Suhas Subramanyam, Virginia’s first Indian American, Hindu Delegate sworn in with Gita

A few days ago, an Indian American politician Suhas Subramanyam, tweeted

Subramanyam, who explains how his name is pronounced (‘Soo-braw-MAN-yum’) is a representative from District 87 in Virginia’s General Assembly. In a recent interview, he explains “Why was it important to tweet about being Hindu, Indian American

I thought it was important to embrace it. I also want others running for office here or in other areas to not feel that they have to downplay or hide it. My constituency has Hindus and people are exposed to the faith, but it is also a diverse, smart and open-minded community. It is very inclusive, especially in recent years. While campaigning, too, I went to temples and did namaskar, but I also went to churches and mosques. Hinduism is accepting of all faiths as we believe it is one god with many names.

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from Subramanyam’s tweet

Subramanyam is married to Miranda Peña Subramanyam, who works for a government contractor and volunteers in her free time at the Loudoun Abused Women’s Shelter. They were married in Sterling, Virginia, where they currently reside.


About Bhagavad Gita

The Bhagavad Gita (Sanskrit: भगवद् गीता, ) often referred to as the Gita, is a 700-verse Sanskrit scripture that is part of the Hindu epic Mahabharata.  Popular media in India including bollywood films have long depicted court scenes where witnesses take an oath using Bhagavad Gita (link).

Subramanyam’s swearing in with a Bhagavad Gita follows a trend. With the increasing diversity in the West, many politicians of Indian descent are taking to the Gita during their swearing in:

And the hawks are watching for those who aren’t following this new norm: UK MP under fire for not taking oath on GitaA British Punjabi Hindu MP has come under fire for not taking an oath of allegiance to the Crown on the Bhagavat Gita. 

Indian-American astronaut selected for NASA program for Moon, Mars

NASA recently announced that Indian-American Raja Chari passed out from the 2017 Astronaut Candidate Class. NASA profile of Colonel Chari’s profile includes:

The Iowa native graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1999 with bachelor’s degrees in Astronautical Engineering and Engineering Science. He continued on to earn a master’s degree in Aeronautics and Astronautics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and graduated from the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School.

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Source: NASA
In June 2017, Chari was selected for NASA Astronaut Group 22, and reported for duty in August to begin two years of training as an astronaut.

Chari was born on June 24, 1977 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin to Sreenivas V Chari and Peggy Egbert.  He was inspired to pursue higher education by his father Srinivas V. Chari, who migrated from Hyderabad to US at a young age to complete a degree in engineering.  Chari was quoted in a recent interview:

“My father came to the country with the goal of getting an education and realizing the importance of that and that directly translated to how I was brought up,” adding, “There was a focus throughout my childhood on education and that being the thing, you really needed to do well to succeed”.

It was not a matter of checking boxes of qualifications but of being experts in one’s field, being “really passionate about” it, he added.

Chari is married to Holly Schaffter Chari, also a Cedar Falls native, and the couple has three children. His mother, Peggy Chari, lives in Cedar Falls, Iowa.

Raja Chari with his family. Left to right: Raja, his wife Holly, his son, his brother Krishna. And sitting on the sofa behind his mother Peggy and his father Sreenivas. Photograph: Kind courtesy Raja Chari via rediff.com

 

Other Indian American astronauts

The two Indian-American astronauts before him are both women, Kalpana Chawla and Sunita Williams.

Space scientist Chawla, who was born in Karnal, Haryana, and immigrated to the US, was killed on her second space mission when Space Shuttle Columbia broke up in 2003. She had participated in another mission on the same shuttle in 1987.

Williams, a navy officer, has served as the commander of a International Space Shuttle expedition in 2012. She had been on three other missions, in one of them as flight engineer.

Good news story: Pharmacist Raj Gupta dispensing medication even after losing home in the Australian bushfires

The recent Australian bushfires have devastated communities across the region, leaving people without homes and basic necessities.

Raj Gupta’s home went up in flames during recent NSW South Coast bushfires and his town of Malua Bay remains severely damaged, without power and mobile service. However, Gupta continues to run the small pharmacy there, dispensing medicines and essentials to those who need it.

According to news accounts,

The 52-year-old pharmacist is now staying in emergency housing at nearby Batemans Bay, but is continuing to travel back to Malua Bay to keep the pharmacy open.

We can’t take payments, but that’s not much of a concern. I’ve had my patients come in and say they’ve not only lost their house and their belongings, but also their medication,” he said.

Mr Raj Gupta was born in India and came to Australia 28 years ago. The father of two moved to Malua Bay seven years ago for semi-retirement.

Gupta
From Mr. Gupta’s LinedIn profile

The story of Indian-Australian Pharmacist Raj Gupta who lost his home in the bushfires but is still dispensing prescriptions is heartening indeed.

Related news : Australian bush fires: Social media erupts with stories of unsung heroes helping others and wildlife

Why are so many motels owned by Indians? This is even called the Patel Motel Cartel

As per some estimates, 70–80 percent of Motels across North America are owned or managed by Patels of Gujarati origin. When I lived in Colorado and North Carolina, I knew a few IT professionals of Gujarati origin who would continually muse and research ideas on getting into the business of running motels, franchises or gas station. Many eventually made the switch, thanks to the support from the strong network of community.

An interesting article in the New York Times from a decade ago chronicles the journey of Patels (re A Patel Motel Cartel?) “about 70 percent of all Indian motel owners — or a third of all motel owners in America — are called Patel, a surname that indicates they are members of a Gujarati Hindu subcaste.”

So, how do the Patels do this?

