauri, Gaznavi, Abdali, and Babur missiles). But nothing has worked.

President Trump’s unsolicited, gratuitous mediation offer was the tipping point. In diplomacy, Trump is as nuanced as a wild raging bull in a china shop. So, nobody took seriously the unsolicited mediation offer — not to mention the arbitration offer — he flippantly and irresponsibly threw at TV reporters when Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan visited the White House last July. The unsolicited offer Trump made was lapped up by Pakistan as a game changer in this intractable issue. In a way, it indeed was, but not in the way Pakistan wanted. India never wasted time in saying publicly “Thanks Mr. Trump, but no thanks.” Later, with Trump at his side at the G-7 meeting in France in August, Modi declared that all India-Pakistan issues “are bilateral” and will be resolved bilaterally.

In India all political parties, in principle, have committed to scrap the Articles, which were, after all, temporary measures. The Congress Party has been whittling down their provisions over the years. For the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), scrapping the articles was a public declaration. The BJP returned to power in the May 2019 elections with even a greater majority than what it got in 2014. In public discourse, this has been debated ad nauseam. Besides, as reported by TCA Sharad Raghavan in The Hindu, (July 24, 2016),

“Jammu and Kashmir [alone] has received 10 per cent of all Central grants given to states [during] 2000-2016, despite having only one per cent of the country’s population… … In contrast, Uttar Pradesh [with] about 13 per cent of the country’s population received only 8.2 per cent of Central grants in 2000-16. That means J&K, with a population of 12.55 million according to the 2011 Census, received Rs.91,300 per person over the last sixteen years while Uttar Pradesh only received Rs.4,300 per person over the same period”

The Modi government saw the atmosphere was ripe (see the article below) for scrapping J&K’s temporary special status. So, on August 5, it moved resolutions in both houses of the parliament scrapping the two 70-year old articles from the Indian constitution. In doing so, it incorporated Jammu and Kashmir as a federally administered area with its own elected legislative body; and the Ladakh/Kargil region, to be directly administered by the Federal government in Delhi.   n  

The Timing of the Decision

In politics, timing is everything for bringing about far reaching, fundamental changes. Just consider these factors the Modi government would have considered before scrapping Articles 370 and 35A. 

1.      For the second time, the BJP returned to power in the May 2019 national elections with an even greater majority and approval. It is unlikely that this will be repeated again in the next general election in 2024. The fragmented Indian opposition parties are in disarray. The Congress Party has lost its moorings — even its relevance — in Indian politics with its sycophantic senile leaders genuflecting in front of the inept Gandhis. In the parliament, no party even qualifies as the official Opposition party.

2.      Pakistan has problems on multiple fronts. Imran Khan is a weak prime minister without a majority in the parliament, picked for the job by Pakistan’s powerful military. In fifteen months in power, he has put key opposition leaders in jail. The Human Development Index (taking into account literacy, access to health care, gender equality, living standards and other measures) of Pakistan is poor, 150th among 189 nations. India’s is only slightly better, at 130/189. Pakistan has accumulated massive debt. In the last 25 years, it has gone to the IMF 13 times (including in 2019) for bailouts. Each time the loan was given under tighter conditions. The Pakistani rupee has lost 30% of its value in the last 12 months; its stock market has taken a similar beating. Srging inflation and unemployment are hurting the working poor. Pakistan’s influence in the Muslim Ummah, even with its nuclear weapons, is not where it wants to be vis-a-vis India’s. There is resentment among the Balochs over exploitation and neglect. Sindh has its own simmering problems with Punjab and with Mohajirs (the Urdu-speaking descendants of Muslims who moved from India to Pakistan in 1947).

3.      As mentioned earlier, politicians, diplomats, back channel folks and outside interlocutors are not able to resolve the issue. Pakistan-initiated wars, infiltration and the arming of separatists — even the nuclear weapons with missiles — have had the same effect.

4.      Major global powers have their own issues – Russia with Crimea; China in Tibet, Hong Kong, and in handling the Muslims Uighurs; the US with Mexico and illegal immigrants. Besides, Iraqis and Syrians and others from Muslim nations are seeking political/economic asylum in Europe, US/Canada, while other rich Arab nations (Saudi Arabia, the Persian Gulf countries, Kuwait) are simply standing by.

5.      The world is weary of the Kashmir issue that has been festering for over 70 years. In the UN General Assembly’s annual fall jamboree, every time India and Pakistan talked on Kashmir, the delegates yawned. These addresses were only for local consumption in India and Pakistan.

6.      The EU is in its own mess with Brexit. The United Kingdom in today’s world is irrelevant.  The Empire imploded decades ago.

7.      The world economy is faltering after 12 years of expansion.  With Trump’s tariff wars on the rest of the world, free trade is now dead with far-reaching implications. So, Kashmir is peripheral to many leaders.

8.      India has a better technology base. The goodwill capital of millions of Indians working in many countries as engineers, doctors, teachers, carpenters, electricians, construction workers and taxi drivers is getting transferred to India. But the Indian economy — and the global economy as well — has been faltering lately.

With the erratic Trump, the Sole-Super-Power U.S. has no gravitas on the world stage. Trump is now a caricature.Trump’s gratuitous unsolicited mediation/arbitration offer was the proverbial Indian crow landing with a jerk on a bough of a tree with a fully ripened fruit ready to fall at any moment. Trump’s gratuitous offer was the jerk.

