Archive for category January 2014

Vested Interests Feed the US Angst on India

By Kollengode S Venkataraman

•   When it was made known last October that Narendra Modi could be the prime ministerial candidate of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for the elections in April 2014, The New York Times’ Editorial Board wrote a scathing piece (http://tinyurl.com/nyt-modi-Edit) blaming Modi for the 2002 Godhra communal violence, among other things. However, as the editorial itself noted, Indian Supreme Court’s Special Investigating Team, (SIT) appointed to inquire into the Godhra communal violence, cleared Modi of any wrongdoing. Besides, Modi is in his fourth successive term as Gujarat’s popularly elected chief minister; and under his rule, Gujarat has become better on many fundamental measures. Read Milan Vaishnav here: http://tinyurl.com/Crngy-Endmnt.

•  The US Government denied Chief Minister Modi diplomatic visa in 2005. New Delhi protested only through bureaucrats, not through cabinet ministers. The US Embassy in Delhi interpreted India’s muted protest thus (www.tinyurl.com/ncrpl4k): India’s UPA government, after having “gone through the motions” by protesting the U.S. decision, was “unlikely to ratchet up the pressure further.” This is no way to treat a business-friendly, forward-looking, and a popular elected leader. After all, all governments expediently give visas even to unsavory, corrupt foreign leaders.

• In mid-November in 2013, a bipartisan resolution (H.R. 417) introduced in the US Congress praised the US government for its 2005 decision to deny Gujarat Chief Minister and BJP Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi a visa to enter the U.S. The resolution urged the US “to publicly oppose the exploitation of religious differences and denounce harassment and violence against religious minorities, especially in the run-up to India’s general elections in 2014.”

Without naming Modi or BJP, the House resolution says, “Contrary to the tolerant and pluralistic traditions of the Hindu faith, strands of the Hindu nationalist movement have advanced a divisive and violent agenda that has harmed the social fabric of India.” The proposed House resolution also recommends that the US-India Strategic Dialogue raise the issue of religious freedom and related human rights “directly with federal and state Indian Government officials when appropriate.” The US Congress introduces resolutions like this only at the urging of the Administration or heavy lobbying from social, political, and religious groups to sway the outcome of Indian national elections in April.

That aside, replacing “Hindu” with “Christian” and “India” with “US” in the resolution, one can see parallels between India and the US. It is educative here to  know the Baptist-Presbyterian Christian majority’s intolerance (http://tinyurl.com/Mizo-Intlrns) towards Sikhs and Hindus in India’s Mizoram. Such incidents are rarely reported in the West.

If this is what the US Congress members want, they can visit India or  ask the US. Embassy officials in India to meet with Indian elected leaders like Mr. Modi with civility due to any popularly elected leader. Or they could invite Mr. Modi to visit the US to hear him out. But this will not happen, given the hold of lobbyists on the US governments. Consider these:

•  Since the right to make representation to government is enshrined in the US Constitution, professional lobbying by agents on behalf of vested interests is how things get done in Washington. According to Reuters, Washington has over 12,000 registered federal lobbyists. But seven times that number, or 90,000 people (excluding support staff) from diverse business, political, social, and religions backgrounds are engaged in lobbying that do not fit the legal definition of a registered lobbyist.

•  And several resourceful Christian denominations whose enshrined creed is proselytizing all over the world (often not caring for local sensitivities) have great influence on elected, appointed, and military officials in the US at every level. India with its over one billion people is a free and fascinatingly diverse country on many measures including faith—more so than many European nations. So India, with its 80% Hindu population that is loose, diverse, stratified, fragmented and poor, is a soft target for increasing the market share of proselytizing religions like Christianity (and Islam) that aggressively seek converts. Proselytizing is something they cannot easily do in China, Indonesia, Pakistan, Malaysia, or Bangladesh, not to mention the Middle East, Central Asia, even Russia.

•  And then we have influential commentators, social scientists and economists in India and the US (most of them Indians and Indian-Americans), educated to gaze at India only through Western lenses and paradigms. These people are intellectually incapable or unwilling even to consider alternative narratives and approaches for understanding and addressing India’s complex social and economic issues.

These factors synergistically influence official US policies on India to serve the interests of these special interest groups.  ♦

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A New Gandhi Mural in Squirrel Hill

By Premlata Venkataraman

In late October, Som Sharma, a long-time resident of Monroeville, told us of a 15’ x 20’ mural of Mohandas Gandhi. This mural was painted on a wall in Squirrel Hill by OM, a student organization at CMU. Via e-mail we contacted Vijay Jayaram, President of OM, an organization committed to Hindu spirituality and culture at CMU that spearheaded the project. Their website states their mission: “To provide a venue for students to enjoy the richness of Hindu spirituality and its associated culture… [and] learn about the universal ideals of the Hindu dharma.”

