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:

Profiling Anuradha Bhagwati: First south Asian woman US Marine Corps Officer

At 24, Anuradha Bhagwati, become the first south Asian woman officer in the history of the US Marine Corps. At the time, the Yale graduate, daughter of eminent economists Jagdish Bhagwati and Padma Desai was proud to join the elite military force.

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Bhagwati’s famous parents pushed her hard to be a good Indian girl and conform to the desi diaspora’s norms, but she rebelled.

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Anuradha recounts in Unbecoming: A Memoir of Disobedience,

Yet once training begins, Anuradha’s G.I. Jane fantasy is punctured. As a bisexual woman of color in the military, she faces underestimation at every stage, confronting misogyny, racism, and astonishing injustice perpetrated by those in power. Pushing herself beyond her limits, she also wrestles with what exactly drove her to pursue such punishment in the first place.

Once her service concludes in 2004, Anuradha courageously vows to take to task the very leaders and traditions that cast such a dark cloud over her time in the Marines. Her efforts result in historic change, including the lifting of the ban on women from pursuing combat roles in the military.

Bhagwati’s book has also received rave reviews from critics:

“While reading a book to review, it’s usually useful to fold over a page’s corner to make it easy to come back, to reflect on each noteworthy passage…But then you find yourself folding down the next page, and another, and another, until more than half the book is folded down, rendering the tactic useless as a reference but testimony to the story’s potency.”
Los Angeles Times Book Review

“Bhagwati’s book stands out most as a chronicle of overcoming psychological trauma…The book is at its most powerful when she writes about who she became in response to the violence the military trained her to commit.”
New York Times Book Review

Image credits and more about Bhagwati on the website

 

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?

U.S. Visa Applicants will be required to share Social Media accounts with State Department

The US State Department will now require new visitors, visa applicants and prospective immigrants to the United States to hand over their social media account names as well as email addresses and phone numbers used over the past five years.

Earlier last year, the government posted 60-Day Notice of Proposed Information Collection: Application for Nonimmigrant Visa 

The Department also is revising the collection to add several additional questions for nonimmigrant visa applicants. One question lists multiple social media platforms and requires the applicant to provide any identifiers used by applicants for those platforms during the five years preceding the date of application. The platforms listed may be updated by the Department by adding or removing platforms.

See the source image

According a State Department statement,

“We already request certain contact information, travel history, family member information, and previous addresses from all visa applicants, We are constantly working to find mechanisms to improve our screening processes to protect U.S. citizens, while supporting legitimate travel to the United States.”

In March 2017, President Trump asked the secretary of state, the attorney general, the secretary of homeland security and the director of national intelligence to put in effect “a uniform baseline for screening and vetting standards and procedures,” according to a memo published in the Federal Register. Requiring information about the social media accounts of visa applicants was part of that.

Unless you are exempt due to diplomatic or official reasons, you will need to supply five years’ worth of social media and email account history, as well as past international travel information.

The forms will list the most popular social networking platforms — likely including Facebook and Twitter, among others — and will also invite applicants to list any other platforms and accounts not included on the paperwork.

Ashish Alfred Named 2019 Maryland Chef of the Year at Awards Gala

Seen as inspiration by fellow cooks, Chef Alfred’s work ethic and three restaurants elevate the food industry’s standard of excellence.

 (Bethesda, MD)–The Restaurant Association of Maryland just named Ashish Alfred of the Alfred Restaurant Group Maryland’s 2019 Chef of the Year. The prestigious honor, voted on by the dining public, recognizes overall excellence in the foodservice industry and Chef Alfred’s commitment to the community. The Association awards Chef of the Year to “an executive chef who demonstrates consistent standards of excellence, serves as an inspiration to other foodservice professionals, displays dedication to the artistry of food and exhibits ongoing commitment to the community.”

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“It is a real honor for my team and I to be recognized for all the hard work we put in,” says Chef Alfred, 33. “I’m truly grateful for our team that shows up every day and works toward making my visions a reality and making our clients as happy as possible. It’s really a proud moment when all the hard work, the long hours, and teamwork by our staff is recognized by such an important organization.”

The award reflects an honor-filled season for Alfred, chef and owner of the Alfred Restaurant Group, as he continues to earn rave reviews at his three Maryland-Washington, D.C. area restaurants: Duck Duck Goose Bethesda, George’s Chophouse in Bethesda, and Duck Duck Goose Baltimore.

Duck Duck Goose in Bethesda was recently named one of the top ten “Favorite New Restaurants” by Bethesda Magazine and “Best Restaurant in Maryland” by Southern Living Magazine. In a glowing review, The Washington Post says about Duck Duck Goose, “the delights are in the details.” Alfred recently opened Duck Duck Goose in Baltimore, which Baltimore Magazine honors as one of Charm City’s Best Restaurants.

Chef Alfred has recently been profiled by NBC’s TODAY Show, The Washington Post and Baltimore Magazine. He also held a command performance at the prestigious James Beard House, where he prepared a multi-course dinner for a sold-out audience. Alfred was classically trained at the French Culinary Institute in Manhattan and honed his skills in some of Manhattan’s best kitchens. Grounded by his classical French discipline, he isn’t afraid to go beyond tradition, take risks and experiment with his offerings. He delivers contemporary dining concepts that are rooted in soulful cooking.

