When everything is available in the USA, why do people carry so much stuff from India?

This was an interesting question that came from an online forum.

Indeed, US is the land of plenty and almost everything is available in the US. Indian Grocery shops – check out our extensive listing – can be found in almost every city and metro in the US. They stock a wide array of ethnic food, utensils, cookers and trinkets. Indians still prefer to carry suit-case full of ‘stuff’ while traveling to the US. A few weeks ago, we responded to a similar question “Where do I buy Indian mangoes in the USA?”

Here are a few practical reasons why Indians might ‘stuff’ their baggage while traveling to the US.

  1. Food-stuff and dry-grocery – to be used during the initial few days after they land. Many Indian visitors are used to home-cooked food and might plan to cook a dinner/lunch at an extended-stay hotel or at an apartment. [Why don’t they just drive to an Indian store for grocery stuff? Because it may not be possible to drive down during the first few days. ]
  2. Clothing – Indian ethnic wear, like Indian Sarees, Chudidhar (for women) and Kurtas (for men) sell at a steep premium. It is practical to carry sufficient number of these. Indian clothing can be heavy, adding to the baggage!
  3. Trinkets, Curios, handicrafts – ‘what did you get for me?’ is a typical question colleagues, friends and neighbors might ask. Indians returning back to the US generally carry a bagful of typical curios for others and some for themselves
  4. Mom’s pickles – Pickles, papads, ‘homemade’ masalas and savories are perennial favorites even though US customs officers have been known to randomly pick and discard some of these
  5. Indian Utensils – Some folks carry Indian utensils, cookers, mixers and even wet-grinders. Such stuff can be expensive in the US.

Requests from family and friends. Family and friends in the US are sure to make requests from 1, 2, 3 which returning-Indians might be obliged to bring back.

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Opportunity for Visiting NRI scientists to work in Indian institutes

India’s Central Government is all set to launch a first-of-its-kind programme next month wherein foreign and Non Resident Indian (NRI) scientists can work in the country’s scientific institutions for a period of one to three months.

Those of us (including GaramChai.com editor) who attended the “Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD) in 2017” recall the announcement on Visiting Advanced Joint Research (VAJRA)

Hon’ble Prime Minister during the 14th Pravasi Bharatiya Divas Convention at Bengaluru on 8th January 2017 has announced the launching of VAJRA (Visiting Advanced Joint Research) Faculty scheme by the Department of Science and Technology which enables NRIs and overseas scientific community to participate and contribute to research and development in India. The Science and Engineering Research Board (SERB), a Statutory body of the Department will implement the Scheme.

VAJRA faculty will undertake research in S&T priority areas of nation wherein the capability and capacity are needed to be developed. The VAJRA faculty will engage in collaborative research in public funded institutions.

The residency period of the VAJRA Faculty in India would be for a minimum of 1 month and a maximum of 3 months a year.

The VAJRA Faculty is provided a lump-sum amount of US$ 15000 in the first month of residency in a year and US$ 10000 p.m. in the other two months to cover their travel and honorarium. While no separate support is provided for e.g. accommodation, medical / personal insurance etc. the host institute may consider providing additional support.

A few key points about the program

  • VAJRA initiative has been welcomed by leading Indian institutes
  • Foreign researchers see the VAJRA initiative as a gateway to meaningful research in an environment full of opportunity
  • The scientists under the VAJRA programme would draw a salary of USD 15,000 in the first month and USD 10,000 each in the remaining months.
  • The number of scientists under the programme has been capped at 1,000.
  • The government currently runs a programme under ‘Ramanujan Fellowship’. However, it is aimed at attracting Indian students and doctors working abroad. The period of the fellowship is for five years.

Link to the Department of Science and Technology announcement 

For more details, log on to http://www.vajra-india.in/

Summer camps for kids in India: Keeping young minds engaged

Kids around the world eagerly look forward to Summer Vacations. However, after a few weeks of fun-and-frolic, the dog days of summer begin to feel like they are stretching on. Parents look for avenues to keep their kids engaged and learning, giving rise to the cottage industry of Summer Camps.

The Oxford Dictionary defines a Summer Camp as “a camp providing recreational and athletic facilities for children during the summer vacation period.”

Summer Camps in Urban India

Summer camps in Bangalore and other cities in urban India have taken off in a big way. Little Vijay, our 7-year-old, finished his ‘final exams’ at a School in Bangalore by mid-March and my wife and I were wondering how to keep him busy and engaged during April and May.

Suja, my wife saw banners advertising a creative summer camp at Rangabharana Kala Kendra, an art and cultural center in Sanjay Nagar neighborhood, about a kilometer from where we live. She called up the folks at Rangabharana and inquired about the month-long program that would include arts and crafts including “Acting, Art, Dance, Film, Music, Performing Arts, handicrafts, paper craft etc.” The fee for the program at Rupees 3,500 sounded reasonable and our expectations of the program were tempered, and we didn’t expect much other than keeping our frisky youngster busy and engaged.

Summer Camp at Rangabharana Kalakendra 2017

After his exam, we went on a weeklong trip to visit my in-laws in Delhi and by the end of March, Vijay was ready for his first Indian-summer-camp experience.  He agreed to attend the summer camp with a bit of trepidation since none of his friends from school or neighborhood would be there.

After Day-1 at the camp when Vijay came back excited to tell us about the events of the day, Suja and I  realized sending him to Rangabharana was a wise move. As the month wore on, he continued to share his creative activities, crafts with a twinkle in his eye.

