Archive for category Past issues

Trump’s Bravado Is Counterproductive

By Kollengode S Venkataraman

As a New York real estate tycoon and casino owner in Nevada, Donald Trump’s management style was to keep his subordinates, competition, vendors, clients guessing, and spring surprises in meetings to have an upper hand. But it did not always work for him. His businesses filed for Chapter-11 bankruptcies six times. Trump’s ad hoc working style and blowing hot and cold unabatedly followed him to the Oval Office on appointments, domestic and trade policies, and foreign affairs. This style is bad for running the behemoth called the Government of the United States, whose tentacles in military alliances, intelligence operations, business/trading interests, are spread all over the world.

So, managing US relations with allies and trading partners, and dealing with threats and enemies require a steady hand at the helm to diplomatically coordinate the policies. Thousands of dedicated government officials work for him doing the groundwork for months, even years, to build consensus on complex, sensitive issues, so that in summits, leaders can sign agreements on issues on substance under good optics.

The other G-7 leaders confronting Donald Trump at the G-7 meeting in Canada in May 2018.

Trump’s adhocism on policies makes it difficult, to put it generously, for officials to negotiate on his behalf. He erratically turns the rudder wheel of the huge ship of the State with bluster, as he did in the G-7 meeting in Canada in June. The confrontational picture describes the acrimony in the meeting.

President Trump may think — even believe — that the brashly displaying American raw power in summits will make US allies genuflect before him and scare hostile nations into submission. The “Sole Super Power” sobriquet for the US will be honored by allies — and feared by enemies — only if the US uses its power with discretion and finesse. His bluster and bravado weaken the alliance, only making Russia and China happy.

Even in domestic politics, one wonders if Trump is helping or hurting the GOP by his brazenness.  —  By KSV



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Soft Copies of the As-Printed Past Issues

Here are the soft copies:

       1.    October 2018 Issue of the Patrika

       2.     July 2018 Issue of the Patrika

       3.    April 2018 Issue of the Patrika

       4.    January 2018 issue of the Patrika

       5.    October 2017 Issue of the Patrika

       6.     July 2017 Issue of the Patrika


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India’s One Quintessential Salesman

By Kollengode S Venkataraman

Last December [2017], I was in Coimbatore, in Tamil Nadu, a self-made city built by the enterprising instincts of Kongu Vellalars (Gounders) and Naidus, the two major communities that pretty much built the city and the region surrounding the city from scratch, with practically no support from federal or state governments or investments in public sector companies.  The medical care facilities in primary, secondary and tertiary healthcare in Coimbatore is as good as it is in Chennai, only less expensive.

[One important observation in diversion:  Private sector doctors do not care  —  and perhaps do not even want primary and preventive health care.  After all, with poor emphasis and priority on primary care with its emphasis on preventive medicine, in due course of time, everybody ends up in secondary and tertiary health care facilities, costing several multiple times compared to what preventive care costs.  By far one of the most predatory health care systems in the world is in India.)  That is where all the money is to be made for the healthcare industry in India  — doctors, testing labs, pharma companies, and a horde of healthcare support services.  The tertiary healthcare facility is the ultimate akshaya patram for the doctors and hospitals.  Many working class families without access to hard currency from their sons and daughters in the Persian Gulf, Malaysia, Singapore, and the Gora lands, are on the brink of financial ruins.  This is another topic for another day.]

Kongu Vellalar’s (Gounders’) and Naidus’ footprints are everywhere in Coimbatore and its surrounding area  —  in elementary, primary, secondary education in schools they have build in the names of their parents; 4-year colleges in arts and science; medical and engineering colleges; hospitals, primary care centers and charities in their parents’ names; small and medium businesses and industries; and in supporting temples and patronizing performing arts.  In the arid Kongu region where one needs to go 300 to 400 feet deep to get water, these people of the region also engage in farming and agriculture.  That is how hardworking and enterprising the people in the region are.

We were in the shopping area along Hundred-Feet Road in Coimbatore looking for a Pattu Paavaadai (reshmi lehnga) for my 3-yar old grand daughter. Hundred-Feet Road had several showrooms for silk saris and gold/diamond jewelry. These shops specializing in silks only sell the fabric in pure Kanchi and other specialty silks for Paavaadais for 2 to 12-year old girls. The Paavaadai fabric, like expensive saris, comes with matching material for the blouse integrally woven at one end of the fabric.

My wife and I were debating how the green pavadai would go with the pink/red blouse material for our 3-year old brown grand daughter. The salesman heard our discussion: “Ayya, oru nimisham,” or “Sir, wait an minute.” He continued in Tamil: “I will show you how it would look as a paavaadai-jaaket pair.”

I don’t know what he did, or how he did it. Within 30 seconds, he folded the single piece of silk fabric in a few complicated steps. Bingo! Magically, he made the same piece of fabric look like a paavaadai-blouse pair.

“Ayya, ippa parunga.” Or, “Sir, now you see.” With a smile on his face, he continued in Tamil, “This is how it would look on your grand daughter.”

I asked him to pose for a picture. And here it is.

Needless to say, he was so good, I also ended up buying more material than what I had in mind when I entered the shop. ♣


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Young Men and Women in India Choosing Their Partners on Their Own Is Nothing New

By K S Venkataraman

     Young Indian men and women in the US or in India increasingly choose their own partners now. Parents are usually informed that they are “seeing someone” who they met in college/at work/on online dating sites. In the due course of time, these youngsters eventually settle down in life with their choice of life partners.

Young men and women choosing life partners on their own is not entirely a new phenomenon in India. Literature dated 2500 years before our time has poems describing the lament of parents over their daughter leaving with her beloved without even informing them! Here is an example.

     Aga-Naanooru is an anthology of 400 verses in classical Tamil. Here is the verse in Aga-Naanooru in the original, by the poet Karuvoor Kannambalanaar. (Reference: Aga-Naanooru by Puliyoor Kesikan, Pari Nalayam, Chennai, Verse 263):

The verses in Aga-Naanooru are dated between 600 years BC and 300 years AD. (Incidentally, the UN has declared Tamil as a classical language of the world. The other UN-recognized classical languages are Sanskrit, Mandarin, Greek, Latin, and Hebrew. India is the birthplace of  two of the world’s classical languages.)

     The language in these verses is old classical Tamil that most Tamils of today cannot understand without the help of commentary by scholars.  The gist — not a translation — of the verse is this:

    The Sun making waves in the oceans is worshipped all over the world, But this summer, it has dried the lakes and ponds, making the rich farmlands fallow, thus plunging farmers into poverty. 

     In this hot summer, along a trail through the forest used by people to go from one village to another, in an area with thick foliage, thieves with bows are hiding on higher branches of tall trees to rob travelers. 

     My innocent daughter has left my house eloping with her lover, and now has to travel through the dangerous forest… …

     The neighboring City of Vanji is well protected by Kothai, its courageous spear-bearing king. Even my prosperous farmland is as safe as Vanji.  If only I had known my daughter’s love for her beloved, willingly and without any ill feeling and rancor, I would have arranged the marriage of my virtuous, innocent daughter with a lovely, bright forehead such that her beloved can rest his head on the valley between her still-growing breasts and sleep.  Alas! I cannot do this for her now.

