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.

25-year-old Mysuru student shot dead in California

In yet another case of an apparently senseless killing, Abhishek Sudesh Bhat, a student of Indian origin was shot dead by an unidentified person in San Bernardino, California. In a facebook post, Abhishek said “Started New Job at California State University, San Bernardino College of Natural Sciences October — Teaching Assistant (TA)”

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Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/abhisheksudhesh

As per media accounts, Abhishek’s body was found in front of a motel room where he was also working part time. Abhishek’s father Sudhesh Chand is a yoga guru and founder of Sri Upanishath Yoga Centre Trust in Kuvempunagar, Mysuru.

Abhishek’s family has approached the local MP, Pratap Simha and deputy commissioner of Police, seeking their help to bring home the mortal remains.

The motive behind the crime or the identity of the attacker were not immediately known.

Amritha Shakti: Deserve Me (Youtube) music video to represent South Asian women

Check out the interesting video from Amritha Shakti,  an Indian-Australian singer-songwriter daughter of first wave Indian immigrants who moved to Australia in the early 90s. She grew up learning South Indian classical music (Carnatic) and eventually fell in love with soul and jazz.

 

According to a feature in Brown Girl Magazine

Passionate about gender equality and the “divine feminine energy,” Amritha Shakti is channeling her multi-hyphenated experiences into each line, and you’re going to want to keep her on repeat. She breaks down her journey of career lows, loss of self and how she found her way back to music.

View this post on Instagram

Bali is one of those places that just pulls you in – and if you're soul-searching, it's HEAVEN 🌺 . 🌸Last year, Bali taught me all about my own passion for womxn, the fact that I can't do this all alone and I need a sisterhood, and it taught me that I had a long way to do with self love 🙏🏽 . 🌷This year was different- I realised how far I had travelled in my own self love journey – which was a blessing in itself. But I also learnt the meaning of being open to the Universe – how to let Divine creative energy take control. How to let go and leap into Faith. How to practice gratitude every damn day. . What is it about Bali that makes it so special?! I can't figure it out – but I'll always be back 🌸🌺💕🙏🏽 . Thank you for following my journey SoulTribe – love you and onto Penang!✨✨✨✨ . . Photo courtesy: my wonderful new friend @callmeedo . #womenofcolor #selflovery #selflovecoach #selflove❤ #selflovefirst #selfloveiskey #selflovechallenge #selflovewarrior #healinglight #amrithashakti #womenhelpingwomen #womenofcolour #browngirlmagic #browngirlswhoblog #southasia #southasian #southasianblogger #southasianbloggers #musicthatheals #balihealing #balibabe #spiritualbali #ilovebali

A post shared by Amritha Shakti (@amritha.shakti) on

Indians trolls discover that Boston Brahmins can be Black too!

A week ago, the famous Indian classical artist Sudha Rughanathan announced the wedding of her daughter Malavika, and the wedding invitation went viral on social media. The reason: the groom to be happens to be Black, an African American. Never mind the fact that Mr. Michael Murphy happens to be a well educated, Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Pittsburgh; a Boston Brahmin in his own right.

Ms. Sudha Raghunathan happens to be the latest victim of unsolicited public scrutiny and judgmental remarks and incessant trolling, hate tweets and racial taunts. What makes the trolling appalling is the fact that Ms Rughanathan is a well-respected classical musician who was conferred India’s highest honors –  Padma Shri in 2004 and Padma Bhushan. She has performed and collaborated with other artists all over the world, including performances at the United Nations, and the Théâtre de la Ville, Paris.

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Some comments have been especially personal and tangential. A few bigots and Hindu fundamentalists went as far as questioning “her decision” to allow her daughter to marry a Christian. Fundamentalists asked her to relinquish her rights to perform in Carnatic ‘sabhas,’ supposedly a privilege accorded to ‘Brahmins only.’