Thus, tactically, the time could not have been better for the Modi government to take a deep breath and scrap Articles 370 and 35-A in one stroke through legislation. And it did so on August 5, 2019 with a better than 2/3 majority in both houses of the parliament, despite the BJP not even having a majority in the Rajya Sabha (the Upper House). The Supreme Court will remember this when the case reaches its doors.  $$$$


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Ha!!  On Predictions by Experts

In the absence of our own understanding of the science and technology behind many inventions, we look for experts in the field to project the shape of things to come in the field of their expertise in the implicit assumption that they have better insights into the future looking through their special crystal balls.  How innocent we are in our assumption and belief and how wrong these experts have been!.   Here is a list culled from diverse sources:

  • “Rail travel at high speed is not possible because passengers, unable to breath would die of asphyxia.”  —  Dr. Dionysius Larder Professor of Natural Philosophy, University college of London (1783-1859)
  • ‘The horse is here to stay, but the automobile is only a novelty — a fad.”   —  The president of the Michigan Savings Bank advising Henry Ford’s lawyer to not invest in the Ford Motor Company (1903)
  • “Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible.” — Lord Kelvin, British mathematician and physicist, president of the British Royal Society, 1895. The absolute temperature scale (0 Celsius = 273 Kelvin) is named in his honor!.
  • “The cinema is little more than a fad. It’s canned drama. What audiences really want to see is flesh and blood on the stage.” — Charlie Chaplin (20th century.)
  • “Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?”’  — H.M. Warner co-founder of Warner Brothers
  • “There is no reason for any individual to have a computer in his home.” —  Ken Olson, chairman and founder of Digital Equipment Corporation.
  • “With over fifteen types of foreign cars already on sale here, the Japanese auto industry isn’t likely to carve out a big share of the market for itself.” —  Business Week, 1968.
  • “640kB should be enough for anyone.” — Bill Gates, 1981
  • “The world potential market for copying machines is 5,000, at most,”  — IBM to Xerox in 1959. 
  • “The concept is interesting and well-formed, but in order to earn better than a ‘C’, the idea must be feasible.”  —  Yale professor to the founder of FedEx Fred Smith when he was a MBA student.  ♠


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High-Protein Low-Carb Idlies

By K S Venkataraman

Indian dals contain proteins between 15% and 25%. Protein-rich dals have low glycemic indexes compared to white rice. The proteins in individual dals, made up of amino acids as building blocks, do not contain all the nine essential amino acids (histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, etc.) our body needs. Hence vegetarians need a combination of several dals plus seeds/nuts, tofu, and milk products to get complete proteins.

I.     Ingredients:

In the list below, broken lentils with the husk/skin intact are given because they soak quicker. Unbroken lentils are a better choice, but they need longer soaking times. The husk/skin is a good source of fiber.


  1. Chana dal: 1 measure (use any volume measure)
  2. Toor dal: 1 measure
  3. Broken sabut Urad with the husk/skin intact):  1 measure
  4. Broken sabut moong with husk: 1/2 measure
  5. Broken Red Mung Beans: 1/2 measure
  6. Boiled rice (this is not parboiled rice and not cooked rice):  2 measures. Note: This is a unique South Indian rice available in Indian stores. One brand is Ponni Puzhungal Arisi (Boiled Rice).
  7. Options: Red chillies, cumin seeds, black pepper, ginger, to taste

Note: In the above, rice is only ~33% of the total. In white idly  batter, rice content is between 60% – 80%. This alone reduces the glycemic load in this recipe.

II.       Soaking: In lukewarm water soak all in one vessel for at least 4 hours if you use broken dals. Unbroken lentils  take a longer soaking time. Wash the soaked grains in water.

III.    Making the Idly Batter:  Go to YouTube to see the consistency of the idly batter and for idly making techniques. The common run-of-the-mill kitchen blender is a bad choice for wet grinding since it gets quite warm heating up the batter. The rugged high-wattage Vita Mix blender may work. Traditional Indian wet grinders are the best.

Wet-grind the soaked grains until the batter is very smooth. If there is too much water, the batter becomes too thin, and is not good for making idlies.  Transfer the batter into a large vessel. Add salt to taste and mix it well. If you added too much water during grinding, you can still salvage the batter for making dosai-equivalent.   ;–)))

IV.    Fermenting the batter:  This is critical.  Keep the wet-ground batter at temperatures between 70 F to 80 F for at least 8 hours for it to ferment.  The batter, when fermented, will rise in the container with tiny air bubbles filling the space. That is why you need a large vessel.

V.    Making the idlies: If the fermented batter is too thick, add a small quantity of water  and gently mix the batter using a spatula. Do not beat the batter too much. This drives away all the air bubbles. The trapped tiny air bubbles make the idlies spongy.

Pour the batter on the idly-making plate and steam-cook it — NO pressure cooking — for 10 minutes minimum.  Take out the idly plates from the steamer and cool. Scoop out the idlies from the idly plate.

In the picture shown on the top, the regular idlies are in the front and the high-protein idlies are in the back. The high-protein idlies are darker because of the dals and the husk/skin in the batter. Eat these idlies with Molagai Podi (known as gun powder in north India) or chutneys.  ♠


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Pazhaya Paadal, Puthiya Aadal ! Brings Old Film Songs to Bharatanatyam Stage

By G. (Paul)  Manoharan, Upper St Claire, PA

Editor’s Note: For a variety of reasons, Indian classical dance teachers have been reluctant to choose songs for their recitals from the large collection of classy film songs rooted in pure Indian classical dance traditions.  Jaya Mani, our veteran dance teacher, breaks this unwritten taboo by staging a program entirely taken from films songs.

On Saturday, May 18th, 2019 at the Sri Venkateswara Temple  auditorium, twelve senior students of our veteran Bharatanatyam teacher Jaya Mani presented a unique and enjoyable Indian classical dance program titled in Tamil “Pazhaya  Paadal Puthiya Aadal “ (Old Songs & Modern Dance”). The songs were from  movies dating back to 1948 through 1988  from Tamil movies such as Vedhala  Ulagam  (1948); Manamagal (1951); Vanjikottai Vaaliban (1958); School Master (1958, Telugu); and Katputli (1957, Hindi). Jaya Mani and her students choreographed the pieces, sometimes independently and sometimes jointly.