     So, relax and take it easy if your wards go on their own in choosing their life partners. This has been the way of the world all over.  Besides, there is nothing else you can do about it anyway!   ♣


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Weekend in the Only Ice Hotel in Quebec City

By Rahul Dilip Tendulkar, Shaker Heights, Ohio

Editor’s Note: Rahul Dilip Tendulkar was born and raised in Grand Blanc, MI. He went to medical school at the University of Michigan, and finished his residency in radiation oncology at the Cleveland Clinic, where he is at the Taussig Cancer Center. He married Rajani, daughter of Arvind and Deepa Koimattur of Monroeville. The Tendulkars and their two daughters live in the Cleveland Metro area. Rahul enjoys traveling, publishing papers and tennis.

My wife Rajani, daughter of Deepa and Arvind Koimattur of Monroeville, was born on a cold and snowy January day in Pittsburgh in 1978. Naturally, she wanted to spend her milestone 40th birthday not on a warm beach, but rather in an environment similar to the day of her

Rahul and Rajani with their kids in the hotel lobby.

birth. So our family planned a special trip to visit the Hotel de Glace just outside of Quebec City, Canada, which is the only ice hotel in North America. Accompanied by her daughters Parisa and S

amira, myself, and her parents Deepa and Arwind Koimattur, we packed our bags with extreme cold weather gear to withstand the arctic blast that weathermen were predicting to sweep through the continent.

The Hotel de Glace, which is only open from January to March each year, is constructed by local artists who spend weeks putting together the massive structure out of snow and blocks of ice. Like a giant igloo, the indoor temperature remains surprisingly constant around 25 degrees F despite the subzero wind-chill temperatures outdoors.

The hotel is an architectural phenomenon, with a bar, a chapel, and forty-five

Aravind Koimattur enjoying the freezing cold with his wife Deepa and grand kid at the ice hotel.

distinctive guest rooms. The bar area was equipped with bright LED lights, dance music, a fireplace, and drinks served in glasses made of ice — it was quite the party! Intricately designed ice sculptures were there in every corner and even hanging from the arched ceilings.

Each bedroom was uniquely crafted, with beds made of ice and topped by a comfortable mattress with sleeping bags of the same kind as used by explorers

to the North Pole. We carefully tucked in the children first and zipped them up so only their eyes and noses were exposed. Getting ourselves into the sleeping bags proved to be even more tricky, but once we were able to zip ourselves in, our bodies (except for our faces) were remarkably comfortable. As parents, we didn’t sleep much that night, but our children slept like babies. We all woke up with a sense of accomplishment having survived a night outdoors in the coldest place we have ever visited! It was certainly an occasion to remember for the January birthday girl.  ♣


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A Memorable and Nostalgic Train Journey

By Premlata Venkataraman    


Home, country, kinship can mean different things at various stages in your life. Confusing? Maybe not. For those of us who were born in one nation, but now call another our home, these concepts have been shifting. Ponder this: for many of us going to India  on our first visit after being here for several years, it brings forth choking emotions of nostalgia, love for the place and people, self-doubt on our leaving India, even patriotism. However, after a few decades of living in the ‘Burgh, when returning from India, just a glimpse of the Three Perennial Rivers from the plane before landing gives us the relief and comfort of being home.

Mangalore Junction.

With nostalgia, after thirty years, last December, I created an opportunity to travel through the lands where my parents were born and lived until adulthood — small-town Kerala they were from for generations before moving to Bombay, where they raised a family.

We settled on an 8-h long train journey along the West Coast of Southern India from Mangalore to Coimbatore. I had taken this route at least ten times from childhood through my young adulthood. People talk about the past flashing before their eyes. As the train was gently going past several small stations, memories of past images gushed past in my mind as I was looking through the window!

Coconut palms just 50 yards away from the railway track.

We boarded the train early in the morning at Mangalore Junction after going to the famous Mookambika and Udupi Temples. As the early sun was drenching the landscape with light, the train was gently going past a land of coconut groves densely dotting the green paddy fields. Acres and acres of green fields, stretched on a land watered by plenty of streams and rivers.  Backwaters washed over the land, with bobbing fishing boats headed out to the Arabian Sea visible through the window.

One of the countless homes along the track nestled around coconut palms.

The scene was so reminiscent of the many trips I had taken in my childhood traveling from Bombay to Kerala to visit grandparents and family. I distinctly remember now, as you enter Kerala from Coimbatore, the changing landscape from Tamil Nadu was so sudden and dramatic. That is why India has so many diverse languages and food preferences.

Palakkad Junction, nostalgically familiar to those from Kerala.

We passed through Kannur where my maternal grandfather taught mathematics and accounting at the European High School — the grandfather, I remember, wore a linen jacket and a cotton turban. We moved on to Thallassery, famous for black pepper, the home of my mother and her large family, onto Mahe, my father’s hometown. The train chugged on through Badagara where my parents lived for a short time before moving to Bombay. I re-lived the many stories told by my relatives at several family gatherings in my childhood.

About the Indian railways in South India: Having traveled in European and US trains, I must say, the Indian Railways system does an amazing job, when you consider that over 10 million people are on long-distance trains every day, and how relatively affordable the second-class tickets are to average Indians. A great improvement in the trains is new toilets that collect waste products, like in airplanes, leaving the railway tracks en route clean.

Ticket purchase is now as easy as on-line booking of airline tickets. The tickets give all the information of compartment number, (as the rail cars are called in India), its placement on the station platform and seat numbers. You are able to board the train with comfort and with no anxiety. The railway platforms in big stations are typically 1000 yards long. South Indian train stations are clean with enough seating for weary travelers. The longest trains, with 24 rail cars, are over 650 yards long.

Verdant paddy fields in front of coconut palms — a common sight in central Kerala.

The railway staff was courteous and professional. A new development that pleased me was: all employees at stations waving the trains off were women in smart uniforms! Also, now women are in the driver’s seat, running the heavy electric locomotives in suburban trains as well.

The range and quality of food at the South Indian railway stations did not disappoint me. The food and newspaper stalls are all privatized, with lots of local delicacies. Snack packs of salty banana chips, cookies, halwas, crackers, and murukkus are available everywhere.

We had appam and stew for breakfast at the station. Our boxed lunch of rice, sambar and yoghurt too were served fresh.  Nonvegetarian lunches too are available. One suggestion if you are travelling in long-distance trains: Take paper napkins, fork/spoons and bottled water before leaving home; and also some large trash bags to put all the waste you will generate.

The short 8-hour ride through a familiar, beautiful route made me nostalgic. So, if you have the time and the opportunity, travel in a long-distance train in India along a route familiar to you from your younger  days. It is far more interesting than sterile air travel. It will bring back memories that you thought you’ve forgotten long, long ago.  ♣


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A Real Life Humorous Story — How I Became An Artist

By Mahendra Shah   


Editor’s Note:  After earning his degree in architecture from the MS University in Vadodara, Gujarat, Mahendra Shah, migrated to the U.S. in 1974.  Mahendra, a successful entrepreneur and businessman for many years in real estate and retail businesses, is an enthusiastic contributor to the Pittsburgh Indian community. Over the years, he has recorded his humorous observations on immigrant Indians in America in more than 1500 cartoons.  He is also keenly interested in poetry, essays and paintings. His work was originally published by Pittsburgh’s Gujarati magazine and is now featured in several publications and exhibitions.