The comments posted against Ms Malavika proudly introduces her mother at a concert in the US “I cant see a carnati (sic) singers Daughter waring such bhikari dress”

The groom to be, Mr. Murphy seems to be acutely aware of racism, and Brahmanism as he writes in his blog

“There’s a long standing maxim in the African American community that if you want to succeed in this country, you’ll have to work twice as hard as anyone else. Everywhere that I turn I am accosted by images of greatness that continue to exclude the multitude of incredible human beings who happen to be marked by some—more often than not intersectional— difference.”

The trolling issue is sure to blow over soon and become a non-issue soon. As expected, the trolls were soon drowned out by an outpouring of support for Sudha Rughanathan and her family, and articles and columns in the media jumped in, calling for their privacy.

Bottomline: Incidents like this shows the deep-rooted sense of parochialism and bigotry that exists in modern Indian society. Relative anonymity accorded by tools of social media, including Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp can enlighten the masses can also exacerbate and amplify such bigotry.

[Image and video posted from public sources]


Articles in the media:

Millionaires fleeing India in larger numbers: GWMR Report

A recent report by Global Wealth Migration Review (GWMR) suggests that Indians who have the means to quit the country are doing so in large numbers. The report indicates that a large number of Indian high-net-worth individuals (HNWIs) moved to USA, UAE, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

According to the GWMR report, India saw the third highest outflow of wealthy individuals last year. Nearly 5,000 millionaires, or high-net-worth individuals (HNWIs), left the country, which is 2 per cent of the total number of HNWIs in India.

The UK for the last three decades was ranked among the countries with the highest number of inflow of wealthy individuals but the trend reversed sharply in the last two years, thanks to Brexit.

China topped the list, as its economy is starting to show the impact of the trade battle with the US.  Russia occupied the second spot, ahead of India, as the Russian economy grapples with the impact of multiple embargoes. 

The report forecasts a growth in large number of entrepreneurs in India attributable to, good educational system and English speaking workforce. A strong growth forecast in the local financial services, IT, business process outsourcing, real estate, healthcare and media sectors (10 year wealth growth forecast: 200%).

The report also pointed out another critical problem with the Indian economy of the degree of inequality growing at an alarming rate. The HNWIs hold nearly half the total wealth in the country.

The report highlights  Pune, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, among global cities to look out for in the next decade.   However, the report also went on to mention that the outflow of HNWIs from China and India is not “particularly concerning”

The outflows of HNWIs from these countries are not particularly concerning as they are still producing far more new HNWIs than they are losing. Also, once the standard of living in these countries improves, we expect several wealthy people to move back.

Links

 

US war veteran mows down Indian-origin family, thought they were Muslims

According to an IANS report, An African American Iraq War veteran intentionally ran down a family of Indian descent in California thinking they were Muslims, according to police.

A 13-year-old girl identified as Dhriti was in coma and fighting for her life after the attack in Sunnyvale on Tuesday, police said on Friday according to Mercury News.

US war veteran

US war veteran mows down Indian-descent family in California. (Photo: Twitter/@SunnyvaleDPS)

The girl’s father and 9-year-old brother, identified as Prakhar, were also hurt, according to police. One of the eight people injured was listed as Rajesh Narayan, 45, but it was not known if he was related to the two children.

The driver of the car, Isiah Peoples “intentionally targeted the victims based on their race and his belief that they were of the Muslim faith,” Sunnyvale police chief Phan Ngo said according to local ABC7 TV station.

Peoples was produced in a San Jose court on Friday and charged with attempted murder.

ABC7 TV quoted police as saying that Peoples was on his way to a Bible study group when he drove his car into the pedestrians.

It reported that after the crash, a witness said she heard Peoples say, “Thank you Jesus, praise Jesus.”

The newspaper quoted Ngo as saying that Peoples told detectives that he meant to hit the victims and did not show any remorse. He said that Peoples did not have a known criminal history or make any alarming social media posts.

His lawyer and family have said that Peoples suffered from mental problems.

Mercury News said his lawyer Chucks Smith disputed that the crash was intentional, saying that “this act was clearly the result of a mental disorder or defect”.

Peoples, who had been a sergeant in the US Army, served 11 months in Iraq and had received several awards including a Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the newspaper said.

It said that his brother and mother told reporters that he had shown signs of post-traumatic stress disorder after returning from Iraq and had at one point been hospitalised for psychiatric problems.

