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.”

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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”

Gulf dream, no longer cool for Indians

As we approach the end of 2018, there are a number of media articles that describe how the “gulf dream” is slowly dying for Indians.

A recent Right to Information (RTI) request and an inquiry in parliament revealed that in the last six years, an average of more than ten Indian workers died every day in Gulf countries. In August 2018, Venkatesh Nayak from the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) submitted an RTI to the Ministry of External Affairs seeking to know the names, age, sex, and occupation of Indian workers who died in the six Gulf countries from January 1, 2012 till date. He also sought to know the cause of their deaths as mentioned in the death certificates.

Gulf countries, India, deaths, US dollar, working conditions, remittance, Telangana

About 24,570 Indian workers died in six Gulf Countries Since 2012. These include Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Saudi Arabia recorded the most deaths at 10,416 while Bahrain, at 1,317, had the least.

Mr. Nayak has also analysed the annual ‘Migration and Remittances Data’ released by the World Bank and found that Indians working in Gulf countries accounted for more than half of the remittance that India received from all over the world between 2012-2017. Out of a total of US$ 410.33 billion in remittances from the world over, remittances from the Gulf countries accounted for US$ 209.07 billion.

Articles of interest:

Desi comic characters are global. MARVEL Introduces Indian Hero as Part of Globe-Trotting CHAMPIONS #1 Relaunch

Marvel Comics’ Champions has broadened its focus in recent months, going from outer space to Weirdworld. The series is being relaunched in January to recruit from all of those places.

Writer Jim Zub is relaunching Champions on January 2, and will be joined by his long-time Wayward partner Steven Cummings. Their new Champions line-up is made up of 14 heroes – five founders from the previous run, but also some surprise additions.

According to Zub,

Qureshi Gupta is an East Indian boy from Delhi whose codename is Pinpoint. He loves hip hop music and eating vada. He creates teleportation portals that can take people around the world in the blink of an eye. He joined the Forums (the online chat group where young heroes stay in touch with each other that was first established in Secret Warriors) and lurked there for weeks, nervous about getting involved until he saw Ms. Marvel’s call to action.

Credit: Steven Cummings (Marvel Comics)

Zub adds in an interview

“Pinpoint is an East-Indian boy, 15 years old. He’s relatively short and thin. His hair is crackling with the same green energy we see around the portal he’s summoned. His eyes have no irises when he uses his powers. His superhero outfit should include form-fitting pants and a kurta shirt with a modern cut and collar to it.”

I wanted Pinpoint’s outfit to mix Indian clothing with an iconic symbol for teleportation/focus. It’s the kind of costume a 15-year old could pull together on his own but also comfortable and not going to inhibit him in combat.

 

Famous four: Indian-origin women in Forbes’ list of 50 female technology moguls!

Four Indian-origin women have been named by Forbes among America’s top 50 female technology moguls, a list that includes tech heavyweights IBM CEO Ginni Rometty and Netflix executive Anne Aaron.

Padmasree Warrior, former Chief Technology Officer (CTO) of Cisco; Komal Mangtani, senior director at app-cab aggregator Uber; Neha Narkhede, Chief Technology Officer and co-founder of streaming platform Confluent; and Kamakshi Sivaramakrishnan, CEO and founder of identity-management company Drawbrige; are in the list.

“Women don’t wait for the future. The 2018 Inaugural Top 50 Women In Technology list identifies three generations of forward-thinking technologists leading more than a dozen tech sectors across the globe,” Forbes said in its ‘America’s Top 50 Women in Tech 2018’

Warrior (58) served in executive positions at both Motorola and Cisco and is now the US CEO of the Chinese electric-autonomous-vehicle startup, NIO.

ForbesTop50
Image from Forbes 50

At the $138-billion Cisco Systems, she had helped the tech giant grow in influence through acquisitions. She is also on the boards of Microsoft and Spotify.

“Warrior still finds the time to mentor other women in the tech industry, stay in touch with her 1.6 million Twitter followers and follow a nightly meditation routine,” the business magazine said.

Mangtani, an alumnus of Dharmsinh Desai Institute of Technology in Gujarat, heads business intelligence at Uber. Currently, she serves on the board of nonprofit organisation Women Who Code and led Uber’s $1.2-billion donation and partnership with Girls Who Code to increase access to computer science.

Narkhede, who studied at Pune university, had as a software engineer at LinkedIn helped develop Apache Kafka — which can process the huge influx of data coming from the site in real time. The data-processing software has become the heart of Confluent, an enterprise Narkhede founded with her LinkedIn co-workers to build tools for companies using Apache Kafka, Forbes said.

The 32-year-old’s firm counts Goldman Sachs, Netflix and Uber as customers.

Forty-three-year-old Sivaramakrishnan’s company, Drawbridge, uses large-scale artificial intelligence and machine learning to identify the different devices people.

“As the number of devices people use on a daily basis — computers, laptops and smartphones — increase, advertisers need a way to show ads to a person across all their devices. Facebook and Google already offer these services to advertisers, but now they have a competitor with Kamakshi Sivaramakrishnan’s Drawbridge,” Forbes added.

Article compiled from Forbes and other sources