I was in the 10th grade. Our Gujarati literature class was studying Saraswatichandra, an epic four-volume text written by Govardhanram

Mahendra’s self portrait.

Madhavaram Tripathi. The story is about love, wealth, business, and family. Once a week our teacher, who was also our principal, taught one chapter at a

time. He narrated the story in such a lively fashion that you felt as if the entire scene was being played out right in front of you.

Growing up shy and somewhat reserved. I preferred to sit in the back of the classroom trying to avoid answering questions. I often wandered off into my own thoughts.

In one class the teacher began reading the story in which Saraswatichandra was going from his village to meet his fiancee in her village. He was walking through a wooded forest and ran into a poisonous snake.

As I was listening to the story unfold, my mind began to wander in its usual fashion. I began to doodle in my notebook, at first somewhat aimlessly, but then, the teacher’s words grabbed my attention. As he began describing the poisonous snake creeping closer and closer to Saraswatichandra, I started imagining and drawing the whole scene as a pencil sketch.

All other students were mesmerized by the teacher’s reading of the story. They were frozen in their seats in anticipation of what was to come next. The room was absolutely still except for me. My eyes were glued to my notebook as my fingers were busy doodling and drawing out the scene that the teacher was narrating.

Suddenly, the teacher’s eyes set on me and he noticed that unlike the other students, my attention was not fully on him. He stood from his chair and menacingly stared at me. I was frozen stiff. I was certain I was in an enormous amount of trouble. I had never been this frightened in my entire life.

He knew I was doing something in the notebook. He called me to his desk. As I rose from my chair, raising his voice, he said, “Bring your notebook too. I want to see what is so important that it drew you away from my lesson.”

I approached the teacher with my notebook and was terrified of what would come next. Immediately, he asked me to hand over the notebook and opened it to the page full of my doodles. As he looked closer and closer at my notebook, his face stiffened. I was sweating in fear. I was expecting the worst.

Several seconds passed as he riffled through all the pages. Slowly, I saw that his frown was gone.  When he finally began to talk, he showed the entire class my sketch of the story. He praised my drawings and said that they were the best narration of the story!

I felt such a sense of relief. Not only was I not in trouble, but from that day on, I was known as the “Resident Artist” of the school. I was commissioned to execute all art-related projects — posters, banners, and others — for school events.

After my education, I married and came to the United States. The responsibilities that came along with work and family made me put my art on the back burner, but I always kept doodling or sketching in my spare time.

Our children had grown and started lives of their own. Several years ago my daughter and son-in-law were visiting us. They had just moved to a city only a couple of hours from Pittsburgh.

When I returned from work in the evening, I was surprised to find my daughter exploring my art portfolio. It had been sitting in the attic for years, and I had nearly forgotten about it. In fact, we were preparing to move to a new house, and the album was meant to go into the trash pile!

My daughter asked, “Dad, would it be alright if I take a few pieces of your artwork with me?”

“Of course, you can. I was going to throw those away anyway.”

A few weeks later, we went to visit them in their new apartment. When we entered the house, to my utter surprise and delight, I saw a few of my paintings and drawings hanging nicely on the walls. They were framed aesthetically too. I was so touched. It felt wonderful to have my art appreciated again after so many years by my own children..

Her simple act of appreciating my forgotten paintings inspired me to return again to my childhood passion of being an artist.  ♣


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Francis Cleetus’ Vibrant Paintings on Display

By Kollengode S Venkataraman

Francis Cleetus happily poses for the Patrika in front of one of his painting collections.

On a wintry January evening, the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council organized a Gallery Crawl for lovers of the visual arts to “crawl” from one venue to another to enjoy the works of Pittsburgh-based creative minds at several galleries and public places. The artists were also present to answer questions; music programs and a comedy improv also were part of the crawl. Part of the crawl was the works of Indian-American visual artist Francis Cleetus at the gallery at 810 Penn Avenue  downtown.

Cleetus has brought 3-d effect simply by imagina-tively using the effect of light and shadows in a 2-d painting. Do you see a Ganesha in this?

Cleetus was born in Bombay (now Mumbai). “Even from my early childhood, I always had interest in visual arts,” he says. He helped friends with their drawing-related homework assignments at school. He says, “My dad, who worked for Reader’s Digest, encouraged me in my pursuits.”  Cleetus went to St. Pius High School in East Bombay, where his English teacher Mary D’Souza encouraged his creative pursuits. She was his inspiration.

After earning his bachelor’s degree in chemistry from the University of Bombay, he worked as a chemist at a tire company. He soon realized that was not his calling. He went on to earn his diploma in Advertising Management from the Advertising Agencies Association of India. While working on multi-media campaigns for clients, he kept his creative instincts alive. Along the way, he won awards at agencies like Draft FCB, J. Walter Thompson, and Doe Anderson in India. He

A painting of Cleetus shows a snake in 3-d.

developed his style as a painter, designer, illustrator, cartoonist and sculptor. But Cleetus had no formal education or training in visual art. His talents are instinctive, endowed by Mother Nature.

After living in Hong Kong for nine years with his wife Maneesha, Cleetus joined MARC Advertising as its Creative Director in Pittsburgh.

A few years ago, when Phipps Botanical Conservatory organized Tropical Forest India, a 3-year live exhibition, Cleetus’ mandala-type painting decorated the roof of the South-Indian-style entrance created by our own Sthapathi Ayyachami Narayanan of Monroeville.

Cleetus is currently with Mylan’s global creative & design services team working on logo designs, print ads, billboards, digital ads, websites, exhibitions and more.

When asked why all of  his paintings on display are inspired by Indian themes, his reply was quite simple and direct: “Because that’s who I am.”   But his sculptures and drawing also have universal themes  in terms of imagery.

On the inaugural day, Michael Griska was on the sitar adding to the excitement and enjoyment. See the picture on the side.

Cleetus lives in Upper St Clair with his wife Maneesha and two daughters, Ananya and Antara. More information about Cleetus is here.

Visitors can see Cleetus’ works at the Karmalogue Gallery during weekdays’ by arranging appointments with Christiana Leach at the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council (GPAC) at 412.391.2060 Ext 228. The next Gallery Crawl is on April 27 from  5:30 PM till 10:00 PM, when you can see the works of other artists in galleries and other public places.   ♣


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Nandini Mandal:  Inspiring Journey in Dance Through Challenges

By Dolly Luthra and Juginder Luthra, Weirton, WV


Nandini Mandal has now become synonymous with a talented dancer, teacher, brave and resilient survivor, and a cultural ambassador of India in Pittsburgh. It was a long, difficult but exhilarating journey.

We have known the ever-smiling Nandini since she came to Pittsburgh. She was not a household name when she landed in Pittsburgh from India in 1995. She being from Bengal, her talents were first recognized in the Bengali Association of Pittsburgh. Very many years ago, she was invited to give a performance for the Annual Triveni Family Variety Program. Her amazing dance pieces are still talked about. Just as a rooster cannot take credit for the sunrise, Triveni International cannot take credit for the trajectory of Nandini’s rise in the area; it was just one of the many platforms.