“Buying a motel, even one that’s in the red, usually requires a substantial down payment, one beyond the reach of most new immigrants. That, however, is one key to how this particular niche was captured. The down payment was seldom a problem for a prospective Indian purchaser, who was often able to turn to a network of relatives and friends to help him out. The story of Lata and P.J., for example, is not exactly the hardscrabble tale associated with some immigrant groups.”

Image result for patel motel"

Check out other articles in the media that chronicle the Patels in America

Who is Tushar Atre? CEO killed after being kidnapped from oceanfront Santa Cruz home

Indian-origin entrepreneur Tushar Atre who was abducted from his home in California’s Santa Cruz earlier this week has been found dead inside his BMW car, Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s office said

Atre,  Santa Cruz tech executive was forced from his home in the middle of the night and then killed this week, leaving authorities with few clues but plenty of questions in the slaying.

The body of Tushar Atre, 50, was found Tuesday morning about seven hours after the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office was alerted that he had been taken from his home “during a crime.”

Law enforcement officials are still trying to piece together the events that led to Atre’s death, which they believe originated with a robbery attempt.

Atre was also in the cannabis business. The city of Santa Cruz confirmed he was “the owner of Interstitial Systems, which is a licensed cannabis manufacturer that operates out of a location on Fern street,” reported Kion456. Heavy has confirmed through state records that Atre was a licensed Cannabis distributor.

 

Atre was the owner of AtreNet, a web design company founded in 1996 that caters to Silicon Valley corporate businesses. According to AtreNet’s website, the company’s clients include technology, marketing and software companies such as Hewlett-Packard, BuzzLogic, Seagate and Tealeaf Technology.

Newly Published EB-5 Modernization Rules from USCIS: does it impact Indians?

On July 23, 2019, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services’ (USCIS) regulations to update the Immigrant Investor Program were published in the Federal Register. The new EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program Modernization rules (New Rules) amend the historic Department of Homeland Security (DHS) regulations governing the employment-based, fifth preference (EB-5) immigrant investor classification and associated regional centers to reflect statutory changes and modernize the EB-5 program. The New Rules are creating quite a buzz in the EB-5 community with good reason. Of particular note, the New Rules modify the EB-5 program by:

  • Increasing the required minimum investment amounts;

  • Providing the long-awaited priority date retention to EB-5 investors in certain cases;

  • Amending targeted employment area (TEA) designation criteria;

  • Centralizing TEA determination;

  • Clarifying USCIS procedures for the removal of conditions on permanent residence fulfilment;

  • Providing for periodic minimum investment increases henceforth; and

  • Implementing a myriad other amendments.

The New Rules are effective 120 days from publication, which is November 21, 2019. The effective date of the New Rules presupposes that Congress will extend the EB-5 Program’s current sunset date of September 30, 2019. USCIS clarified that it will adjudicate investors, who file a Form I-526 petition before November 21, 2019, under the current EB-5 program rules. Now the race is on to initiate and complete investments by the effective date. (Source natlawreview.com)

What is the impact of EB5 rule change on Indians?

The Indian media picked up this story and began analysis of the impact on Indians. However, a fact are worth noting: Although the number of EB5 visas  quadrupled from 100 to 500 (link), this is a reminisce number when one considers hundreds of thousands of Indians waiting for employment based (EB) and family (F) sponsored visas

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image source https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/eb-5-visas-issued-to-indians-quadruple-over-two-years-300818040.html

The reason for so few EB5 visas issued to Indians is not hard to fathom. The number of Indians who have half or a million dollars to spare is minuscule. Those who have a million dollars (6 or 7 crore rupees) to ‘invest’ are probably the crème de la crème of Indian business, government and society. They are not likely to think of ‘investing’ a million dollars for an American Green Card when they can just as easily get long-term visa to other countries around the world.

Are Indians still desperate to cross into the US illegally?

The Indian and global media are running heartbreaking stories of the 7-year old girl of Punjabi origin who died while crossing into the US near a remote and deserted US-Mexico border area.  According to the Beast

The US Border Patrol agents found the remains of what is believed to be a 7-year-old girl from India in the Arizona desert on Wednesday morning, according to a Customs and Border Protection statement. The girl was said to be traveling with a group of migrants who were dropped off by smugglers and told to cross into the U.S. in a “dangerous and austere location.”

Tucson Sector Border Patrol agents found two adult women from India believed to have been a part of that group, and they said they made the journey with three others – a woman and two children – but were separated from them. Hours later, the Pima County Sheriff’s Department and Border Patrol agents found the girl’s remains 17 miles west of Lukeville and discovered the footprints of the woman and the other child leading back to Mexico.

Temperatures in the rugged wilderness where agents found her remains on Wednesday hovered around 107.6 degrees (about 42 Celsius).

While CBP agents are reportedly searching the area for more potential group members, none have been located on either side of the southern border. The agency also said the high temperature in the area on Wednesday was about 108 degrees.

“Our sympathies are with this little girl and her family,” Tucson Chief Patrol Agent Roy Villareal wrote in the statement. “This is a senseless death driven by cartels who are profiting from putting lives at risk.”

While my heart goes out to the little girl who lost her life under unfortunate circumstances, I am left scratching my head about the parents decision:

  • What would make a mother with two little girls walk across inhospitable and dangerous desert thousands of miles from their homeland, with two little girls?
  • Is the American dream really worth risking one’s life?
  • It costs thousands of dollars to buy air tickets, get some visas, and to fly half-way across the globe and to hire ‘human smugglers.’ Couldn’t that amount – hundreds of thousands of rupees – be spent in living a decent life and educating the kids?