Gandhi MuralOM’s members wanted to “permanently memorialize Mohandas Gandhi in Pittsburgh” through a large mural, which required multiple skill sets, commitment and hard work so that “students could appreciate the legacy and enduring relevance of Gandhi’s message.”

Working with MLK Mural, a Pittsburgh-based organization that paints murals around the city and the Squirrel Hill Urban Council, OM at CMU held a design contest for proposals from artists and designers. They selected the design submitted by Adelaide Cole, a senior Art major at CMU. MLK Mural’s director Kyle Holbrook gave OM-CMU all the artistic and technical details and support needed for creating the mural.

The rest was all a labor of love for the students and volunteers who joined them in this mission. Most of the mural painting was completed on Sunday, October 6th when AHINSA had organized the Gandhi Day at Frick Auditorium (Story here). MLK Mural completed the work with critical finishing touches and weatherproofing, which took several days.

From start to finish, it took two months. MLK Mural took responsibility for finding the location and obtaining permits. When Holbrook of MLK Mural approached Mr. Victor Barboza, who owns Coriander, the Indian restaurant on Murray Avenue, he readily gave the OK to use the outer wall of his restaurant for the mural. Barboza is from Karwar, Karnataka and grew up in Mumbai. Gandhi’s commitment to peace and nonviolence made it easy to get community support.

OM and MLK Mural made the on-site painting of the mural open to anyone. Students from CMU and Pitt, citizens from Squirrel Hill, and even random passersby participated. The actual painting was done on the weekend so as not to conflict with classes. But the students did spend lots of their free time earlier to plan, promote and get the job done.

“We at OM thank MLK Mural for all their help in finalizing the design details, and finding a nice place for the mural.  We also thank Mr. Victor Barboza for generously giving permission for using his restuarant’s outer wall for the mural,” said Jayaram.  ♦

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Gandhiji’s Message is as Relevant Today

By Rashmi K. Ravindra, Pittsburgh, PA        e-mail:  rashmi.rkoka@gmail.com

In this year’s Gandhi Remembrance Day, the keynote speaker, Prof. Ed Brantmeier emphasized how interconnected and interdependent our lives are, something we do not always recognize in our individualistic and “atomistic” pursuits. His message was: Recognizing this holistic nature of life is necessary to reduce conflicts both within and without, individually and also collectively. We need to walk together doing service to others and living in harmony.  Brantmeier is the Assistant Director for Faculty Innovation and Assistant Professor at the College of Education, Gandhi Center at James Madison University in Virginia.

Gandhi Keynote Speaker on Stage

Prof. Ed Brantmeier in a pensive mood on stage.

The event was held at the Frick Fine Arts Auditorium in Oakland on Sunday, October 6 under the aegis of AHINSA (Alliance for Humanitarian Initiatives Non-violence and Spiritual Advancement), an organization founded by our long-time resident, Mr. Som Sharma of Monroeville.

Brantmeier walked his audience through breathing exercises and meditation and asked them to talk to each other’s nearest neighbors on any topic. My neighbor spoke to me on peace and his travel to India with his family. The idea was to make people open up with each other.

The choice of the eclectic Brantmeirer as this year’s keynote speaker was most appropriate. As a Fulbright Scholar he studied at the Banares Hindu University. He is the co-author of Spirituality, Religion & Peace Education, among others works.  The book looks into the teachings and practices of Buddhism, Christianity, Confucianism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Quakers & Sufis, and focuses on the impact of competition, consumerism and materialism in the current education system.

Ed Brantmeier playing the Peace Song on the Native American bamboo flute.

Ed Brantmeier playing the Peace Song on the Native American bamboo flute.

Brantmeier was emphatic that children need to be taught the principles of peace very early. Given the poverty in many parts of the world, society, he said, has an obligation to teach financial literacy and basic education even for rag-picker kids.  Children can learn the power of words and numbers through such basic literacy.
Brantmeier connected very well with his audience by referring to current issues in our education system, by emphasizing the need for unity and not duality. Stressing on the theme of vasudeva kudumbam (Sanskrit, meaning “We all belong to a large universal family”), he rendered the melodious peace song Blooming on the Native American flute.

The program also included a panel discussion moderated by N Srinivasa from the S V Temple, with Rabbi Art Donsky (Jewish, Temple Ohav Shalom), Sanjay Mehta (Hindu, Hindu-Jain Temple), and Dr Azmat Qayyum (Islamic, CAIR) as panelists. The panel covered diverse topics including the political stalemate in Washington DC between the Democrats and the Republicans.

Sharma, Srinivasa et al at Gandhi Day

N Srinivasa, Prof. Ed Brantmeier , Som Sharma and another speaker of the day.

Abhijit Joshi, Seethalakshmi Madhavan and Saraswati Chelleuri sang melodious Bhajans. Children and young adults spoke on Gandhi’s impact and relevance through history and even today in conflict resolution.