At Kharaghpur, 1987

It did not take long for Nandini’s creativity to be known to all Indians — and also non-Indians as well — in Greater Pittsburgh Area.

Even as a young child she stomped and broke into dancing to the beat of music and ghungroo. The inborn talent was quickly recognized by her pare

nts. Her mother, a school teacher, took Nandini to dance lessons. Her father, working in the Indian Railways in Kharagpur, too was very supportive. She started getting formal dance training when she was seven. In 1983 she obtained Junior Diploma in Hindustani Classical music. She earned her Senior Diploma, Sangeet Prabhakar, from Allahabad University with distinction in Bharatanatyam at the age of 14 under Guru Snigdha Pal. In the same year she completed her Arangetram. She also got training in Kathakali, Manipuri, and Nava-Nritya. Credit for the variety of dances in India, she tells, goes to traders and invaders who added new touches to the already existing Natyashastra-based dance traditions.

Later, when she continued her education in Calcutta, her passion for dance followed. She trained at the Kala Mandalam focusing on Bharatanatyam and Nava-Nritya.

With MaryMiller, Ashish Sinha and Nidrita Mitra-Sinha, 2012.

Her Bharatanatyam was Tanjavoor School (Gharana).  Her structured courses on the theory of Indian dances at college were extremely helpful when she took practical classes under traditional teachers.

After her marriage, she came to Pittsburgh where her husband was employed in the early boom period of the IT industry in the US. The Mandals are blessed with two daughters.

She founded the Nandanik Dance Academy and the Nandanik Dance Troupe in 19

With Hari Krishnnan                       Nair, 2017

98, where she is the director since inception. She teaches Bharatanatyam, Nava-Nritya, Folk, and contemporary dances. In her classes in Pittsburgh, she tries to teach her students the theoretical foundations to the extent possible.

In life, nothing goes up in a straight line. She developed aplastic anemia which required multiple blood transfusions. Her Indian friends in this town gathered together helping her in many ways — anything from arranging food, monetary help for the long duration of hospitalization and medical care, and social support for their beloved Nandini aunty teacher, mentor and friend, and her betis. This, combined with her grit and determination to live to full under very trying circumstance and share her God-given gift with children and adults, made Nandini survive through the ordeal.

Due to her sickness she lost movement in her thigh bone joint.  This required joint replacement.  For any dancer, this generally means end of dancing career.  But Nandini is not any dancer.  Her obstacles did not stop there. She continued with her dance, while restricting her acrobatic moves.

Jugalbandi with Kathak’s Anupam Kanti Chandra, 1991.

In the middle of all this, she developed an aggressive form of Acute Mylogenous leukemia. The only cure was bone marrow transplant. Her social network once again went into full gear searching for a compatible donor all over the world. An anonymous donor’s marrow matched. She went through a successful surgery, followed with chemotherapy and a lengthy recovery period.  She was fragile, having to raise two daughters.

She endured through all this with her grit and smile, and she was able to beat the disease, usually associated with high mortality rate. She credits her survival to the excellent timely care by cancer experts in New York and well-earned social support she received from friends.  The strong will to live also critical.

All through this, simultaneously she was struggling with personal issues too. She and the family survived this bitter part of their life as well. She credits her father’s support and for her and positive attitude for coming out of the many challenges.

Nandini continues to pass on her talent to her own daughters and hundreds of children in the Tri-State Area. She has given solo and group performances in and around Pittsburgh, and in other states in the US and India as well choreographing several dance programs. Her numerous activities include being an Art Activist, Event Planner and manager, Interpreter and Translator…

During rehearsal in                          Pittsburgh.

She spreads her understanding of dances, music and various facets of India in numerous schools in and around Pittsburgh. As the cultural ambassador of India with World Affairs Council’s Pittsburgh Chapter, she did a series of lectures at schools in Allegheny and Washington counties. She actively has collaborated with local artists such as Mary Miller, Africa Yetu and Dr. Sheila Collins.

She has performed dances in the presence of Mother Teresa, Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalaam, and India’s Air Chief Marshall where she raised funds for the fallen soldiers.

Teaching 8-to-10 year olds in the Hill District’s YMCA.

After receiving so much help from society, she is conscious that she needs to give back to the society. Her fundraising activities include Light the Night Walk for Leukemia Lymphoma Society, Dance for Cure for the American Cancer Society Relay for Life. A video of her choreographed dance is being used in India to help raise awareness for need of sanitation facilities for girls. A still photograph of this video, taken with the fountain at the Point State Park in the background was on the cover page of the Pittsburgh Patrika.

Nandini is one of the recipients of the Artist Opportunity Grant of 2016. Due to the efforts of Nadanik Dance Troupe, the Mayor of Pittsburgh issued a proclamation declaring November 14, 2014 as Prakriti Day.

Recently, in February 2018 her efforts and talents were recognized by the Pittsburgh Art Council. She is the first Indian/American to receive a grant of $12,000 for the production of Vilaya.

She feels bad that with so many high-caliber professional dancers living and actively performing in Pittsburgh, the community prefers to invite outsiders, glossing over the “Local” artists. Her dream is to one day perform in larger well-known theaters in Pittsburgh. Wo subah kabhi tho zaroor aayegi (Someday that morning will definitely come!)

As a panelist at the All for All Summit at Alphabet City 2017 as an immigrant artist and art activist with Olie Kahnu of AfrikaYetu, Janeira Solomon of KST.

In addition to teaching and choreographing dance programs, she enjoys reading, listening to good music and gardening. There is not a dull moment in her life.

Nandini declares, “Humans start dancing when they are born. Just watch the movements of babies.” Her motto in life is “Push forward and do not give up”

Pittsburgh is richer and a better place to live for Indians because Providence brought Nandini to live among us to realize her dreams here. We wish her success in every sphere of life.  ♣


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History of Tax Reform

By Kris Gopal      e-mail:

As our present government scurried to create a new tax code before the end of 2016, it will be worthwhile to know how the tax code evolved in this country.

The first income tax bill was introduced in 1861 as a one-time event to raise money for the Civil War, which the then president Abraham Lincoln signed into law the same year. It was meant to be a temporary measure with a flat tax rate of 3% on annual incomes above $800 (equivalent to ~ $22,000 per year income today).

In 1862 congress created what would become the Internal Revenue service. This tax law lapsed in 1872, and there was no income tax till the year 1894 when congress passed law to in recreating income tax code. At that time the Supreme Court by vote of 5-4 voted that the income tax code was unconstitutional. A progressive reform group fighting to reintroduce the tax code led to the passage in 1913 of a constitutional amendment – the 16th amendment – legalizing federal taxation. The first implemented permanent tax code had a top rate of 7% on annual incomes above $500,000 which would be equivalent to $12.5 million today.

The U.S. Government later passed a massive tax hikes to pay for the world War I, including the first version of the estate tax, and raised the taxes yet again to finance the enormous costs of World War II. In 1944 the top income tax rate peaked at 94 percent on taxable income of over $200,000 (about $2.5 million today).