With Deepa, Jaya Mani’s daughter, co-directing, Subha Sriram emceed the program introducing each piece giving the filmi tidbits for each song, such as the lyricist, music director, playback singers, and actors. This kept the audience engaged.

Details of these songs have faded away even for old timers. Many youngsters were probably listening to these songs for the first time. But the lyrics for the songs by great poets (Subramanya Bharathi, Papanasam  Sivan, Kannadasan, Udumalai Narayana Kavi and others), the music direction by masters (K.V.Mahadevan, G. Ramanathan, Sankar-Jaikishan…), and the enchanting voices of M.S.Subbulakshmi, M.L.Vasantha Kumari,  P. Leela, and Lata Mangeshkar are enshrined in our hearts forever.

Jaya Mani and her students took us back to the golden era of Indian movie classic songs, creatively choreographing the songs to the idioms of the Indian classical dance traditions, adding jatis and abhinayams making them lively and enjoyable.

Songs such as Theeratha Vilayattuppillai and Kuravanji dances have been part of the Bharatanatyam repertoire for decades, but dances to songs such as Ellam inbamayam (Deepika Narayanan and Kavya Suresh, Rupa Bashyam and Tanvika Sriram)  and Kannum kannum kalandu (Shravani Charyulu and Arpitha Udupa) were real treats.

Jaya and the artistes’ maiden attempt to bring the best of old and new together was enjoyable and made us wish for the good old days when we could sing along, unlike the contemporary movie songs dominated by beats and rhythm with the orchestra overwhelming the human voice.

All the songs used straight film clips running only 3 or 4 minutes, which is necessitated by the time constraints of films. However, there is enough scope in these songs to re-record them by adding more jatis and swarams to expand them as stand-alone 6-to 8-minute pieces as in padams in Bharatanatyam recitals.  ♠


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Obituary: V. Udaya Shankar Rao — 1938 to March 26, 2019               

By K. S. V. L Narasimhan, Moorestown, NJ

Vallabhajosyula Udaya Shankar Rao, known simply as Uday to his friends, passed away on March 26, 2019 after stoically living through Parkinson’s disease for the last few years. He was 80. He was born on August 4, 1938 in Vijayanagaram, a small town along the Coastal Andhra Pradesh north of Vishakhapatnam. With his mother passing away when he was young, he and his two young-er sisters were raised by their aunt Aadilakshmi, and her husband Voruganti Lakshmikantham.

After obtaining a bachelor’s degree with honors from Andhra University (1958), Uday joined TIFR and earned a PhD in physics from the University of Bombay (1967). In Mumbai, when he was hospitalized briefly, he met his future wife, Cecilia, an attending nurse at the hospital. After their marriage in 1966, they came to the United States in 1968 with Uday’s postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Pittsburgh, where he later became an assistant professor. Uday was highly respected among the post-doctoral fellows .His ability to break down complex tasks to manageable simple steps helped un-ravel the mystery of why rare-earth magnets are so powerful,

After a short stint at U.S. Steel, he joined the Department of En-ergy’s Pittsburgh Energy Technology Center, working on catalysts for converting coal to liquid fuels. In 1989 he received an award for his work from the Pittsburgh-Cleveland Catalysis Society. He retired in 2006.

During the early days of Sri Venkateswara temple, Uday was active with many of us in assisting Raj Gopal in building the temple for Sri Venkateswara. Originally the temple was to be built in Monroeville, where the Hindu-Jain temple is today.

Conflict on the details of the temple resulted in us breaking away to the current location in Penn Hills. The separation of the Indian group was painful, with Uday, myself, and many others pleading for unity in a meeting where tempers were flying high. With no place even to meet, Uday helped us get together in a classroom at the Uni-versity of Pittsburgh where the first draft of the letter for the S V Temple was prepared for mailing to potential donors. Uday was part of the working committee, executive committee and later served as Chairman of the board of trustees.

Uday always wanted to help the needy. In one of our board meetings he wanted the temple to assist a student at Penn State who was wrongfully convicted. He proposed sending $30,000 to assist in paying the legal fees. The board started debating on the amount rather than on the role of temple in these situations. Finally, an amount was sent. The construction of the temple consumed most of our lives from 1973 for several years.

Uday was a great enthusiast of Indian classical performing arts.  He himself would go on stage and sing on the Aradhana Days at the temple.

When I moved from Austin, Texas to Pittsburgh to work at the University, Uday and Cecilia took care of me to settle down in Shadyside. As was common in those days, after work most of us went to a pub in Oakland for a few beers. Often spouses joined us as well. Uday would stand up on a chair and start singing the Simon and Garfunkel song “Oh Cecilia! You’re breaking my heart … …”

Uday was a great tennis player. Afflicted with Parkinson’s and lying in bed still most of the time, when I went to see him, he engaged in conversation with a sharp mind. I teased him: “My best chance to beat you in tennis is now.” He burst into laughter.

S.G.Sankar from Bethel Park, a close friend, read Hindu scriptures for Uday every week. He found peace in both Hinduism and Christianity. Uday helped both his sisters and their families and Cecilia’s family settle down in the US.

Vivek Rao, his son, in the eulogy to his father described Uday aptly: “My father was a calm, kind and gentle spirit. He never gossiped, criticized others or made them uncomfortable. Although he was not a very outgoing person, because of these qualities, he made and kept many friends.”

Uday leaves behind his wife Cecilia of 50-plus years of mar-riage. He is survived by his sisters, Dr. Indira Varanasi and Dr. Meera Rao; his son Vivek Rao and daughter-in-law Yesoda Nirujogi Rao, and their children Venkat, Jayanth, and Nidhi.

After a funeral mass in Sts. Simon and Jude Church, the mortal remains of Uday were buried at the Mt. Olivet Cemetery, Carnegie, PA on Saturday, March 30, 2019.