Earlier, Jennifer Creamer of the Asian Studies Center of the University of Pittsburgh, stressed how relevant Gandhi’s teachings are today, with distrust and violence running amok in many parts of the world, including the US.  Som Sharma, the founder of AHINSA introduced the keynote speaker, and Srinivasa emceed the program with organizational help from Sanjay Mehta.  Vijayasekhar Reddy offered the customary Vote of Thanks.  ♦

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Manna Dey – A Tribute to the Legend

By Samar Saha    e-mail:  samar_k_saha@yahoo.com

MANNA DEY PIC

Manna Dey

Manna Dey, the senior-most among the musical legends of Bollywood’s golden era, died on October 24, 2013 in Bangalore. Mohammad Rafi, Mukesh, Kishore Kumar, and Manna Dey made up the “famous quartet of singers” who dominated the Hindi film music from 1950s to 1980s.  In an illustrious career spanning seven decades since 1943, Manna Dey sang over 3,500 songs. His oeuvre boasts of a range of songs—Hindustani and Karnatic classicals, Qawwalis, romantic love songs, western dance numbers and fun-filled folk songs.

Childhood: Probodh Chandra Dey, known by his stage name Manna Dey, was born to Mahamaya and Purna Chandra Dey on May 1, 1919 in north Calcutta. He attended Scottish Church Collegiate School and graduated from Vidyasagar College. Inspired by his paternal uncle, Sangeeta-acharya Krishna Chandra Dey (K.C.Dey), he began taking music lessons from him and Ustad Dabir Khan from an early age.

Early Career: In 1942, Manna Dey went to Bombay with his uncle K.C.Dey and worked as an assistant music director for him, then for S.D.Burman and others, before working independently as a music director. He continued to learn Hindustani music from Ustads Aman Ali Khan and Abdul Rahman Khan. Manna Dey got his break in playback singing in the movie Tamanna in 1942. He sang a duet with Suraiya Jago Aayee Usha Ponchi Boley Jago, an instant hit. Between 1945 and 1947, his songs, both solo and duets with Suraiya, Meena Kapoor, and Amira Bai, became chart busters. His first songs for S.D.Burman, Upar Gagan Vishal and Duniya Ke Logo in Mashal (1950) were super hits. From 1952 Manna Dey diversified as a lead singer in Bengali and Marathi films.

Peak Years – 1953 to 1969: In his peak from 1953 to 1969, he recorded 758 Hindi songs, 631 of them between 1957 and 1969. He worked with all leading music directors—Anil Biswas, Naushad, Shankar Jaikishan, S.D. & R.D. Burman, Laxmikant Pyare Lal, Vasant Desai, Avinash Vyas, S.N.Tripathi, Nissar Bazmi, O.P.Nayyar, G.Ramanathan, T.G.Lingappa, Salil Choudhuri , C.Ramachandra, among others.

Mellowed Years – 1970 to 1991:  With resurgence of Kishore Kumar in the 1970s with his folk, pop, western and light classical songs, it appeared that careers of Mukesh, Rafi and Manna Dey would be over. Not so. He received a fresh lease of life in Bollywood from 1971 after Rajesh Khanna persuaded music directors to picturize or feature Manna Dey’s songs in films. After recording over 500 songs in Hindi films during 1970-83, he became selective of the kinds of songs he chose to lend his voice to, opting to do less work in Hindi.
Other Indian Languages: He also sang in Bengali, Assamese, Oriya, Marathi, Gujarati, Kannada, Malayalam, Bhojpuri, and Nepali. His solo and duet film Malayalam songs under Salil Choudhri in Chemmeen— Maanasamaine Varoo and Chemba Chemba—were super hits. Similarly Kannada film songs like Jayate, Jayate, Satyameva Jayate and Kuhu Kuhu are still as popular as when they first came out. His Guajarati and Marathi songs similarly were major hits. Manna Dey sang over 1250 Bengali songs. His voice spanned the whole of India.

Personal Life: In 1953 Manna Dey married Sulochana Kumaran. They had two daughters, Shuroma (b. 1956) and Sumita (b. 1958). Sulochana died in January 2012. After her death, Dey moved to Bangalore after 50-plus years in Bombay. Manna Dey, for all his accomplishments, lived a simple, elegant life, even doing his own daily groceries!

My Tribute: A part of me has moved on with Manna Dey. I am not sad to see him go. Ninety-four years of life is a great age to end. Why would anyone wish to struggle and crawl through another day after having done all that one could?  How did he feel not seeing someone younger and better than him? I never met Manna Dey. If I had, I would have asked him about this. Well Manna-da, you have done so well for all of us.  Now you rest well.

Sources consulted for this story:

  1. Autobiography in Bengali, Jeeboner Jalsaghorey, Ananda Publishers, Kolkata.
  2. Autobiography, Memories Come Alive, Penguin Books, A biography in Bengali, Manna Dey
  3. Mannyoboreshu, by Dr Gautam Roy, Anjali Publishers, Kolkata.
  4. Manna Dey’s obituary in The Times of India by Avijit Ghosh.