In 1963 President John F Kennedy slashed the top rate for individuals from 91 percent to a more reasonable 65 percent. This reduction met with still resistance from conservative Democrats and Republicans who worried about the deficit it will entail. When Lyndon Johnson became the president after Kennedy’s assassination, the Revenue Act of 1964 was passed lowering the top individual tax rate to 70 percent and the bottom rate to 14% from 20%. At the same time the corporate tax was also lowered from 52%to 48%.

Another seventeen years elapsed before the next tax reform took place under President Ronald Regan. He created the biggest tax cut by slashing the top individual rate from 70% to 50%. He and his advisers revamped the tax code and introduced the 1986 Tax Reform Act simplifying the tax and reduced fifteen tax brackets to just two, 15% and 28% percent. This tax code also eliminated $60 billion tax loopholes.  It was felt to be revenue neutral.

To appease few resentful congressmen and senators, Reagan increased the standard deduction to benefit low-income families. He also increased the capital gains tax from 20% to 28%.

Then in 1991, the then citizen Donald Trump told congress that the new tax reforms had been “an absolute catastrophe for the country.”

President George W Bush pushed through a major tax cut in 2001.  Later Democratic presidents have raised the top tax rate to 39.6% and the number of tax brackets was expanded to seven and several new tax breaks and loopholes were been added.

During President Donald Trump’s first year in office, the Republican controlled House and Senate succeeded in rewriting the tax code. After cantankerous debates both in the House and Senate, the Republicans managed to pass the bill, solely along the party-line vote. It was necessary to raise the debt ceiling. The new tax bill reduces the corporate tax from 35% to 21%. It reduces personal tax bracket from eight to seven. It reduces individual taxes to many Americans. The new bill increases the personal standard deductions from $12,000 to $24,000. The present bill reduces the property taxes and state taxes deduction to $10,000. It reduces mortgage interest deductions for new houses up to $750,000. Some changes were also made in the estate taxes, and alternate minimum tax, and gift taxes.

The new budget increase spending on defense, infrastructure improvements, mental health care, and Catastrophic Fund.  This new tax law will not be budget neutral and will leave an enormous deficit. Congressmen of the future will have to reconcile with this huge budget deficit.


The library of Congress. Business Reference Service. compiled by Ellen Terell.
The US. and International Media. Vol 17 issue 848     ♣


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A Level Playing Field for Electing Pennsylvania’s US House of Representatives

By Kollengode S Venkataraman     



The US Congress, as required by the US Constitution, has 435 Members in the House of Representatives, elected from 435 electoral districts from 50 states. Each Congressional district must have approximately the same population (~ 720,000 people).

Consequently, states gain or lose House seats depending on the changes in the population determined by the decennial cen­sus. The population of Pennsylvania relative to the population of the nation has been declining throughout the second half of the 20th century. Hence the number of House seats from Penn­sylvania has been shrinking. See the adjacent table. Reference:

Congressmen are elected from each state from “Congressional Dis­tricts,” which are specific geographical areas within the state. The map for each district is redrawn every ten years. The Pennsylvania legislature’s General Assembly (lower house and the senate) in Harrisburg has the authority to redraw the map after each census. However, the governor has to sign off on what the General Assembly proposes.

Pennsylvania is a Moderate State, Relatively Speaking: In elections for the US president and US Senate, the vote split between Democratic and Republican can­didates has been between 45:55 or tighter swinging either way. We have voted both for Republicans and Democrats in presidential elections; we have had both Democratic and Republican Governors and US Senators. So, Pennsylvania is a moderate state, relatively speaking.

The 18-member House delegation is skewed towards Republicans. How­ever, if you see the split between the two parties Congressional delegation from Pennsylvania, it is nothing but a scandal. Look at the numbers of GOP and Democratic Congressmen in recent elections from the state:

Election Year         2010    2012    2014    2016

Rep-Dem split:       12-7     13-5     13-5     13-5

That is, Republicans have 67% of the state’s 18-member Congressional Delegation to the US House, even though the state votes 48-52, swinging either way in presidential and Senate races. Republicans garnered such a dis­proportionately skewed advantage in the US Congress by gerrymandering congressional district maps. They did this by banding and breaking voters identified to vote against them.

Banding: Segments of voters, mostly urban, well known to vote Demo­cratic (for example Blacks, Jews, Asians…) would be herded together into very few districts such that in these districts Democratic candidates would win with an 80%-plus majority.

Breaking: Where it suits them, Republicans have drawn the district maps dispersing Democratic voters in a densely populated urban area into multiple Congressional districts thus diluting their effectiveness against them, and gaining a clear advantage for winning in the general elections.

In many districts, once you win in the primary, you coast to vic­tory in the general election. The intra-party primaries are where the battle is won or lost. To know what gerrymandering is, just look at the example of the 7th congressional district, near Philadelphia shown below.

The state’s ~12.75 million population is clustered around urban centers like Philadelphia (6.0 million), Pittsburgh (2.4 million), and Allentown (0.8 million). The state’s population density is shown in the  picture below:

The map of the Congressional districts of the last several election cycles is also shown below. The rural districts are large because they are sparsely populated. This way of drawing the districts gave a disproportionate advantage to the Republicans for winning 13 of the 18 House seats from Pennsylvania  — more than 2/3 of the seats.

Republicans have been in the majority in the Pennsylvania General Assembly for years. This time, a Democrat (Tom Wolf) is the Governor in Harrisburg. Understandably, the governor did not sign off  on the Republicans’ gerrymandered redistricting map. When the issue went to the state Supreme Court — the League of Women Voters filed the law suit — the court asked the General Assembly to revise their redistricting map, because the Republicans’ plan was ‘”aimed at achieving unfair partisan gain.” The revised redistricting map of the General Assembly too was not endorsed by the Democratic governor.

So, the state Supreme Court took it upon itself to redraw the congressional districts. With the help of a Stanford University profes­sor, the Court redrew the map, saying the map is “superior or comparable” to all the submitted proposals, and is based on “traditional redistricting criteria of compactness, contiguity, equality of population, and respect for the integrity of political subdivisions.” It is a 4-3 decision in the 7-member state Supreme Court. The court-made map is shown below:

Based on votes cast in the 2016 elections, the new map gives a 10/8 split between the GOP and Democrats compared with the disproportionate 13/5 advantage the GOP now has in the Congressional delegation.

With a more level playing field now imposed by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, the 2018 mid-term elections to the US Congress in the state become more competitive, representative, and also equitable, in the context of the voting pattern in the state.

We thank the state Supreme Court for correcting the grossly unfair way the GOP-controlled General Assembly in Harrisburg gerrymandered Congressional districts. This and similar decisions in other states cor­recting the blatant gerrymandering by both parties can finally moderate the partisan deadlock we have been seeing in Washington for the last two decades.

Acknowledgments:  The two colored maps of the Congressional districts are from the Washington Post.  ♠


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The Pittsburgh Patrika Writers Gathering






















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And Now, the Turkey Weekend in India, as Covered in The Indian Express

By K S Venkataraman

India has its own harvest festivals — Pongal, Sankranti, Onam, Naukhai, and Baisakhi, among others — that the urban, English-educated, anglicized Indians who are completely uprooted from their hinterland, do not know, or do not care for. Lately, the American Thanksgiving bug seems to have bitten them, if you go by The Indian Express’ Lifestyle story (Ref: This English daily is published simultaneously in big cities and several second-tier cities.