Note: Uday Shankar and Cecilia Rao supported the magazine after seeing the very first issue in October 1995. They gave $20 that I distinctly remember even how and I gratefully acknowledge their generosity  —  K S Venkataraman, Editor


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Supporters Gathered to Celebrate Modi’s Election Victory

On Thursday, May 23, many admirers of India’s prime minister Narendra Modi in our area under the

banner NRIs 4 Modi-2019 celebrated the totally unexpected big re-election victory of Modi. They

gathered at the Triveni Center Banquet Hall in Monroeville and replayed his election speech. For the details more details please contact Harilal Patel at   —  By  Premlata Venkataraman   ♠


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The Modi Victory — The Best Sweet Revenge

By Kollengode S Venkataraman

Narendra Modi won a super-duper majority any which way one dices India’s national election results of 2019. And he did this despite all projections and a strenuous campaign by media — particularly the English media in India and outside India. This English media — not the Indian regional languages media — was shocked at the level of widespread support for Modi and the total rejection of the combined opposition by voters. Finally, the Indian communists, still wedded to Marxism three decades after it was abandoned by China and Russia (their spiritual masters), received a humiliating body blow.

Given how complex India is in every social, geographic, economic, ethnic, linguistic, religion-based criterion anyone could ever come up with, this is a remarkable success with SIX HUNDRED MILLION voters going to the polls.  In many parts, it was summer, with temperatures over 105 F (40 Celsius). It is impossible for most editorial writers of the world sitting in air-conditioned rooms to comprehend how diverse and complex India is, and how comprehensive Modi’s support was in this election.

The global and Indian English media, by choosing to selectively listen and write to their English-speaking elite audience, completely missed the pulse of the ordinary Indian voters living outside the boundaries of Mumbai, Delhi and other large cities. Ved Mehta, a well-known English writer and editor said something like this on the Indian elitist media: They are like corks floating on turbulent waters, believing that they are making the waves.

How did this happen? Let me start with the local. The Post-Gazette reprinted Emily Schmall’s AP story with this title: Modi’s Hindu-nationalist BJP heads for a landslide victory in India’s elections.

Schmall writes, “The victory in India was widely seen as a referendum on Mr. Modi’s Hindu-first politics that some observers say have bred intolerance toward Muslims and other religious minorities, as well as his muscular stance on neighboring Pakistan, with whom India nearly went to war earlier this year.”  What are the names and affiliations of, at least,  some of those whom she refers to as “some observers”?

Incidentally, it is no coincidence that American or UK media, particularly print media, always mention Modi with the self-serving and self-fulfilling epithets like “Fundamentalist,” “Polarizing,” “Hindu,” “Nationalist,” “Right Wing” or other pejorative qualifiers. The Indian English media also uses these condescending phrases: “Saffron Brigade,” “Cow Belt,” and “Sangh Parivar.”  Will they ever dare to routinely use similar pejorative terms like “Red Brigade,” “Comrade Gang,” “Marxist mafia,” and other phrases for communists, and similar phrases for the Congress Party? Here are other examples of the mocking use of pejorative terms:

  • The Economist, May 2, 2019 article before the elections titled Agent Orange — Under Narendra Modi, India’s ruling party poses a threat to democracy. It gave this unsolicited advice: “Voters should turf it out, or at least force it to govern in coalition.” The phrase Agent Orange in the caption is enough to tell The Economist’s bias. For readers who do not know, Agent Orange is dioxin, a carcinogenic defoliant the US army sprayed extensively all over Vietnam in the 1960s and 70s in its war to destroy the thick forests which were the Vietcong’s hold outs. The website states this on Agent Orange: “While scientists debate over who was exposed to Agent Orange/dioxin… … the fact [is] that… several million Vietnamese were exposed over a period of at least a decade to [dioxin]… …” Thousands of children were born with severe birth defects to women who ingested this deadly defoliant.  In today’s world, this would have amounted to a war crime.

And The Economist had the gall to flippantly compare Modi and the BJP to Agent Orange. There was not a whimper from the elite Indian English media on this outrageous phrase used by the influential UK weekly.

  • Bloomberg News’ Mihir Sharma (May 27, 2019) title: Modi’s Win Is a Populist Warning to the World, with this opening paragraph: “It’s a terrible feeling to discover that your country is full of strangers. For some in India, the election of Narendra Modi in 2014, with a majority that India hadn’t seen in three decades, was that moment. … It meant that far more Indians than imaginable were willing to trust a leader with so disquieting a record.”  The “some in India” are the India’s anglicized elite living in denial in their own exclusive enclaves.
  • The Week magazine’s Damon Linker (May 21, 2019): Democracy isn’t dying. Liberalism is“ [T]his week, voters… … in EU parliamentary elections could deliver a quarter or more of the seats to the continent’s right-wing populists and nationalists. Meanwhile, exit polls in India suggest that Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist party will win re-election when results are announced on May 23…”
  • Foreign Affairs, April 11, 2019 Gurucharan Das title for the article was this: The Modi Mirage. The title alone says it all.

One wonders if they would dare to routinely use such pejorative terms “Fundamentalist,” “Polarizing,” “Christian,” “Nationalist,” “Right Wing,” “Bible-Thumping” and others for the GOP, which is essentially dominated by right-wing, flag-waving Red-White-and-Blue Nationalists, including even those waving Confederate flags.  Rural, working class, less-educated Christian Fundamentalists, Evangelicals, and Baptists are crucial components in the GOP’s vote-bank political calculus.

To a great extent, the American Democratic Party is “Nationalist” and “Christian” as well, with Catholics, Blacks, Hispanics, newer immigrants, and liberal Jews, Asians and Indians forming a big part of its vote bank.

The fact is, to varying degrees, all political parties all over the world create and sustain, and depend on the locally relevant vote banks to win elections. The Congress Party in India, over the decades, has mastered the vote-bank politics by appeasing minorities, exploiting their insecurities and fragmenting the Hindus along caste lines. So, the global media is disingenuous in trying to isolate and portray BJP as the only culprit.