People’s was working a government defense auditor.

Dhriti, who was a seventh-grade student at Sunnyvale Middle School, suffered bleeding and swelling of the brain, and the left side of her skull was removed to relieve pressure, Mercury News reported quoting a court document.


 

Previous reports of hate crimes against Indians

Indian dentist murdered in Australia, ex-boyfriend dies in subsequent road accident

A 32-year old Indian woman, who was practicing as dental surgeon in Australia, was found murdered in her car in Sydney. Her ex-boyfriend, who is the prime suspect, is said to have died in a ‘deliberate’ road accident later.

The body of Preethi Reddy was stuffed in a suitcase and was kept in the car, which was parked roadside. Preethi’s body had multiple stab injuries. The ghastly murder  is believed to have taken place on Sunday considering the details of her last contact with the family members. The victim hailed from Mahbubnagar district in Telangana. She was working as dental surgeon at Glenbrook Dental Surgery, a hospital about 70 km from Sydney. Reports say that she left home for a medical conference at St Leonards on Sunday (March 3) but failed to return home till evening. Her sister, Nithya Reddy, lodged a complaint with the Sydney police. Her family and friends also opened a Facebook page seeking help to trace her. After the cops declared tracing the mortal remains of Preethi, Nithya posted on the page, “Our dearest Preethi is no longer with us”.

Preethi, according to reports, went to a hotel where her ex-boyfriend Harshwardhan Narde was staying. CCTV footage showed her going to a nearby fast food joint on George Street around 2:15 am and then proceeded to her car. She was last seen at a line in McDonalds in the wee hours, where she bought a water bottle. The South Wales police traced her car parked in a street in Eastern Sydney.

“Preethi’s vehicle was parked on Strachan Street, Kingsford, about 9:30 pm on Tuesday. During a search of the vehicle, the police located Preethi’s body in a suitcase. Further inquiries have established that Preethi stayed at a hotel on Market Street in Sydney on Sunday with a man known to her. Strike Force Carlwood investigators have since been notified that the man died in a head-on collision on the New England Highway near Willow Tree at about 10 pm on Monday. Detectives from Oxley Police Area Command are investigating the circumstances surrounding the collision, which is believed to be a deliberate act,” a South Wales police statement said.

Harshawardhan, 34, was found lying dead after a head on collision. The police suspect it to be a case of suicide by ramming his BMW into a truck. The car later caught fire, reports further said. Narde was also a dentist. They both attended the same conference on Sunday. It is suspected that Narda might have murdered Preethi at the hotel and managed to stuff the body in a suitcase and leave it in her car seven kilometers away.

Preethi’s family moved to Australia many years ago. Her father Narasimha Reddy teaches at Western Sydney University.

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

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.

 

Man seeking Non Resident Indian (NRI) bride duped

One frequently hears of NRI brides and women seeking NRI alliances being duped by unscrupulous men. In a strange twist.

According to media reports, Sadar police in Ludhiana (Punjab) have registered a case  against a Non Resident Indian (NRI) woman’s family, for allegedly duping a Ludhiana resident of Rs 5.50 lakh on the pretext of marrying him and and sending him abroad.

Image result for indian police cartoon

Krishan Kumar Khatri had placed a matrimonial advertisement the local newspaper calling for alliances for his daughter who is settled in Australia.  After initial conversations, the  bride’s family asked the family of Kulwinder Singh, the prospective groom for 90,000 Australian dollars. They agreed to take the money in three installments, and were paid Rs 1/2 million rupees as the initial installment. After receiving that money, the bride’s family ended all connection with the prospective groom and his family.

The father of Kulwinder complained to the local police, who registered a case under Section 420 (cheating) of the IPC against Mr. Khatri. The investigating officer from Sadar police station, ASI Ravinder Kumar, confirmed that although the ‘negotiations’ had taken place a few years ago, the family filed a complaint only in 2016. A case was registered recently after the initial investigation was completed.


 

In another unrelated news – Matrimonial website fraud: Mumbai schoolteacher claims Rs 11.5 lakh cheating by ‘NRI’