In the Indian Express story reproduced below, there is not a single word on the American harvest, or on the Native Americans’ encounters with Whites. I have italicized the phrases to highlight the absurdity in the story. The bold letters are my comments.

“Thanksgiving is a time for family reunions, shopping, merrymaking, feasts and family dinner. People take out time to spend special time to meet near and dear ones and thank them for their kindness. Every year, people all across the world celebrate Thanksgiving Day.

“For Canada it is the second Monday of October and for United States it is the fourth Thursday of November. Other countries like Australia, Grenada, The Netherlands and India also join in the celebration. (Really?)

“This year, the Thanksgiving day will fall on November 23, one day before Black Friday, as per the US’s celebration date.” (Note that the writer puts the cart before the horse.)

Then the story gives a “quick and easy recipe” for roasting Turkey. Turkeys available in India? How many Indian homes have ovens to roast a 20-lb turkey for 4 hours? Then gives a recipe for mash (not mashed) potatoes and cranberry sauce.  Where will Indians go for cranberries?

On reading the article, the urban, anglicized Indians in Madras, Bombay, Calcutta, (Chennai, Bengaluru and Kolkata maybe too provincial names for them) will develop a massive inferiority complex on what they are not able to do in India on the Thanksgiving weekend, even though these wannabe-gora Indians are sitting on the very top of the Indian socioeconomic pyramid!!!  ♣



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Shivender Nagar’s Journey in Self-Discovery

Juginder Luthra, Weirton, WV          e-mail:


“Life is a package deal. No different from a conducted tour. You may not like some parts of the tour or may want more of something else. But you adjust to the chosen package. Not everything in life or your fellow travelers will be perfect. Learn to adjust and compromise.”

With such and many more examples, Swami Shivender Nagar, often simply called Nagarji, gives discourses on Bhagvad Gita in India and several other countries.
He was born in 1965 in New Delhi. As a young adult, he had the ambition to choose a career in hotel management and settle in Switzerland. Six months into the management course, spiritual inclination directed him to drop the course and join Bible School in Geneva. The studies did not answer all his questions.

He returned to Delhi after one year and started seeking a guru. Fate connected Nagarji with Parthasarthiji, founder of the Vedanta Academy in Lonavala, near Pune, India. Nagarji was one of the eight students in the first class at the Academy. The three-year intensive course was taught in Sanskrit and English. He stayed for one extra year learning from Vedanta-related books in Hindi.

Parthasarthiji asked Nagarji to go to Delhi
and start spreading the message. He started giving weekly classes on teachings of the Gita. Mrs. Rita Puri of Pittsburgh happened to be in the audience in Delhi. She invited Nagarji to come to Pittsburgh in 1995 to give discourses in homes and the Hindu Jain Temple. The yearly trip to Pittsburgh has continued, which resulted in him becoming the teacher at the Hindu Jain Temple Summer Camp. About 100 children and counselors receive training through classroom discussions and interactive games. This is followed by a week-long series of evening lectures on different chapters of the Bhagavad Gita at the Temple.

He sprinkles his lectures with easy to remember one-liners:

Seriousness is a sickness. 

Hard work hardly works. When you enjoy your job it is not work, it is fun. It becomes hard work when you don’t enjoy it. 

When you demand definite results from your actions, you are pretending to be God. 

Several families, including Shashi and Ashok Marwaha, in Pittsburgh have hosted Swamiji at their homes. We met him in 1999 in Rishikesh, and have continued our association with him ever since. More people imbibe his messages in their lives.
Nagarji is married to Prema. They have one daughter, Stuti. When asked if his mother lives with him, he quickly answered “No” and after a short pause he continued, “We live with my mother! I have done it all my life.”

His plan in India is to start Gita Academy in Uttrakhand near Rishikesh. Six-week long residential courses will be offered to individuals between the ages of 18 and 30. In addition to teaching the Gita, he also offers self-improvement courses including how to set goals in life and mind management (including stress, anger etc.). With this much commitment in India, future overseas trips will become less frequent.  Summer Camp in 2018 will be held from July 29 to August 4, with lectures at the Hindu Jain Temple held around those dates.  He can be contacted here:     ♣



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In Temple Architecture, Form Needs to Follow Function, but Also Weather Patterns


By Kollengode S Venkataraman                  e-mail:


With over three million Indians in North America and an overwhelming proportion of them being Hindu, temples are springing up everywhere. With so many temples now in North America, it may be time to reassess how we need to incorporate features suitable to the regional weather patterns in North America.

Organizationally, Hindu temples in North America are structured after American churches with bylaws, membership eligibility, membership dues, elections, and governing bodies (president, chairman, secretary and myriad committees).

Mookambika Temple, Kollur, Karnataka, believed to have been started by Adi Shankara, 1200 years ago.

In other measures, many Hindu temples here resemble Protestant denominations we see on TV in their perpetual appeal for money — tax deductible, of course — for capital projects one after another. With these things in place, disagreements and fights among members on dogma, rituals, and other practices also are the norm in temples, as in churches here.

However, for cultural, sentimental, and nostalgic reasons, temple managements want to keep the exterior of the temples “Indian” in architecture and artwork.  Temples spend enormous amount of time and money, first on “Indianization” projects, and then to

Shiva Temple, Vaikom, Kerala.

maintain these “Indianized” façades.  But as we have seen time and again, this does not always go well, especially in places in the Midwest and Northeast and in Canada with several freeze-thaw cycles in winter, freezing rains, storms that pile 8” to 10” inches of snow on the complex “Indianized” structures.

Cracks in plaster and between brick layers, snow freezing into sheets of ice and inadequate drainage on flat roofs lead to leaks and structural damage. In many temples, these are recurring themes that drain the temple’s time, energy and resources.

Why do temple managements resist adapting temple structures’ basic design to the local

The famous Krishna Temple, Guruvayoor, Kerala.

weather patterns?  The urge to find costly engineering solutions to retain the Indianized façades with “new & improved” building material is irresistible. But Mother Nature always wins if we do not learn to respect Her ways and adapt ourselves to Her patterns. It is time to look at this with some Vedantic detachment.

Let us look at our personal lives as immigrants here. We take great pride in our — and our children’s — accomplishments in education and careers. Good. But also look at how we individually adapted our personal lives along the way — in our food habits; in worship, prayers, observing festivals in our homes; in walking away from proscribed taboos; on divorce and remarriage; in the choices our children make in their life partners. In

Manjunatha Temple, Dharmasthala, Karnataka

all these, we have crossed every line that was a Lakshman Rekha or taboo just forty years ago.

We have seamlessly adapted our personal lives in so many ways to fit into the ever-changing lifestyles and resources around us. So why do we resist the common-sense-based need to adapt the temple structures to the entirely predictable local and regional weather patterns?

After all, Sthapatis, the traditional Hindu temple architects in India, have understood these local realities through the centuries. That is how and that is why many temples in India have survived for several hundreds of years on very low maintenance, compared to temples built in North America in the last 50 years.