Besides, politicians in the US prominently project themselves on TV screens during campaigns as pious Christians going with their spouses to Sunday church services. They routinely declare the Christian denominations they belong to. The media routinely asks how the candidates’ religious beliefs would influence their political decisions if they are elected. This places the Jewish, Mormon, and Muslim candidates  —  not to speak of the polytheistic idol-worshipping Hindu candidates — under a cloud, forcing them to explain and defend their faith and justify their candidacy for elective offices.

Remember, John F. Kennedy was the first Irish-heritage Catholic US president (1961-63), elected 185 years after the republic was formed in 1776.  And it took another 48 years, or 215 years after July 1776 for the US to get a Black president in the personage of Barack Obama.

The US news weekly Time, once a flagship among the US news weeklies, barely exists in today’s newsstands. Before the 2019 Indian election, Time ran a story captioned “India’s Divider in Chief” cynically portraying Modi on its cover page, written by Aatish Taseer, who was born in London and educated in exclusive schools in India before moving to the U.S. for his university education. His Wikipedia profile says, “He divides his time between New Delhi and London.” So, I maybe forgiven if I surmise that he may not know India’s complexities by living in Delhi during his sojourns, nor may he understand the UK by living in metropolitan London.

In the UK’s context, the entire city of London is a gated community with exclusive enclaves, where the London elites live among the Middle eastern Sheikhs, Chinese/Indian tycoons, Russian oligarchs and others.  These exclusive Londoners have their own values, priorities and culture, cut off from the other hoi polloi Londoners, not to speak of the those in the UK’s hinterland.

This prototype exists in every nation’s capital or big metro areas like Shanghai, Hong Kong, Mumbai, Munich…  In New Delhi, they are the Delhi Lutyens, and lately Delhi’s Khan Market Gang. A ton of their exploits are available on the Internet. Today, the Lutyens are no more Delhi-specific. The term has become a metaphor for all elite and exclusive power-brokers in Indian politics wherever they live.

Taseer, who wrote the Time article deriding Modi, is the son of Talveen Singh, a columnist in The Indian Express and Salmaan Taseer, the Pakistani politician and businessman. Talveen Singh, by her own admission (see, was raised in the Lutyen’s Delhi. So, Aatish Taseer has been hopping from one exclusive neighborhood in London to another in New Delhi. Obviously, he is no Naipaul.

Then, to soften the blow and to appear fair, in the same issue, Time balanced Taseer’s vitriol on Modi by running another story by Ian Bremmer, with the title, “Modi Is India’s Best Hope for Economic Reform.“  Bremmer is Time’s Foreign Affairs Columnist and Editor-at-Large.

The Indian Brown Saheb English media (both in print and on TV), as expected, lapped up Taseer’s story, giving it wide coverage, implying how bad Modi is, now that even Time — yes, goodness gracious, THE Time — has given its verdict on him even before the election. The Indian English media did not give Bremmer’s story even a tenth of coverage it gave to Taseer’s venom on Modi. This is no accident. The Indian English media folks have vested interest in cultivating on first-name basis Taseer and other writers bearing Indian names (Pankaj Misra, Salman Rushdie, Amartya Sen, Tunku Varadarajan, for example) living in London, New York, Washington DC, California, and other places.

Then after Modi’s landslide victory, the same Time magazine, to recover its integrity — and relevance in the English-reading media world all around the globe — published another story titled “Modi Has United India Like No Prime Minister in Decades,” by Manoj Ladwa, who worked for the Modi campaign in 2014.

But the self-inflicted damage was done both for Time and its surrogates running the English media in India. Indian English Media, which only a fortnight ago gave wide coverage to the Time’s “Divider in Chief” article, made an abrupt U-turn and had a field day berating Time.

One only hopes that the Indian Brown Saheb English media owners, managers, and editors will learn their lesson. But one can never be sure. The wannabe Indian Goras’ lack of self-confidence on account of their lack of awareness of India’s ethos runs very, very deep.  ♠


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The New York Times and Narendra Modi 

By Kollengode S. Venkataraman

The New York Times’ editorial bias against the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is well known. Its editorials and editorial Board’s consensus articles have been anti-Modi. Modi-bashing writers bearing Indian names from universities, think tanks, and other literary figures — such as Amartya Sen, Salman Rushdie, Pankaj Misha and Arundhati Roy — are a staple in the Times’ Op-ed page articles. In 2013, before the last general elections in 2015 the Nobel-winning economist, the Bharat Ratna recipient, and Harvard professor Amartya Sen said, he does not want Modi to become India’s prime minister as he does not have secular credentials.

Op-ed pages are supposed to accommodate a diversity of opinions. But on India’s social, cultural and political issues, not only are the NYT editorials are consistently anti-Modi (which is entirely acceptable), but even its news coverage and visuals that go with the stories are also anti-Modi, and OpEd writers appear to be chosen to echo its editorials. For all the freedom of expression the Times professes, often, on India-related articles, it shuts off readers’ comments knowing full well the type of response it would receive from a wide swathe of Indian-American readers.

In this background, the Times published this article (May 20, 2019) by Jeffrey Gettleman with the title without recognizing the irony:  “The Choice in India: ‘Our Trump’ or a Messier Democracy,”  (

In the article, Gettleman writes: “These days, it’s not unusual to hear Indians describe Modi as ‘our Trump,’ which is said in antipodal ways, either with pride or scorn.”  He should have identified the names and affiliations of those who claim Modi as “Our Trump.”