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Designing Indian Weddings Our Specialty

By Rana Khan, Pearl Celebrations
Phone: 412-721-0924     e-mail:  rana@pearlceleb.com

Editor’s Note: Rana lives with her family in South Hills.

Rana picture

Ms. Rana Khan

Living in Pittsburgh and having gone to Indian weddings all my life, I realize how much planning and organizing go into making the event elegant and unique. In India, with large extended families get-ting into the act, this is not difficult. But here in the United States, bringing together all the elements of mandap, flowers, linens, and lighting is quite a feat. Having close ties to India while growing up here makes me better understand what a desi bride is looking for to create her dream wedding.  I have professional experience in academic research as well as corporate IT and management. With these diverse skills combined with a love for creative design and experience, we organize distinctive and memorable events.

More importantly, we realize that wedding planning is not only for large elaborate weddings. We also design weddings where the parties want modest, yet elegant and aesthetic celebrations. Using our services, you will make informed choices for elegant décor that fit within your budget. As a premier event-planning company, we work with our commitment that each event is unique, deserving our greatest respect and consideration. From total-event-planning to coordination services to décor-only, no event is too large or small for us.

mantap for rana storyAll our mandaps are custom-made in India, but we also design and create stages here and incorporate current wedding trends in our designs while keeping the Indian touch. We help families in choosing linens, creating floral centerpieces, and everything they need to design a unique and beautiful event. We can do as little or as much as you need.

Often Indian weddings are conducted at short notice. We’ve organized weddings with one-month notice! Six months is ample lead time for a well-organized event. We also plan baby showers, engagement parties, birthday events and anniversaries. So, for your next event, give us a call and leave the design and planning worries to us.

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Absurd Ways We Use English Phrases

By Kollengode S Venkataraman

“I have travelled across the length and breadth of India and I have not seen one person who is a beggar, who is a thief; such wealth I have seen in this country, such high moral values, people of such calibre, that I do not think we would ever conquer this country unless we break the very backbone of this nation, which is her spiritual and cultural heritage and, therefore, I propose that we replace her old and ancient education system, her culture; for if the Indians think that all that is foreign and English is good and greater than their own, they will lose their self-esteem, the native culture, and they will become what we want them, a truly dominated nation”.   —  Thomas Babington Macaulay in his address to the British Parliament in 1835.

The way Indians indiscriminately use English expressions not realizing their contextual absurdities, Macaulay will be both pleased and wincing in his grave.  Consider these:

•  The Deccan Chronicle published out of Hyderabad, India, recorded the death of Lalgudi Jayaraman, the violin maestro, thus: “The mortal remains of violin maestro Lalgudi Jayaraman were laid to rest here on Tuesday.” Jayaraman was not “laid to rest,” a nuanced expression for burying the dead. But Jayaraman was cremated. In the very next sentence, the Chronicle writes without realizing the absurdity, “His son… Krishnan lit the pyre … … at the crematorium…” (Reference:  http://www.tinyurl.com/Lalgudi-Death). It did not say how Krishnan could light the pyre after laying to rest his father’s mortal remains.

Here is another beauty: An anglicized reader comments thus on a Narendra Modi story in The Hindu: “Sardar Vallabhai Patel must be turning in his grave over the controversy roused by N.Modi… … that Pandit Nehru and Patel had differences of opinion.” It is impossible for Sardar Patel to turn in his grave because he too was cremated.

•  Here is a gem from the Hindustan Times on the declining Indian economy. (Reference: http://tinyurl.com/pdlg7pp) :

“The sharp slide in the rupee is likely to knock up prices of almost everything along the value chain from farm to fork, effectively negating gains from a potentially bountiful summer harvest…”

How many people in India use forks while eating even in India’s metros? In India people routinely and elegantly eat using their fingers. This type of writing betrays how disengaged India’s English reporters are from their background. Was the writer looking for alliterative words?  Then farms to fingers or the euphonious farms to palms is closer to the Indian reality.

•  During memorial services for deceased Hindus, we routinely hear “May his/her soul rest in peace,” a solemn expression they hear in the burial services of Christians.

However, as followers of the Dharma-based religions, what we seek while living—but rarely get, we must acknowledge—is freedom from yo-yoing from one extreme to the other, from sukham/duhkham (happiness/unhappiness), success/failure, profit/loss, pleasure/pain, etc. This is the typical way our undisciplined mind responds to outside events. And so, what we wish at the end of our sojourn on earth is that at least at our departure we transcend these pairs of opposites and merge into Brahman/Paramatman, the Primordial Source we believe we came from. There is a precise non-translatable term for this—Mukti or Moksha in Sanskrit, or veedu in Tamil, which approximately means freedom or liberation [from the pairs of opposites].