Besides, there is NO ONE Indian Model in temple designs. Consider this: In Kerala and Coastal Karnataka where annual monsoon rainfalls are over 70 to 80 inches, even famous temples rarely have Gopurams/Shikhars we see in other regions. Shrines and exteriors in these temples have simple, sleek, sloping roofs with baked tiles or copper sheets so that minutes after the rainfall, not a drop of water stays on the roof.  See the pictures in this article.

Udupi Krishna Temple, Karnataka

Further, every temple in India is built with materials locally available in abundance — like soapstone, sandstones, granites, laterite, and hardwoods such as teak.

Temple managements  need to develop guidelines and give them  to architects to come up with low-maintenance, yet elegant structures for the sanctums for the deities and the exterior. Maybe we need to “Indian-Americanize” the temples’ exteriors and incorporate architectural features taking into account the regional weather patterns, similar to how we have “Americanized” our Indianness here. Compromises are inevitable.

Only when the temple managements do this, can They focus on the real purpose for building temples — namely, educating our children, organically enlivening the core of the cultural features of our faith (like music and dance), organizing classes on Yoga & Mediation, and preserving our open-architecture philosophical traditions.

Remember, temples in India undertake big-scale renovations and Kumbhabhishekam only once every twelve years. This implies that after such renovations, temples will have no recurring maintenance-related chronic headaches for another twelve years.   ♣


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Arts Foundation Honors Artistes & Patrons

By V Vasudevan, O’Hara,  PA     e-mail:


V. Vasudevan, a long-time resident of this area, summarizes the cultural event held in Pittsburgh under the aegis of the Srinivasa Prasad International Foundation for Performing Arts (SPIFPA), instituted in memory of Srinivasa Prasad Gutti by his beloved parents Varaprasad and Parvati Gutti.



The Srinivasa Prasad International Foundation for Performing Arts (SPIFPA) organized a nice program on October 14, showcasing some of the talents in South Indian performing arts and honouring artists

Varaprasada Rao Gutti welcoming the gathering.

and arts patrons. The venue was the auditorium at the Sri Venkateswara Temple.  This year’s multi-event program was well-planned, thanks to the attention to detail of the hosts, Varaprasad Rao Gutti and his wife Parvathi.

The program started with Gutti’s opening remarks welcoming the audience and mentioning the mission and objective of SPIFPA in promoting and encouraging South Asian Arts among Indian artists and the mainstream Indo-American youth. The Life Time Achievement Award, Gutti said, is one such form of recognizing patrons and talents.

The invocation pieces were well-done  — the Kuchipudi dance rendering of Vande Mataram by Bindu Madhavi Gutti’s students, followed by Manu Narayan singing the American Anthem.

Arpitha Udupa’s recital was a highlight at the program.

In her introductory speech, Parvathi Gutti paid rich tribute to her son, Vasu, his passion for classical music and Kuchipudi and his emphasis that these art forms should become popular among our kids growing up here. The clip showing him performing Entharo Mahanu

Bhavulu was reminiscent of what he aspired to. The foundation is instituted in memory of Srinivasa Prasad.  (Editor’s note: Srinivasa Prasad, so full of promise, died in a freak car accident several years ago. He was in his early twenties.)

Rajshri Gopal, who started it all decades ago.

The evening’s program with a Karnatic music piece by a teenage ensemble of Sia, Pallavi, Sarang and Rajan showed great promise in terms of precision, poise and dedication.

The Bharatanatyam piece by Mythili Prakash was inspiring and spell-binding. The piece on Shakti brought her a standing ovation. It is no surprise that she received the 2017 SPIFPA Ambassador award  for Performing Arts.

Arpitha Udupa’s Premanjali in Kuchipudi style choreographed by Bindu Gutti-Rachuri was well-rendered, highlighting the devotion, love and perseverance of Vasu to this art form.

An All-American dance group of Jaya Mani from Slippery Rock University and Pitt’s Nrityamala showcased the dancers talents and versatility and mastery in the art form. These young dancers come from a wide range of social background and upbringing, thus fulfilling one of the objectives of SPIFPA.

The 2017 Life Time Achievements Award was presented to Revathi Satyu for her contribution of over fifty-three years to Bharatanatyam. Manu Narayan was conferred the award as the Ambassador of Performing Arts for Theater, Broadway Musicals and multi-faceted talents.

Mythili Prakash at the podium after the award.

Sia Iyer — she is only 12 — received t the Child Vocal Musician Award for her

Revathi Satyu at the podium.

commitment, hard work and skills at such a young age. Pallavi Muluk was SPIFPA’s Youth Vocal Musician for 2017 for her talents in Karnatic music, her love of training young children in Pittsburgh.  Sarang Mulukutla and Rajan Srimat were SPIFPA Youth Violin and Mridangam Awardees.

Rajshri Gopal lived here in the 1970s through the ‘90s, and is one of the founding members of the SVTemple. With a keen interest in Indian performing arts, she initiated classes for youngsters even before the idea of a temple in Pittsburgh was conceived. Justifiably, SPIFPA felicitated her for her contribution to the temple and Indian performing arts. It was heartwarming to see that she got recognition for her contributions at the SVTemple venue, even though the event was not organized by the temple.

Ashok Madha felicitating Manu Narayan.

Gutti Rao thanked all the artists, the audience and SVTemple for their support in promoting this art form and hoped that this will continue for

years to come.The young artists getting their awards this year, he was sure, will create interest and enthusiasm among our youngsters, one of the main goals for SPIFPA and Vasu. Gutti Rao said SPIFPA would work to establish endowments and recognition awards both in India and the US. ♣



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Britain’s Diminished Global Role

 By K S Venkataraman          e-mail:   The


When the UN was formed at the end of WW-II, the Allied victors dictated the composition of its Security Council. The Security Council was formed with five permanent members with veto power — the US, UK, USSR, France, and China. All except China were among the victors in the War. When India was offered permanent membership in the UN Security Council, Jawaharlal Nehru ceded the membership to China.

More than seventy years after WW-II, lots of water has flown under London Bridge, and the UK’s clout has been shrinking globally. British cartoonists portray the UK as a vassal of the US. See the cartoon on the side showing the British premier Tony Blair as a puppet of President Bush 43.  It is time to seriously question the legitimacy of the UK’s permanent membership in the Security Council with veto power.

With its exit from the EU in 2016, the legitimacy of the UK’s disproportionate global presence came into rebuke this November in three elections in one week.

First, the UK saved face by withdrawing from an impending defeat for  a seat in the UN’s 15-member body of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague. The UK’s Christopher Greenwood withdrew from the election and ceded the seat to India’s Dalveer Bhandari (see the picture) after several rounds of deadlocked elections in the UN Security Council. To be elected to the ICJ, candidates need to get a majority votes in both the UN’s General Assembly and the Security Council.  Bhandari had an overwhelming support — close to 2/3 of the votes — in  all the rounds of voting in the UN General Assembly. In the 15-member Security Council, Bhandari fell short by four votes.

Bhandari was sure to get over 2/3 of the votes in the General Assembly. If this happens, it would be difficult for the Security Council to ignore.  Further, after Brexit, even in the Security Council, the UK’s clout has waned. So, Britain ceded the seat to India.  For the first time since since its inception in 1945, UK has no representation in the ICJ.