Gettleman quotes “a well-known political commentator” telling him this on Modi: “Trump and Modi are twins separated by continents.”  His article only mentions the name of “the well-known political commentator” without identifying his affiliation. He is Chandra Bhan Prasad. This is unusual for the Times, which rarely uses the names of people without identifying their affiliations. A Google-search revealed that Mr. Prasad is associated with the Center for the Advanced Study on India (CASI) at the University of Pennsylvania, This is how the CASI describes Prasad in its website :

“Chandra Bhan Prasad is widely regarded as the most important Dalit thinker and political commentator in India today, advocating on behalf of the more than sixteen percent of India’s population who have historically been regarded as untouchable by orthodox Hinduism. Mr. Prasad is a research affiliate on CASI’s Dalit research program and serves as a key advisor to the Dalit Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DICCI). He was the first Dalit to gain a regular space in a nationally circulating Indian newspaper, more than fifty years after India’s independence, quickly attracting national attention and widespread readership … … His articles and books are used by South Asia faculty in universities throughout the world to question longstanding assumptions about caste and Indian society. Prasad studied at Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi, where he completed his M.A. and M.Phil. His story and writings can be seen at his website:”

We acknowledge Mr. Prasad is a commentator with an impressive pedigree. Nevertheless, he is a partisan, representing and fighting for the Dalits’ causes on a global platform. His erudition and rise from humble background are exemplary, and we respect him for his commitment to his causes.

In India, and in all democracies including the U.S., appeasement vote-bank politics are widely practiced by political parties based on a whole range of local criteria. In India, appeasement politics is successfully exploited by a plethora of pressure groups based on religion, caste, ethnicity and locally relevant minority status. India’s Dalit leaders have been effectively using the vote-bank politics with a rare blend of finesse and muscle power to advance their causes. Good for them. As a Dalit activist and political commentator, Mr. Prasad is free and fully entitled to work for his causes and air his opinion on anyone, anytime, anywhere.

But it is deceitful and disingenuous on Gettleman’s and the Times’ part not to identify Prasad’s affiliation and background. How often do we see the NYT using names in stories without identifying their affiliations?

Now, with this information on Mr Prasad as a Dalit activist on a global platform, and the Dalit leaders’ visceral dislike for Modi, when you read Mr. Prasad’s comment that “Trump and Modi are twins separated by continents,” you get a better understanding and a different feeling. Incidentally, Modi belongs to India’s Backward Caste.

Contary to Mr. Prasad’s characterization that Modi and Trump are “twins separated by continents,” Modi and Trump stand in sharp contrast to each other on a whole range of criteria. See the box below.

These contrasts aside, Gettleman goes on: “Political analysts say [pray, who are they?] there is no shortage of similarities between the two, including their combative style, their prolific use of Twitter and their talent for stoking nationalism — and spreading fear — to firm up their bases.”

Show me one politician who does not have a combative style. And if one is not combative, why should one even seek elective office? Combative styles are natural to rulers. There is even a Sanksrit term for it, Rajasic temperament (literally, temperament of the rajas, or kings), in today’s context, the temperament of people wielding raw power, such as elected officials, senior bureaucrats, corporate CEOs and senior managers.

Which politician is not nationalistic? Politicians all over the world — including US Presidents — have used fear to firm up their bases. In our own time, U.S. presidents Kennedy, Johnson, Reagan, Bush-43 and Trump effectively  used fear to firm up their base. Bush-43 even went to a costly war in Iraq inciting fear of a nuclear Iraq — a blatantly untrue premise.

Today, with social media and instant communication, nobody has a monopoly over data, analysis, interpretations and opinions, in political and social studies involving races, castes, ethnicities and religions.  This includes those sitting in the ivory towers of tenured jobs in endowed chairs in universities, or those spending retirement years in think tanks.

Many of these intellectuals (this is fast becoming a pejorative term these days) — both from the right and left — sit far away from the fields of action, in urban centers, in touch with “like-minded” thinkers living in different time zones, different countries, and different cultures. Predictably, people who interact only with other “like-minded” people end up in echo chambers in different topics, impervious to differing ideas and hypotheses to consider.

Even in the sterile physical and biological sciences, it is painful for someone who has built up his/her whole career on axioms and ideas, to discard them in the face of mounting evidence against them. It is that much more difficult in societal and political studies dealing with class, race, ethnicity, poverty and wealth — and in the Indian context, also involving languages, castes, and religions.

Governing India is a task unlike anything that one can comprehend, given how complex and diverse India is on every criterion known to mankind. India is not like a well-cultivated California vineyard or a Florida orchard. It is like a dynamic tropical forest’s complex ecosystem that supports and sustains countless species of plants, birds, reptiles and animals in perpetual struggle to maintain a semblance of equilibrium.

Trying to understand other cultures through sterile reports, comparison tables, graphs and pie charts, not to speak of GDPs and GDP growth rates, per-capita-this and per-capita-that, though necessary, is just not sufficient. The global English media, particularly in the US and UK, working on deadlines and time- and space-constraints, do not seem to get it.

The Indian English media’s brown sahebs do not care about what the media in Canada, New Zealand, and Australia say on India. These brown sahebs’ current obsession with the US media is understandable. Today, the U.S. is militarily powerful, economically rich and dynamic, technologically innovative, and globally influential on many fronts. And nearly 3 million Indians and Indian-Americans live in the US, most of them in professional jobs. And among them are the Brown Saheb Indians’  classmates, cousins, nephews and nieces, sons and daughters.

But their fascination with the UK is puzzling. It is just a holdover from India’s colonial past. Britain is no more “Great” Britain. And the empire collapsed over 70 years ago, and India became a republic 70 years ago.

In assessing the Indian elections in 2019 the English-speaking West (mainly, US and UK), and their surrogates in the anglicized Indian English media completely missed what was happening on the ground. No wonder they could not recognize the subterranean rumblings.

In a famous Buddhist parable, ten blind men of Hindustan tried to describe an elephant through their tactile experience on the part they touched. Today, the media moguls of Englishtan, blinded by overconfidence and condescension, sitting in New York, London, and Washington, and their deputies in India’s English media houses pass judgement on India based on their partial understanding and fixated opinions. They are partially correct; but they missed the big picture, as it happened in this elections.

