Bollywood Flashmob in Costco – Santa Cruz, CA – February 2, 2019

A spontaneous flash-mob performance at a Costco in Santa Cruz, CA recently


You may also check out listings of  Indian Dance and Music academies across North America

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Swaminarayan Hindu Temple vandalised in Kentucky, US

A Hindu temple in Louisville, Kentucky was recently vandalized, sending shock waves across the close-knit Hindu community.  According to media accounts, the incident happened sometime between Sunday and Tuesday morning when vandals broke through a window at Louisville’s Swaminarayan Temple leaving glass shattered on the floor.

The Temple was defaced with black graffiti, including xenophobic and anti-Hindu messages. Black paint was sprayed onto a poster depicting a religious figure, and the temple’s walls were covered with black crosses and phrases such as “Jesus Is The Only Lord” and “Jesus Is All Mighty.” A knife was reportedly plunged into a chair in the temple.

Utsav Pictures from the Louisville Swaminarayan temple

A message spray-painted onto a bulletin board at the temple read had the word “foreign” followed by an expletive, Fox affiliate WDRB reports. Temple spokesperson Raj Patel told the news station that this last message indicates that the vandalism was “not about just a god.”  “It’s about a race or someone’s skin color,” he added.

The vandalism was discovered by a repairman on Tuesday morning. No one was in the temple while the vandalism occurred, Patel told the Courier Journal.

Patel said his community, consisting of 60 to 100 Sunday worshippers, is deeply saddened by the incident. The community has been meeting in the building, a former church, for about five years.

“We come here to worship,” Patel said during a press conference at the temple on Wednesday. “We should not have to turn our backs to see who is behind us.”

According to Mohan, the editor of Garamchai.com,  “There are over 300 Hindu temples in cities across America. Such incidents of vandalism are really rare and shocking. In most communities, Indian Americans peacefully co-exist with other members of the community and Hindus manage worship and religious gatherings at local temples and places of worship.”

US Government makes changes to H1B visa applications; Advanced degree holders get top priority

The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced a final rule for H1B visa applicants that will raise the probability of more US advanced degree holders filling the first wave of total available slots. This recalibration will filter out those with just bachelor’s degrees, making it harder for them to get an H1 Visa approval.

The DHS summary states:

This final rule amends Department of Homeland Security (“DHS” or “the Department”) regulations governing petitions filed on behalf of H-1B beneficiaries who may be counted toward the 65,000 visa cap established under the Immigration and Nationality Act (“H1B regular cap”) or beneficiaries with advanced degrees from U.S. institutions of higher education who are eligible for an exemption from the regular cap (“advanced degree exemption”).

Image result for dhs h1b

The Trump administrations’s rule goes into effect 1 April. In the current system, 65,000 visas are available in addition to 20,000 for those with advanced degrees from a U.S. institution. The annual lottery is scheduled for April generally starts with lottery for the advanced-degree holders first. The change is estimated to increase the number of advanced-degree holders selected in the lottery by 16 percent, or 5,340 workers each year, the USCIS said

US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) chief L. Francis Cissna was quoted saying “these simple and smart changes are a positive benefit for employers, the foreign workers they seek to employ, and the agency’s adjudicators, helping the H-1B visa program work better”.

“The new registration system, once implemented, will lower overall costs for employers and increase government efficiency. We are also furthering President Trump’s goal of improving our immigration system by making a simple adjustment to the H-1B cap selection process. As a result, U.S. employers seeking to employ foreign workers with a U.S. master’s or higher degree will have a greater chance of selection in the H-1B lottery in years of excess demand for new H-1B visas.”

There are several experts voicing concerns about this move. Cyrus D Mehta, founding partner of a New York based law firm told TOI,

“The skewing of H-1B visas towards those with master’s degrees from US institutions under the new selection methodology is in some senses counter to the H-1B law, which was to permit those with foreign degrees, and equivalent work experience, to qualify for H-1B classification. Hence, a foreign physician with a master’s degree in medicine from a foreign university who intends to provide critical medical services in a shortage area in the United States may have less chances of nabbing an H-1B visa under the new proposal.”
“Even a highly skilled IT worker with a bachelor’s degree in computer science from a reputed Indian institution such as the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), will have less chance of getting an H-1B in the new proposal. Both the physician and the IT worker with foreign degrees have the potential of making contributions to the US in the same way, or even greater, as one who has recently graduated with an MBA from a US.