Making matters worse in the same week, the “Great” Britain also lost two high-visibility EU offices. The EU voted to move the office of the European Banking Authority (EBA) out of London to Paris.  Similarly, the EU voted that its office of European Medicine Agency (EMA), overseeing Europe’s pharmaceutical industry, will be moved from London and relocated to Amsterdam, Holland.  ♣


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Pittsburgh Chinmaya Mission Fundraiser for a Vedanta Center-Temple Complex

Chinmaya Mission of Pittsburgh had an impressive fundraising event on Saturday, November 18 at the Shriners Center in Cheswick. The evening included a dinner and a collage of Indian dance programs weaving

The children of the Chinmaya Bala Vihar reciting a hymn at the beginning.

together Bharatanatyam, Kuchipudi, Kathak, and Odissi styles of dance traditions.  The artistes were Atri Nundy (Bharatanatyam) from Buffalo; Kamala Reddy-Rajupet (Kuchipudi); Sudeshna Maulik (Kathak) from Toronto; and Shibani Patnaik (Odissi) from the Bay Area. Tejaswini Rao from Buffalo helped in the choreography, and emceed the dance program.

The dance items, interspersed with speeches from the Chinmaya Organization, gave enough scope for the artistes to display their artistry individually and independently. They also succeeded working together in pairs and groups in storytelling, while retaining their individual styles while dancing to the same music.  The final piece was a nicely choreographed Tillana, ending in a crescendo of all the artistes dancing together in their own unique styles with good kaala-pramaaNam (timing precision) for the same jatis (rhythm patterns) and music.

The focus of the event was fundraising for their Vedanta Center-Temple complex. Over 450 adults and children participated in the fundraiser. They have already acquired land for the place that would include a Shiva Temple, a Vedanta Center, Bala Vihar, and rooms for meetings and classes.

Against their goal of $1.25 million for the evening, they raised as pledges and contribution over $1.1 million — an impressive number by any measure.   

—  By K S Venkataraman    ♣


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Climate Impact of Excessive Consumption of Dairy Products 

By Padma Garvey, MD, Hudson Valley, NY


Padma was born in Nellore India and grew up in Pittsburgh. She earned her medical degree from the University of Pittsburgh in 1992. She is a full-time gynecologist in the Hudson Valley area, married to her physician husband for 25 years. She has two kids in college. She practices yoga and is dedicated to teaching people about the benefits of a plant-based diet.  She has a website (

Editor’s Note: This is a complex topic on many measures. As the author herself notes in the short write-up below, “[G]lobal hunger has very little to do with lack of food and more to do with a lack of access to it,” which means a lack of affordability for the working poor in a country like India. While malnourished infants and young children from poorer families in India do not get even one banana a day or one glass of milk or yogurt a day, upper income families are submerged in dairy products, with cheese being the latest entrant in India. Still the author’s point is valid that these upper income Indians will be helping themselves and the environment by consuming less dairy products.

A few years ago, I went to India with my mother for a visit.   On that visit, I noticed an alarming number of obesity clinics, heart centers, fast food restaurants, and of course pollution.  I also noticed that milk consumption had increased substantially, especially in the forms of butter, ice cream, and cheese.  I started to wonder how the dietary habits of one billion people could impact the environment, agriculture, and animal welfare.  I wondered what had to be done to keep up with the rising demand for milk.  How many cows did it take? How much hormonal stimulation did it require? How much machinery was necessary?  And what was happening in America where diary consumption is one of the highest in the world?

India sprang from an ancient civilization that reaped enormous benefits from the domestication of cattle and the consumption of milk.  The unprecedented access to a highly nutritious food was no doubt the reason for an emergence of a religious and moral philosophy whose central God figure was a cow herder.  It was no doubt the reason for the adoration and the worship of the cow, and the commitment to protect it. Well-fed people can make the moral leap to advocate nonviolence against animals and a vegetarian lifestyle.  It is no wonder, then, that India is where the first notions of moral and sustainable eating came to be.

Nowadays, global hunger has very little to do with lack of food and more to do with a lack of access to it.  We can and do make enough food to feed everyone.  We are trying to feed the world on the backs of animals by eating their meat and drinking their milk. The idyllic image of the happy cow, herded by beautiful maidens along green grasses is not how most cows, in America or in India, find themselves. Dairy farming is a round-the-clock operation where animals are housed in small cubicles, attached to milking machines for hours at a time.  There is no joy in their lives.  They are carrying the weight of the world’s bellies on their udders and are a major contributor to green-house gases.

The countries with the highest rates of breast-, prostate-, colon-, and uterine-cancer have the highest rates of dairy and meat consumption.  The resources required in land, water, and fuel are enormous.  This places an undue burden on the environment as well.  It might be time for Hindus to, once again, take a moral leap and abstain from dairy consumption as a way of protecting the cow and our planet.   ♣


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The Madhavs Bid Goodbye to Pittsburgh

By Sudha Pandalai, Cincinatti, OH     e-mail:


Editor: Sudha P. Pandalai grew up in the Pittsburgh Metro area. Her family and the Madhavs have been friends for many years.


Dr. Ashok and Mrs. Shobha Madhav, long-standing members of the Pittsburgh Indian community, recently moved to Silver Springs, MD to begin a new chapter in their lives. Their friends in Pittsburgh will miss them but wish them well in this next phase.

In the early days of the Indian community in southwestern Pennsylvania, the Madhavs enriched the lives of their colleagues and friends in ways large and small. They have a diverse circle of friends from their fifty-years of living in the Pittsburgh area.

Both have been highly active at the Sri Venkateswara Temple and other local religious and cultural institutions through the years, and have been strong enthusiasts of classical Indian performing arts (both dance and music). Since the 1970’s they have encouraged many artists, both those established, and those who were just beginning their careers, through arranging concerts and hosting them.

Additionally, Dr. Madhav has contributed to the Karnatic music repertoire by composing kritis in all of the 72 Melakarta (parent) ragas. His deep grasp of music theory and history, in topics ranging from Karnatic music Janaka and Janya ragas, to Thaats in Hindustani music, and to taalas, has made Dr. Madhav sought-after by many professionals, and students of music, wanting to clarify finer points in Indian classical music. (Editor’s Note: In the very first issue of the Patrika, Dr. Madhav reviewed “Purush”, a dance program with an all-male ensemble, led by Bharatanatyam Maestro C. V. Chandrashekhar and Kathak Maestro Birju Maharaj)

Mrs. Madhav has been a vital part of the community. She is noted for her skill in public speaking, and through the years, she has been a popular emcee at various functions. These include public programs at the Sri Venkateswara Temple and private functions such as many Arangetrams performed by dance students in the area.

With the move further east, the Madhavs will enjoy being closer to their daughter Anita, her husband Jim and their children; and being nearer to their son Nitin.  In October close to fifty friends of the Madhavs gathered at the Tamarind Restaurant in Green Tree to bid them farewell. Their friends in Pittsburgh thank them for their years of friendship, wish them well in their new home, and promise to visit them in DC.  ♣


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