Alfred is a popular guest with the media, whether he’s sharing a cooking demo and insights on local TV, or battling it out as a contender on Food Network’s Cutthroat Kitchen and Chopped.

Indian sprinter Dutee Chand says she’s in same-sex relationship with soulmate

Same sex relationships and gay rights in India seem to be catching up with rest of the world. Of course, this is not universal or uniform. Some cities and states in India are more advanced than others when it comes to accommodating Gay rights. Some like Bengaluru have gone as far as having Public Toilets for Transgenders (link)

Now comes news that Dutee Chand is the first Indian sports star to openly acknowledge being in a same-sex relationship with her ‘soulmate’. Dutee Chand is the 100 m record holder and winner of two silver medals at the 2018 Asian Games.

Dutee spoke to The Sunday Express about her relationship, career plans and eventually settling down with the woman she loves. She is busy training for the Tokyo Olympics and that she hoped to settle down with her ‘soulmate’ in future.

“I have found someone who is my soulmate. I believe everyone should have the freedom to be with whoever they decide they want to be with. I have always supported the rights of those who want to be in a same-sex relationship,” she was quoted.

The 2018 Asian Games double silver medalist didn’t reveal the identity of her partner, and wants to safeguard her from being “the center of undue attention”, in a country that is still getting used to the decriminalization of homosexuality.


 

More about  Dutee Chand:

She is an Indian professional sprinter and current national champion in the women’s 100 metres event. She is the third Indian woman to ever qualify for the Women’s 100 meters event at the Summer Olympic Games. However in the 2016 Summer Olympics, her 11.69s in the preliminary round did not make her qualify to the next round. In 2018 Chand clinched silver in women’s 100m at the Jakarta Asian Games. It was India’s first medal in this event since 1998.

Also in New York Times:  Sprinter Dutee Chand Becomes India’s First Openly Gay Athlete – A champion sprinter with village roots has become India’s first openly gay professional athlete, less than a year after the country’s top court overturned a longstanding ban on gay sex.

 

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

H1-B Cap for 2019 reached, and Indian companies top visa rejections

Here are a couple of updates on H1B Visas that are of interest to applicants and companies

The USCIS announced that

“On April 5, 2019, USCIS reached the congressionally-mandated 65,000 H-1B visa regular cap for fiscal year 2020. USCIS will next determine if we have received a sufficient number of petitions to meet the 20,000 H-1B visa U.S. advanced degree exemption, known as the master’s cap.

USCIS will continue to accept and process petitions that are otherwise exempt from the cap. Petitions filed for current H-1B workers who have been counted previously against the cap, and who still retain their cap number, will also not be counted toward the FY 2020 H-1B cap.”

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According to a research report by CARE Ratings, the total number of H-1B applications approved to the top five IT majors — TCS, Infosys, HCL, Wipro and Tech Mahindra — stood at a mere 22,429, down from 43,957 in 2017, amid the rhetoric against immigrant workers by the Trump administration.

In FY18, a total of 331,098 H-1B petitions were approved and companies with the highest number of approvals were Cognizant Tech Solutions US Corp, TCS Ltd, Infosys Ltd, Deloitte Consulting LLP and Microsoft Corporation, which cumulatively received 33,576 approvals.  However, the number of approvals reduced by 11%, from 37,393 in FY14.

Out of the total awardees, 73% possess Bachelor’s degree and rest 27% have Master’s degree. The median salaries offered by companies in chart 2 were in the range of USD 75,000 to 131,000. 

A few key highlights from the report

  • Cognizant Tech Solutions witnessed 4,338 denials in FY18, the highest by any company. This was followed by TCS Ltd and Infosys Ltd. The top five companies were cumulatively denied 11,907 petitions, out of which 80% were of extension visas and rest 20% of initial visas.
  • Infosys with 26%, registered the highest number of H-1B visa denials among Indian IT majors, followed by HCL America Inc, TCS Ltd, Tech Mahindra Americas Inc and Wipro Ltd.

 

Also of interest Listing of top 100 H1B Visa Employers in the US in 2016-17

 

Kumail Nanjiani’s Little America Apple series to look at immigrant life

During Apple’s livestreamed event on Monday, the company revealed a series of new services and products, including the TV Plus streaming service, which will present a slate of new shows including The Big Sick actor Kumail Nanjiani‘s new series Little America.

At the Apple event, Nanjiani revealed that he and his wife Emily V. Gordon are writing and executive producing the new show about immigrants in America. Little America will have episodes based on true stories featured in Epic Magazine, which are described on the site as “a small, collective portrait of America’s immigrants — and thereby a portrait of America itself,” according to Deadline. More about Apple’s announcement on cNet

 

Kumail Nanjiani is a Pakistani-American stand-up comedian, actor, podcast host, and writer best known for being a main cast member on HBO’s Emmy Award-nominated series Silicon Valley, as well as for providing the voice of Prismo on the Emmy Award-winning animated series Adventure Time. He starred on the TNT series Franklin & Bash and the Adult Swim series Newsreaders. Nanjiani also co-hosted the Comedy Central show The Meltdown with Jonah and Kumail. In addition to his television and film work, he hosted two podcasts: The Indoor Kids and The X-Files Files. In 2018, Time named him one of the 100 most influential people in the world.