Others like feel that the move is a step in the right direction. Mohan K, an Enterprise Architect and a technology consultant says

“Foreign students pursuing advanced degrees in American Universities are likely to benefit from this move. Graduates of such programs are more likely get their H1 Visas approved and will stay back and contribute to the US economy.

While there will be some short term confusion, the move is likely to attract more students to American Universities.

However, students planning to pursue advanced degrees and PhDs in the US, should  will have to keep in mind that a rule like this is not ‘law,’ but a policy decision by the Trump administration. As a recent WSJ article indicates, the move may be challenged in the court or rolled-back by future administrations.

About H1B: The H-1B is a non-immigrant visa category in the United States under the Immigration & Nationality Act, section 101(a)(15)(H). It allows U.S. employers to seek temporary help from skilled foreigners who have the equivalent U.S. Bachelor’s Degree education. Link to a list of The list of Top 100 H-1B Employers in 2017

Air India To Charge 40% Less For Bringing Back Bodies From Gulf Countries

Death and dying is a topic we seldom give much thought to. And when we encounter untimely death of family or friends, we try and follow the rituals as dictated customs and mores dictated by the society. If a relative or a close one dies in a foreign country, the costs and paperwork associated with repatriation can make a terrible event even worse.

The logistics of Death gets magnified when the person in question dies in a foreign land. For instance, when a death occurs in Abu Dhabi, or the middle-east, the family might opt to have the funeral and last rites in India, their home country. This requires jumping through bureaucratic and logistical hooops to ensure the body can be transported across international boundaries. Here’s a link to an article on GaramChai.com that briefly describes the process.

Besides the logistics and paperwork required to transport bodies, families of the bereaved have to budget for the cost of embalming, storage and Air-transport of the bodies that can amount to a sizable sum of money.

Image result for dead body air india
image source: India Today via google

Now comes news that the Indian national Airliner, Air India will Charge 40% Less For Bringing Back Bodies From Gulf Countries. According to a PTI news release

In order to reduce the expenses of grieving families in bringing back dead bodies from gulf nations, Air India has decided to reduce prices by 40%.

“After discussions with the Ministry of External Affairs and the Ministry of Civil Aviation, we have decided that we will be charging a ”flat rate” to bring back dead bodies from six Gulf countries…This flat rate would be 40 per cent lower than what is usually charged,” a senior Air India official said on Monday.

He added that this “flat rate services” for bringing a body back would currently be available for six Gulf countries–United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman and Kuwait.

COMMENT

Texas Sikh community feeds federal employees affected by govt shutdown

The American public has been watching news of US Federal Government shutdown that continues for over a month. (ref: Trump cancels US delegation to Davos World Economic Forum due to shutdown). However, there are a few feel-good stories in the media too.


Houston, January 16 – In a unique gesture, the Sikh community in San Antonio, Texas, offered free meals to fellow American government employees affected by the ongoing shutdown that has left thousands without pay in the US.

The partial government shutdown, which entered the fourth week, has left more than 800,000 federal government workers out of work across the key departments.

Trump wants to build a US-Mexico border wall and is seeking USD 5.7 billion in funding for the physical barrier which according to him is a must to prevent flow of illegal immigrants into the US. The Democrats assert that such a move is a “waste” of taxpayers money.

All federal employees, who have been forced to work without pay, or have been furloughed during the partial government shutdown were offered freshly prepared, hot vegetarian meals for three days starting January 11.

The Sikh community workers prepared the gurdwara menu which comprised lentils, vegetables, rice and tortillas.

“Workers and families affected by the shutdown are invited to Sikh Centre all weekend for free meals starting today,” the Center posted on its Facebook on Friday.

The idea that originated from the community’s willingness to offer help during this hour of difficulty for many American families soon drew many volunteers who offered to come and cook to feed everyone who would come to enjoy the meals.

“Sikh Community is there to support the federal employees who did not receive their paychecks. Also, the Sikh Community appreciates their services and believes in giving gratitude to those men and women for doing a wonderful service for the nation,” Balwinder Dhillon, President of the Sikh Center of San Antonio, told reporters.

“The least we could do is support them with a hot meal for the next three days,” he said.

The Sikh Center of San Antonio is the oldest gurdwara in the city and was established in 2001. It also offers food, clothing and shelter to any needy new immigrants. – PTI

Listing of Gurudwaras in the US.