This is what happens to people when they uproot themselves from their culture even while living in India and fall head over heels to get Anglicized. You have seen similar laughable absurdities in our use of English phrases without any discernment (vivekam). Please share your observations with readers in this space. We all can laugh at ourselves.  Such laughter will help us to be careful so that we mean what we write/say.   ♦

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Alberto Pinto Kyoon Hasta Hai? Aur London Gora Kyoon Rota Hai? *

The Blowback for the Colonial Occupation

By Kollengode S Venkataraman

Translation of the Hindi Title:  Why Is Alberto Pinto Laughing and the London Gora Crying?

I remember the title of an artsy 1980s Hindi film Alberto Pinto ko Gussa Kyoo Ata Hai? — Why is Alberto Pinto Getting Angry? — with Nasruddin Shah as the lead. The film revolved around a good Goan auto mechanic (Nasruddin Shah) in Mumbai who keeps his affluent customers happy. He gets angry at workers who go on strike since he believes that if you work hard and emulate the rich, one day you too will be rich. Towards the end of the film Alberto is still angry, not at the workers, but at the exploitative Indian capitalists.

Now, all Goans like Alberto Pinto born before 1961 have a rare opportunity not only to smile, but also to have their last laugh at the twists and turns of history and globalization that they could now exploit to their advantage.

Goa, along the balmy Arabian Sea in India, was a Portuguese colony since 1510. The Portuguese colonial occupiers in Goa, under the leadership of  Francis Xavier, the Catholic missionary born Francisco de Jasso y Azpilicueta in Spain, unleashed the atrocious and well-documented Goan Inquisition on Hindus living in their occupied colonized land. He was later canonized as St. Xavier, after whom the upscale and very fashionable college in Bombay is named.  After independence in 1947, India militarily liberated Goa in 1961.

Understandably, the Portuguese, calling it “invasion,” determined that people of its occupied territory were forced(!) to take Indian citizenship involuntarily. So, Portugal declared that Goans born before 1961 and their children were eligible for Portuguese citizenship.

Several Goans did take up the offer and went to Portugal — about 80,000 of them are in Portugal by one estimate, and many are doing very well. But for most Goans used to their balmy Konkan weather, easy-going lifestyle, food, and Goa’s syncretic culture, the idea of living in Portugal had no appeal. After all, Portugal is Europe’s poor cousin, its economy worse than India’s in the European context. And most younger Goans were unfamiliar with the Portuguese language and culture.

But since 2011, there has been a sudden surge in the number of Goans applying for Portuguese citizenship —some 2,000 every year.  This has created consternation not only in Lisbon, but also in London.  You may wonder why. Here is the reason:

Portugal joined the European Union (EU) in 2011. For these Goans seeking a Portuguese passport, Lisbon is only a stopover. Their destination is further north, London, to be exact. This is because the EU rules allow citizens of member-states to live and work anywhere in EU. The EU is like India — polyglot, multicultural, multi-ethnic, and multiculinary—and Goans will fit right in with their pheni, vindaloo, and Konkani too.

That is where the rub is for the Brits. The Brits are afraid. They know that the Goans applying for Portuguese passports are heading to London via Lisbon. And once they are in London with their red Portuguese passports, they are eligible for the UK state benefits. The Deccan Chronicle reports that in one small UK town, there are 8000 Goans with Portuguese passports having their Church services in Konkani. “This loophole must be closed,” declared Migration Watch, a Right-leaning UK think tank.

Indians who don’t exactly have complimentary feelings towards The Empire Where The Sun Never Set until it collapsed under its own weight, can smirk at the discomfiture of the Brits. After all, situations like these are the blowback not only for Britain, but also for other erstwhile European colonial powers — France, Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands, and Portugal — who were trigger-happily colonizing the whole of the Indian subcontinent and most of Africa in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Even the Portuguese, being the poor cousin in the EU, can join the Indians in laughing at the Brits’ discomfiture.

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Phipps Conservatory Celebrates Diwali

Lighting up the Indian Tropical Rainforest

By Priya Ranganathan   e-mail: prr29@pitt.edu

Note:  Priya is a junior at the University of Pittsburgh majoring in Environmental Studies and Biology with a certificate in South Asian Studies.

Priya

Priya Ranganathan

One of Pittsburgh’s most beloved attractions—Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens—celebrated Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, on October 25 from 7 to 10 pm in the India Tropical Rainforest exhibit.  The celebration showcased Indian dance, music, and most importantly, Indian food.

The atmosphere crackled with good spirits and excitement, with tiny lamps shining from in between the lush green leaves and behind flowers, and strains of Indian music wafting along the paths. With the fragrance of jasmine perfuming the air, the event attracted a diverse crowd: Indians, Americans, adults, college students, and children. “There was just a feeling of incredible joy,” said event coordinator Dr. Ritu Thamman, a Pittsburgh resident. Dr.Thamman also added: “This is a historic moment because Phipps has been around for so many years but this is the first time they are celebrating Diwali.”