Of these two groups, members of the anglicized Indian media are the worst. One can understand the historical biases and prejudices of the western media, like the Times, Time, and the London broadsheets. But the Indian brown sahebs’ unfamiliarity of Indian’s hinterland is inexcusable. These Indian brown sahebs are essentially products of upper crust or upper middle-class India, living in Mumbai, Delhi and other metro areas. Most of them are educated in only-English-medium schools from KG onwards, and may have a working familiarity with “vernaculars” like Hindi, Punjabi, Marathi, Tamil, Malayalam…  And many are further educated in England and the U.S., cut off from India’s ethos on many measures.

With the 2019 elections results going haywire from their predicted outcome, they are in disarray and look foolish. Having gone to “Convent” schools, they are in a confessional mode now.

One hopes now that these brown sahebs will liberate themselves from the Lutyen mindset of looking at Indian through American and British lenses; and as Rajiv Malhotra of the Infinity Foundation has said on many occasions, learn to understand India through Indian lenses. This will not be easy, and will take time, This would involve some serious unlearning and re-learning of their ideas of the Indian subcontinent in all its complexities, warts and all. As any addict knows, freeing oneself from bad habits or recursive thinking, is difficult. This would involve several topics in which they need to learn simultaneously:

  • Learning India’s history through the several regional dynasties going beyond the Mauryas, Guptas, Lodhis, Khiljis, and the Mughals. For example, learning about Satavahanas, Solankis, Kakatiyas, Cholas, Pandyas, Cheras, Marathas, Vijayanagara Empire, and the Sikhs;
  • Familiarizing themselves with Indian’s complex histories in all its social, cultural, linguistic and literary transitions;
  • Learning one or two regional languages, not as “vernaculars,” but in some depth to understand their histories, literary works and the social, ethical, and philosophical ideas they convey;
  • Learning to appreciate India’s pre-Mughal architectural wonders by understanding the civil and structural engineering basis of the temples that have stood for several hundred years before the arrival of Islam, and which are still standing with minimal maintenance;
  • Understanding the basis of India’s unique place in visual arts (sculpting, metal casting, and paintings), and pre-Mughal performing arts (music and dance).

If they do this in some seriousness, they would get a better insight into their own history and ethos in the years ahead. Otherwise, they will become irrelevant in their own time. And what is worse for them, they will become a laughingstock for the rest of India, which they have already become at least in one measure, as the results of the 2019 elections show.  ♠


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British Airways Non-Stop Flight to London

By Premlata Venkataraman      e-mail:

On April 2, around 6:30 PM the British Airways’ inaugural flight BA-171 (Boeing 787 Dreamliner) landed at Pittsburgh International Airport with fanfare and English paraphernalia decorating the baggage claim area.

Twenty years ago, in the heyday of Pittsburgh being a USAirways hub, British Airways had a non-stop flight from Pittsburgh to London-Ghatwick. Two decades later, we are getting a 4-days-a-week (Tue, Wed, Fri, and Sun) all-year-around nonstop to London Heathrow. The incoming flight departs London around 4:00 PM (local time), and lands at PIT around 7:20 PM. The returning flight (BA 170) leaves PIT at 9:50 PM, landing at London Heathrow at 10:00 AM (local time).

For getting this nonstop flight, British Airways is getting, (or is extracting, depending on your viewpoint) $3 million in subsidies over two years coming from a state economic development fund. Subsidies to air carriers is the norm these days for all second-tier cities for getting nonstop flights to European and Asian destinations.

The Airport Authority estimates that around 50,000 people travel to London annually from our region. It is noteworthy that last September Delta ended its seasonal nonstop from Pittsburgh to Paris, probably anticipating the British Airways nonstop to London Heathrow.  ♠


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University of Pittsburgh Delegation Travels Throughout India

By Pitt Global, University Center for International Studies

This spring, University of Pittsburgh Chancellor Patrick Gallagher participated in an aarti puja ceremony on the banks of the Ganga in northern India. The ritual held special significance for the chancellor and the Pittsburgh delegation, as the ceremony was directed by the founder and spiritual leader of Pittsburgh’s Hindu Jain Temple, Swami Chidanand Saraswati, who now leads the Parmarth Niketan spiritual retreat center. Hundreds of pilgrims and local residents watched the chancellor and the group light lamps during the daily event. Earlier in the day, Muniji honored the group with warm words of welcome and support for Pitt’s growing investment in the development of Indian studies.

The Rishikesh visit was part of the University delegation’s extensive travels through India to strengthen existing partnerships, lay foundations for new programs and deepen connections with alumni networks.After Rishikesh, the delegation visited Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad and Mussoorie for meetings with corporate executives, central and state government officials and senior leadership from educational institutions.

We are grateful for the opportunity to focus on strengthening the intersections between India and the University of Pittsburgh while advancing key collaborations in the areas of innovation and research,” Chancellor Gallagher remarked at the start of the May travels.

Indian studies scholar Dr. Joseph Alter, director of Pitt’s Asian Studies Center, Dr. Ariel C. Armony, vice provost for global affairs, and Dr. Arjang A. Assad, dean of the Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business and College of Business Administration, were among other members of the Pitt delegation.

The University signed three new memorandums of understanding in Hyderabad. An agreement with the Indian School of Business (ISB), a premier institution at the cutting edge of Asian globalization, will allow the institutions to work together to develop programs focused on innovations in health care. The agreement with the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) will result in new faculty research collaborations and student learning programs focused on inclusive innovation. And a broad-spectrum agreement with the Telangana State Council for Higher Education will open the door for Pitt partnerships with multiple institutions in the state.

Outside of Hyderabad, the delegation visited MediCiti, an innovative medical complex serving rural communities established by Dr. P.S. Reddy, UPMC professor of medicine and chairperson of SHARE India.