 

Google Doodle – Sake Dean Mahomed – The most notable early non-European immigrants to the Western World

Google today features a doodle on  Sake Dean Mahomed

doodlesakedeanmahomed

Turns out “Sake Dean Mahomed was an Anglo-Indian traveller, surgeon and entrepreneur who was one of the most notable early non-European immigrants to the Western World. He introduced Indian cuisine and shampoo baths to Europe, where he offered therapeutic massage. He was also the first Indian to publish a book in English!” (Wikipedia)

Sake Dean Mahomed.jpg

BBC – Beyond the Broadcastran an interesting feature “Brighton, or Brighthelmstone as it was then known, was a developing resort in the 1770s and ’80s when an Indian, Sake Dean Mahomed, arrived to open Mahomed’s Indian Vapour Baths on the seafront, on the site of what is now the Queen’s Hotel. These were Turkish baths in which clients were put in a flannel tent and massaged by someone who poked their arms through slits in the flannel walls. Mahomed was known as a ‘shampooing surgeon’ – shampooing referred not, in the modern sense, to washing the hair, but to massaging the body during a vapour bath”

Professional golfer arrested for poaching at an Indian tiger reserve; Opportunity for hunting Tours to the USA?

Professional golfer arrested for poaching at an Indian tiger reserve; Opportunity for hunting Tours to the USA?

The Indian media is abuzz with the arrest of professional golfer Jyoti Randhawa, who was arrested for allegedly poaching in the Motipur range, an area that is protected at the Dudhwa Tiger reserve. Mr. Randhawa was apparently caught with skin of endangered animals and riffles and hunting gear in his possession, all of which are illegal in India.

This is not the first incident of the rich and famous being arrested for poaching. According to Washington Post, Earlier this year, the popular Bollywood star Salman Khan was sentenced to 5 years in prison for poaching antelope. After a legal battle that lasted nearly 20 years, a prominent Bollywood actor once seen by many as above the law was convicted of poaching two endangered blackbuck antelopes and sentenced to five years in prison.

Jyoti Rhandawa, golfer.JPG

Poaching in Indian forests is a major game of cat-and-mouse with a small band of underpaid and overworked forest department officials trying hard to guard dwindling parcels of forest land. They occasionally catch a few bad apples while many get away. Landing the rich and famous in the net makes for sensational news, but this doesn’t seem to deter a percentage of folks like Mr. Jyoti Randhawa who think they can get away with it.

Opportunity for American ‘Hunting Tours’ to fill the void by attracting rich Indians?

Setting aside the moral and ethical dilemma of hunting wildlife, one can perhaps look to the West, especially America. The United States, with large tracts of land and rather liberal gun laws has turned legal-hunting into a major industry in some American states.

In the United States, regulation of hunting is primarily performed by state law; additional regulations are imposed through Federal environmental law regarding migratory birds (such as ducks and geese) and endangered species. A map of total hunting licenses purchased in the United States in 2017. Like many licenses, a hunting license is considered a privilege granted by the government, rather than a constitutional right under the Second Amendment. (Wikipedia)

Even a cursory googling of “hunting tours America” brings up hundreds of entrepreneurs and companies providing guided and un-guided Hunting trips. For example, Montana Guided Big Game Hunting claims “We offer:  mule and whitetail deer hunts, archery elk hunts, archery whitetail hunts, wilderness elk hunts, wilderness multi-weapon hunts, wilderness combination big game hunts, spring and fall black bear, horseback hunts, lodge hunts, mountain lion hunts, moose hunts and goat hunts.” 

Superstars like Salman Khan and sportsmen like Jyoti Randhawa and thousands of rich closet-hunters from India are ideal clientele for hunting tour operators. They are interested in hunting and can surely afford a plane ride to the US.

Any entrepreneurs out there tapping this market?


 

 

References

  • Jyotinder Singh Randhawa (born 4 May 1972), also known as Jyoti Randhawa, is an Indian professional golfer who was ranked in the top 100 of the Official World Golf Ranking several times between 2004 and 2009
  • Golfer Jyoti Randhawa held for poaching in Dudhwa tiger reserve – Times of India
  • Professional golfer and his caddie arrested for poaching at a tiger reserve – Golf Digest
  • 5W1H: Golfer Jyoti Randhawa arrested for alleged poaching at UP – ZeeNews