The program began on time with dance recitals by youngsters from the Pittsburgh area. Among the performances were a set of Bharatanatyam dances by the senior students of Guru Jaya Mani of Slippery Rock. Other items were upbeat Bollywood dances, including students of the Guiding Star Dance Foundation based in Sewickley. Then lively Bollywood music serenaded guests as they walked among the flowers absorbing the ambience. Guests could sample the delicious food from Billu’s Indian Grill and get henna designs applied by members of Pittsburgh’s Indian community.  Diyas dotted every surface and hanging flower garlands and bright banners attracted the eye. Colourful tablecloths draped artistically over tables and across the walls of the hall created the feel of an Indian setting.

The guests at the event came away with a newfound understanding of and respect for one of India’s best-loved festivals. University of Pittsburgh sophomore, Stefan Poost, said: “It’s a very warm ambiance that makes me think of India.” While most of the guests were Indian, the non-Desi guests had a chance to learn about India and Hinduism. Additionally, event sponsor Andrew Watson said, “I’m impressed by the number of people watching the program… it’s a nice blending of two cultures.”

The Phipps Conservatory successfully created a forum fostering international awareness and appreciation that is important in our multicultural community here in Pittsburgh. Learning about Diwali, one of the most-widely celebrated festivals in the world, is one way for Pittsburgh to embrace its international flavor.  We hope that Phipps will continue to host such festivals in the years to come!   ♦

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On Immigration Reform

By Mark Harley, Schneck & Harley Immigration Law Group, LLP
Phone 412 532 1374 Ext 102     e-mail: mharley@shimmigration.com

Editor’s note:  The author is the immediate past chair of the Pittsburgh Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association and is a partner in Schneck & Harley Immigration Law Group, LLP.  He also served as an Immigration Advisor to a Member of Congress.

The United States Congress has recently taken up the issue of Immigration Reform.  Some may recall that this was a hot topic several years ago, and was a key agenda item of former President George W. Bush.  However, due to a number of reasons that proposed reform stalled and never became law.

After the elections of 2012, both Democrats and Republicans again turned to the topic of Immigration Reform and it looked like the government was finally going to act.  Both parties recognized that the present immigration system is crippled and needs overhauled.  The question is how to do so?

Arising out of these discussions about reform, the Senate passed S. 744, the “Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act” on June 27, 2013. However, the House of Representatives is currently pursuing their own agenda with immigration reform and piecemeal bills.  The House of Representatives is unlikely to review the Senate version of the bill and comprehensive immigration reform appears to have again stalled until the House bill is introduced.

There is much discussion of the proposals in the Senate bill, but as a keen observer of the U.S. political process will know, the final resulting law seldom looks like the proposed bill.  With a topic as complex as immigration reform and no House bill yet, any attorney should tell you that it is best to be overly cautious and not speculate on this topic until an actual law is signed.  Please use caution and always seek the advice of an attorney whose primary practice is immigration law.   Additionally, no attorney should be signing up any cases until reform is passed.

Nevertheless, one must also be aware of the provisions in the Senate bill and its positives and negatives.  It is important to ensure that the favorable provisions make it into both the House bill and the final law.  The best action that you can take is to contact your U.S. Representative and U.S. Senators and ask that they support favorable immigration reform.  You should ask your elected representatives to take out any provisions that you do not agree with.

In the context of family immigration, the Senate proposal is to reduce the extreme backlog, however, it also harms family reunification by eliminating the ability of U.S. citizens to petition for their siblings or adult married sons and daughters over the age of 31.  If this affects you, now is the time to contact your elected officials.

NOTE: The November 2013 Visa Bulletin lists the wait times for India as follows:  Unmarried Sons and Daughters of U.S. Citizens – October 22, 2006;  Spouses and Children of Permanent Residents – September 8, 2013; Unmarried Sons and Daughters (21 years of age or older) of Permanent Residents – March 22, 2006; Married Sons and Daughters of U.S. Citizens – February 8, 2003; Brothers and Sisters of Adult U.S. Citizens – August 22, 2001.

In the context of business immigration, while the process for Permanent Immigration seems to be favorable, the reforms come at the expense of temporary immigrants (H-1Bs and L-1s) whose employers will face new requirements that may discourage them from filing the applications in the first place.  If this affects you, now is the time to contact your elected officials.

NOTE: The October 2013 Visa Bulletin lists the wait times for India as follows:  EB-1:  Priority Workers (extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics through sustained national or international acclaim) – Current; EB-2:  Members of the Professions Holding Advanced Degrees or Persons of Exceptional Ability – June 15, 2008; EB-3:  Skilled Workers, Professionals and Other Workers – September 22, 2003; EB-5 (investors) – Current.