Kids performing in Cultural function at on the last day of “Summer Camp”

A few Arts and Crafts made by Vijay during the month

Rangabharana Art

Rangabharana Kalakendra is situated at Sanjay Nagar, Bangalore. Classes in dance are provided by this institute. The minimum age to get admission to Rangabharana Kalakendra is 5. One of the most prominent facilities available at this institute is the availability of individual classes.

Address: CA-5, 1st Main Road, 3rd Cross, KEB Layout, R.M.V. Extension 2nd Stage Bangalore

NRI in News: AT&T’s High Speed-Network is Helping Suman Kanuganti’s Smart Glasses Change the World

Imagine having just arrived at a busy airport and having to navigate to baggage claim, all the while having your eyes closed. Now imagine having to choose your bag out of hundreds of cases of luggage. This was the scenario that Aira’s Co-founder and CEO, Suman Kanuganti, gave at a 2016 global technology conference. This task, which we are casually able to do, is made exponentially difficult for the blind and visually impaired who make up more than 22 million of the U.S. population.

To help those faced with visibility challenges every day, Suman Kanuganti and his team created Aira, a live-time navigational service company that leverages wearable devices, human assisted AI, and widespread bandwidth. Aira was developed within AT&T Foundry for Connected Health, a workshop that fosters emerging Internet of Things (IoT) companies. Here, Suman was able to work closely with AT&T for nine months before showcasing Aira at CES 2017.

Aira utilizes innovative smart glasses technology, along with a dedicated team of certified agents, to guide the users’ around their surroundings while AT&T Dynamic Traffic Management gives Aira agents prioritized connectivity. The user taps on the glasses to connect to an agent who offers assistance. Using a video camera, the agents can “see” from the wearer’s perspective in near real-time and communicate back to the wearer. This way, Aira is able to help, not just in navigation, but also for various circumstances that require visionary aid. Suman’s goal is to expand on these services and develop better software to help those with dementia or autism.

About Suman Kanuganti

Suman holds an MBA in Entrepreneurship and Finance, but more importantly, Suman was able to cultivate his vision from his roots, pulling from his Bachelor’s in Electrical and Electronics Engineering from Kakatiya University, India. His learnings as well as more than 10 years of expertise in leadership and tech has helped develop Aira into fruition, successfully enabling many to navigate independently and even allowing a visually impaired runner, Erich Manser, to finish this year’s Boston Marathon 2017. Beyond the marathon, Erich stated that Aira is helpful for every-day tasks, from picking out a special-occasion card to navigating through populated airports.

Indian Style Innovation? Generate electricity using bulls

Economic Times has an interesting story featuring Patanjali’s Baba Ramdev, Acharya Balkrishna now want to generate electricity using bulls

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Image: ET

Baba Ramdev and his associate Acharya Balkrishna of consumer goods company Patanjali are working on a unique form of renewable energy: Bull power.

Research of over one and a half years on the idea to generate electricity with the aid of a bull’s pulling power has yielded initial success. The aim is to ensure that the animals don’t get sent to slaughter.

The experiment is the brainchild of Balkrishna, managing director and primary stakeholder of Patanjali, and involves a leading Indian multinational automobile manufacturer and a Turkish partner. A prototype has been designed and is being tweaked to generate more electricity.

So far the design, involving a turbine, has managed to yield nearly 2.5 kilowatts of power, said those aware of the research project.

“At a time when more and more male bovines are being slaughtered, we want to change the perception that they (bulls) are not very valuable,” Balkrishna told ET, confirming that Patanjali is conducting research on this at its sprawling Haridwar headquarters “While in the morning they can be used in the farms, in the evening they can be utilised for generation of electricity.”

The article and the interesting headline leaves a lot to our imagination, especially since the technique is unproven and hasn’t been demonstrated at scale. If it does succeed, it will be an interesting innovation to watch.
You may also be interested in a more detailed feature on Patanjali (link) including articles on growth of its brand and going global.



Other articles on this topic:

Shah Rukh Khan’s TED Talk

In this charming, funny talk, Khan traces the arc of his life, showcases a few of his famous dance moves and shares hard-earned wisdom from a life spent in the spotlight. “I sell dreams, and I peddle love to millions of people,” says Shah Rukh Khan, Bollywood’s biggest star.

 

With a fan following that runs into multi-millions, Shah Rukh Khan is at forefront of the Indian film industry and continues to rule at the box office in India. (link to TED)

 

Where are most first generation (Asian) Indian Americans settled in USA?

Here is an interesting question from an online forum “Where are most first generation (Asian) Indian Americans settled in USA? Like I know that they came in California, Washington & Oregon… But what about the trends that later followed? Did anyone choose agriculture oriented states like Iowa or Idaho? I can also see that ~500k Indian Americans are in California itself.” 

Response from our editor

The US Census has begun cataloging “South Asians” and Asian Americans. Among South Asians, Indians are the prominent sub-category.

Much of the research on this sub-category and Indian Americans in particular is empirical.

Check out the link: Statistics and Demographic information on Indians, NRIs and Global Asians in the US and North America

The challenge with census data is that a review of “Indian Americans” will include first and second/third generation Indian Americans (e.g Sundar Pichai and Kal Penn). It may also include those on temporary work and student visas, who happen to be legally resident in a state at the time of survey.