Three members of the Chancellor’s Global Advisory Council, all Pitt alumni, provided key assistance in planning the trip throughout India, Mr. Aditya Vikram R. Somani, chairman of Everest Tech, Ms. Archana Hingorani, founder of Siana Capital Management, and Mr. Abhishek Singh Mehta, founder and principal of Blue Lotus Investments.

Deepening and expanding its ties in Delhi early in the trip, the Pitt delegation had productive meetings with senior staff from the Office of the President of India and leadership from the American Institute of Indian Studies, the U.S.-India Educational Foundation and IILM University.

A highlight of the Mumbai visit was the chancellor’s speech at the prestigious Asiatic Society, where business leaders and scholars heard him present from the historic Durbar Hall stage about innovative public/private solutions to cybersecurity challenges.

The trip concluded with a visit to the Hanif Center for Outdoor Education and Environmental Study in Mussoorie, where the University runs the popular Pitt in the Himalayas study abroad programs focused on health, leadership and the environment. The delegation had an opportunity to hear from students who worked beside doctors and nurses in outreach mobile clinics serving local villages, and others who participated in field-based leadership programs in one of the most important regions of the world.

The 2019 India trip was a success by many measures. With the help of dedicated faculty and leadership, and with continued strong support from the Indian community of Pittsburgh, the University of Pittsburgh will build on the momentum of the 2019 delegation visit to strengthen its ties within the country.

To learn more about the University of Pittsburgh’s global partnerships and programs, visit  ♠


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India’s Mother of All Elections

By Deepak Kotwal, Squirrel Hill, PA


Editor’s Note:  Deepak Kotwal, a long-time resident in our area, juxtaposes the Indian national elections with our own elections in the US.

The mother of all elections in the world is over and the results stunned the Western, and even the urban, Indian political pundits.  Typically, Western media use suave English-speaking Indian interlocutors to interpret India for the West. These people are educated in elite and exclusive English medium schools, and often have no exposure to Indian history, languages, culture, ethos and India’s hinterland. Their urban and anglicized family upbringing has made it difficult for them to understand the complexities of a multi-lingual, multireligious, and ethnically diverse India, as happened in the 2019 election season. All their projections went haywire, with the Bharatiya Janata Party getting an absolute majority (with 303 seats out of 524), even better than what they got in 2014 (282 out of 543).

As a long-time American resident of Indian origin living in the US, several features contrasting the Indian and American systems come to my mind.

  • In the presidential system of the U.S., it is very difficult to remove the POTUS despite clear evidence of ethical violations, if   not crimes, committed by someone holding the highest elected office in the nation. In the Indian parliamentary system, if a majority of the members of the parliament lose confidence in the PM, he/she can be removed by a no-confidence vote.
  • Elections in India are conducted by the Election Commission, an autonomous federal body with considerable independence once the elections are announced. In the US, the elections are conducted by state and local governments which have wide latitude in how they go about the process, resulting in gerrymandering and voter suppression rules in many Republican-controlled states. In India, on the other hand, the Election Commission goes to great lengths to ensure that every eligible voter goes to vote. Their logistical efforts to set up voting stations in remote villages for just a few voters are legendary. The Commission has a hard-earned reputation of integrity, fairness and being nonpolitical, having conducted 15 nation-wide national elections and countless elections for state legislatures.
  • Voter suppression efforts in the US emanate from its political/electoral DNA; a country established on land grab, genocide (of Native Americans) and slavery.  When the US constitution was adopted in 1789, only property-owning, tax-paying white males were allowed to vote.  In deciding how many seats there would be in the Congress, the famous — or infamous, depending on perspective — Three-Fifths Compromise was made. This allowed slave-owning states to count only 3/5th of the number of slaves in determining the population, and the number of representatives in Congress. It took the Civil War of 1865 and the subsequent 15th Amendment of 1870 to grant voting rights to African American slaves, still only to males. The Civil War took place in a country of only two ethnicities (European whites and African Slaves), one language (English), and one religion (Christianity).  Contrast this with the enormously complex India, shown in the box above.
  • Even though the Confederates lost, subsequent years saw the rise of Jim Crow segregation to deny political gains for former slaves. Suppression of Black voters and efforts to show that Whites were still in charge were strengthened, the symbol of which are the monuments for confederate generals installed after the war, even though they lost the war.
  • The verb “to grandfather” (to exempt from new legislation or rules) arose from these efforts. Since the newly freed slaves were illiterate, a new requirement was promulgated that a voter must be able to read and write. This would have resulted in disenfranchising all the whites who were illiterate. To get around it and to enable the affected whites to vote, an exception was carved out — “if your grandfather was allowed to vote, then you get to vote.” Obviously, the newly freed slaves’ grandfathers were not allowed to vote.  Hence the VERB grandfather!
  • Women fought through the Suffragist Movement to get voting rights obtained in the 19th Amendment adopted in 1920, 131 years after independence in 1776. Only in 1924 were Native Americans allowed to vote. Voting rights to all was granted in the Indian Constitution at the outset of 1950. The vigorous efforts of the Indian Election Commission to facilitate all to vote stands in stark contrast to US history, where we still are discussing voter suppression efforts.

An undisputed star of the mechanics of the Indian election is the Electronic Voting Machine, each costing about US$250. These are designed and built by Bharat Electronics Limited, Bengaluru; and Electronics Corporation of India, Hyderabad.  They are stand-alone battery-operated digital devices not connected to the internet.  The same engineers who work on India’s atomic weapon systems and ballistic missiles worked on designing the EVM.  In the US, voting methods vary from state to state.  Some states still use paper ballots. With these electronic devices in India, the election results are out within fifteen hours after the start of the counting of over 600 million votes.

The US likes to bill itself as the beacon of democracy in the world.  The next time you read a patronizing article about Indian elections in the Western press, just be knowledgeable about the history of the mechanics of US democracy vs. the Indian one.   ♠


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