The next few months will possibly determine the future of the immigration system for years and generations to come.  Now is the time to make your opinions known.  ♦

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YouTube Takes Indian Cuisines to New Heights

By Premlata Venkataraman

When it is time to make Diwali sweets I am filled with excitement and anticipation. In the beginning it is all optimism with a lurking doubt that not everything will come out a success! With a 2-year old grandson to introduce to the Diwali festivities, I was very excited.

What was surprising this year was I didn’t have to look at my voluminous recipe folder even once! Those painstakingly collected recipes from mothers and mothers-in-law, friends and foes alike. These were hand-written using pens of all colors on scraps paper — one even in a crayon!! My collection adorned with numerous stains, make sense only to me.

Then came the Internet and YouTube. All I did was to scour the web for recipes and came up with a list. I got not only the recipe, but also techniques in video clips from a plethora of web sources.  It was so much fun researching the techniques, evaluating them and wondering if they would translate into my old favorites.

Finally, the wonderful and wide-ranging cuisines of India—with many different regional flavorful variations for the same item—have been elevated onto the world stage. It is about time! Many Indian women—and a few Indian men as well—all excellent in their culinary skills, have found a medium in YouTube to share with others  their recipes with step-by-step instructions, easy to follow even for novices.

Techniques and shortcuts to simplify recipes, microwaving to reduce long stove-times, and health-conscious suggestions to reduce calorie counts have pretty much erased the mystique in making Indian sweets and snacks. With detailed video clips showing the critical stages, there are no more hidden secrets—it is all out there for the curious cook to discover.

Here are the items I made this Deepavali. Pedas that reduced prep time to 15 minutes using the microwave from www.showmethecurry.com. Gulab Jamuns from www.madhurasrecipes.com taught in the pleasant voice of a woman old enough to be my daughter!! Of course, Manjula’s Kitchen hosted by Manjula Jain, taught me so many techniques for eating healthy, and is now my go-to site for making dinner.  The reduced-fat recipe for Mysore Paak from Jeyashri’s Kitchen cut down sugar and ghee by half allowing me an almost guilt-free indulgence of this calorie-laden sweet.

Thattais and murukkus I got from Raks Kichen, and for the delicious Andhra recipes I go to Sanjay Thumma’s Vahrehvah.com. And of course, Sanjeev Kapoor’s  khanakhazana.com is my teacher for recipes for the delicious items made on the streets of Mumbai to the villages in Punjab!

So I brought Diwali 2013 into my home through the Internet.

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Obituary: Dr. Harakh Vasanj Dedhia (1947-2013)

Decades of Dedicated Service in Critical Care in Morgantown, WV

By Mohindar Singh Seehra, Morgantown, WV   e-mail: Mohindar.Seehra@mail.wvu.edu

Dedhia PictureDr. Harakh Vasanj Dedhia, 66, professor of medicine at the Health Sciences Center (HSC) of West Virginia University (WVU), and a prominent pillar of the Indian-American community in the Morgantown region in WV passed away on September 1, 2013 after a courageous battle with lung cancer. He was a non-smoker and a vegetarian.

After graduating from the Grant Medical College, Bombay (1970), Dr. Dedhia completed his residency and fellowship in the US during 1972- 1977 in internal medicine. He joined WVU’s HSC as a faculty member in 1979, becoming the medical-surgical director of the intensive care unit (ICU) in 1983. His medical career was devoted to understanding and treating acute shock, acute respiratory failure and related problems of ICU patients.

An active researcher with over 140 publications and  book chapters on critical care, he led over 30 single- and multi-center clinical trials. Well-liked by patients and colleagues, he received many awards from WVU Hospitals. A plaque reading “In grateful appreciation of our friend and colleague Harakh V. Dedhia MD for his years of service to patients in the medical intensive care unit at Ruby Memorial Hospital” will be placed at the entrance to the ICU. In honor of his parents, he established the WVU Sarkaba V. Dedhia Pulmonary Critical Care Fund, income from which is now used to train future doctors in critical care.

The funeral service at McCulla Funeral Home in Morgantown attended by over 200 people on September 3, 2013. Afterward Dr. Dedhia’s mortal remains were cremated following Hindu rites led by Shri Suresh Chandra Joshi of the Pittsburgh’s Hindu-Jain Temple. A Memorial Service celebrating Dr. Dedhia’s dedicated life was held on September 7, 2013 at the Riverside Apostolic Church in Morgantown. Following bhajan singing by family members and Shri Joshiji, colleagues, family and friends paid heart-felt tributes to Dr. Dedhia for his inspiring humanitarianism, humility and pride; and for his compassion towards working for the greater good. A prayer by Anuja (Dr. Dedhia’s wife) and a 2-minute silence for the departed soul followed by prasad concluded the ceremony.

Dr.Dedhia leaves behind his loving wife Anuja, three sisters & four brothers & their families living in India and the U.S, and a large number of friends.  He was inspired by the Jain-Hindu spiritual ethos and traditions.   ♦

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Obituary: Rama Karamcheti (1948-2013), Librarian

By Rama Kalipatnapu Rao      e-mail: ramakrao65@gmail.com

Rama Karamcheti, 65, a resident of Washington, PA passed away on October 2, 2013 in her home after battling multiple myeloma for seven years.  She was born on February 22, 1948 in Vizianagaram, Andhra Pradesh, India.  Her father was a WW II veteran as a physician. In 1969 she married in India Anand Karamcheti, a physician. She came to the US in 1972 with her husband and had two sons Aditya and Deepak. They lived in Morristown, NJ, New York City, and Pittsburgh, before settling down in 1977 in Washington, PA where Anand set up his urology practice.

In 1982 Rama earned her Master’s degree in Library Science from the University of Pittsburgh, attending classes by commuting from Washington, PA to Oakland.  For ten years, she was the head of the reference department at Ohio County Public Library in Wheeling, WV. Later, she was a reference librarian at Citizen’s Library in Washington, PA. As a librarian, she provided remarkable service to the community.

She battled multiple myeloma, which was diagnosed in 2006.  Rama’s simplicity, courage and incredible endurance, serene demeanor, hard work, elegance, friendly nature, and positive outlook are well known to her friends. She never complained of fatigue or other signs of poor health, and kept herself busy with light household activities, grandchildren and friends. She found joy in taking her grandchildren to swimming pools, parks and reading stories from scriptures. She enjoyed helping an ailing friend in need, or having an informal soup party with friends at her home or going out with friends. She never worried about how she was going to be the next day and found joy in spending time with family and friends.

Rama’s parents, Venkata Ramaniah and Suryakantham Praturi, died a few years ago in India. Rama is survived by her husband Anand; elder son Aditya and his wife Erenia; younger son Deepak and his wife Manjula; grandchildren Ram, Anand Jr, Jaya and Kush; and her sisters Shanta in India, Aruna in Boston and brother Srinivas in India.

After a brief private funeral service, Rama was cremated at the Washington Cemetery in Pennsylvania.  Rama’s demise is a great loss to her family and her many friends. ♦

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Ummm mmm mmm… …

Football folks are heroes when they deliver. But when they perform poorly, God save them. All these years, Mike Tomlin was a hero. Earlier this season, Tomlin was hauled over burning coals in the local media.

Half way through the season he was interviewed in November after the disastrous 31-55 loss to the Patriots and a pitiful 2-6 performance.

Tomlin was asked about his confidence in his defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau following the worst statistical performance. The Steelers allowed a franchise-record 55 points and 610 yards against the Patriots.

Reporter: Do you still have confidence in Dick LeBeau’s ability to stop opposing offenses?

Tomlin: Certainly.

Reporter: Why?

Tomlin was terse “Because he’s Dick LeBeau.” He continued: “Does that answer your question?”

If only corporate executives, mayors, and elected church and temple officials would get such “Whys” when their organizations perform badly.

Here is another:  Jonathan Dwyer, a reserve running back in his 4th year with Steelers, was let go last August. Unable to find a place on any of the other NFL team, he was unemployed.

With a long list of injuries this season, Steelers re-hired Dwyer in November. Dwyer performed well against the Browns, rushing for 139 yards, averaging 4.8 yards per carry. Tomlin lauded him for the good job.

When asked if Dwyer has changed because the Steelers released him in late August, Tomlin said, “I would imagine unemployment does that.”

That is how brutal and humiliating the working environment is in NFL.  Would you like to work in an environment like that?

Chanakya’s Sayings:

Chanakya was the advisor for Chandragupta Mourya in the 3rd century before the Common Era, and wrote Artha Shastra, perhaps the oldest book on statecraft.

Who did not become arrogant with wealth and riches?
Which person given to cravings had an end to his troubles?
Whose heart has not been hurt by women?
Who has been dear to rulers forever?
Who has escaped the stealthy march of Time?
Which beggar has dignity?
Who, fallen in bad company, has travelled safely in life?

Here is another Gem from Chanakya:

Proximity means disaster, and being far away is not helpful either.
So, work from the middle with kings, teachers, fires, and women.

From Bhartrhari  — Sanskrit Poetry on the Way of the World;

The Sanskrit poet Bhartrhari lived in the 5th century near Ujjain (today’s Rajasthan, India). A collection of 300 verses of his, Tri-Satakam (literally Three Hundreds), is well known to anyone who has a vague familiarity of Sanskrit and classical Hindi literature. His Tri-Satakam is divided into Niti (proper conduct), Srngaram (sensuality) and Vairagyam (dispassion). Here is one in its original for you to enjoy or ruminate, on which novels are written and films made all over the world:

Bharthari Love PoemHere is the translation:

She who I am constantly thinking about is indifferent to me;
And is desirous of another man.
This other man adores some other woman,
who, in turn, takes delight in me.
Damn her! Damn him! Dam the God of Love!
Damn the other woman! And damn myself!      ♦

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