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CONTENTS

april 2014

SEA SHEPHERD ...................................... 08 Guarding the Great Whale Sanctuary WORLD BANK ........................................ 26 India tops diaspora remittances in 2013 WOMEN EMPOWERMENT ..................... 28 Entrepreneurs’ meet in the U.K. INVESTMENT IN INDIA ......................... 16 Positive outlook EAST AFRICA .......................................... 34 Meet the Dukkawalas

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YUBA CITY .............................................. 40 Little India in California OVERSEAS OUTREACH ......................... 32 BJP: Expanding Horizons NRI FILMMAKER ..................................... 30 Interview with Rohit Gupta

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Cover story

By Sayantan Chakravarty For many reasons, most of us on earth will perhaps find no cause for visiting the Southern Ocean ever. Firstly, it’s quite daunting to be sailing in latitudes beyond 50º–60º in the southern hemisphere, in the wide, open seas for weeks. Secondly, there is large-scale oceanic upwelling—primary means by which deep, dense water is brought to the surface. Thirdly, there are intense cyclonic storms for which terms such as the “furious fifties” and “shrieking sixties” have become part of navigational folklore. Fourthly, the average wind speeds in the Southern Ocean are the strongest in the world. Fifthly, there is no habitation nearby and normal sailing ships would find no reason to go there. And so, when a handful of men and women set sail into one of the farthest and remotest corners of the earth such that a few thousand whales may live, remain protected, and not be butchered, and thereby continue to preserve our marine ecosystems, it is infinitely courageous. These men and women have found their cause, and are wedded to it. They belong to the well known global conservation group, Sea Shepherd. Year after year they venture out into those immensely harsh waters, sometimes so choppy and turbulent that ships begin to rock like little dinghies. They are out there in the unknown, largely uncharted territory, part of the world’s 8

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fourth largest oceanic system into which the least number of voyages have ever been made by man. These men and women have conquered fear to be among the giant marine mammals, and a great variety of them, such that these mammals can literally have a whale of a time. And so that they are prevented from becoming packaged meat in Japanese supermarkets. Nelson Mandela once philosophized that “courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it.” Mandela’s words are true for those at Sea Shepherd who leave fear behind at the harbors once they sail forth into the daunting southern waters. THE WHALE SANCTUARY The Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary is an area of about 5 million square miles, on the fringes of the continent of Antarctica. The International Whaling Commission (IWC) has banned all types of commercial whaling there. It was established in 1994 with 23 countries supporting its formation, and Japan opposing it. Most of Sea Shepherd’s activities take place around the 55º–60º S parallels, where least protection is available, and poaching has been rampant. On March 31, 2014, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled that Japan’s whaling programme—one which the na-


Photos: Sea Shepherd Limited

tion has long claimed is for scientific purposes—is just a smoke screen for commercial whaling operations. The ICJ said that by “…. Granting special permits to kill…fin, humpback and Antarctic minke whales….Japan has not acted in conformity with its obligations under paragraph 10 (e) of the Schedule to the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling.” For several years Japan’s Institute of Cetacean Research has continued to hunt whales inside the Sanctuary for the purposes of scientific research. Japan’s position for long has been that while some whale species are threatened, those such as the minke whales are not. But conservationists who unequivocally propound and promote established conventions laid out in the Antarctic Treaty System of 1972 point out that their ultimate goal is to preserve marine life and environmental integrity in and near Antarctica. The System was established in large part after concerns arose that krill catches could jeopardize marine food chains. Conservationists also point that Japan refuses to make the information it collects available for independent review. Conservation groups such as the Sea Shepherd claim that Japan’s self-imposed annual quota of 1,000 whale kills for research is not exactly scientific activity since most of the

kills end up as whale meat in Japanese markets. WHALE MEAT IN JAPAN Whale meat has traditionally been considered a part of Japan’s high-protein diet. Different cuts of whale meat have specialized names. The main cuts are the belly meat and the prized tail meat, the latter consumed as sashimi or tataki. Fin whale has traditionally been considered superior, while the blue whale’s tail fin has been a delicacy along with its tongue. Dozens of dishes are cooked including the popular cubed and grilled blubber, cartilage salads and whale skin stew. But since conservationists stepped up the heat on the whale poachers, especially in the Southern Ocean, availability has been going down steeply. SEA SHEPHERD The Sea Shepherd concluded its 10th Antarctic Whale Defence Campaign called Operation Relentless on March 22, 2014. Having first located the poachers on January 5, 2014, the Sea Shepherd’s fleet comprising The Bob Barker and The Steve Irwin actively pursued the Japanese whalers. They located the factory vessel, Nisshin Maru, on four separate occasions. During the course of Operation Relentless, april 2014 | india empire

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Cover story

the Sea Shepherd fleet encountered night-time ambushes, including a collision between a harpoon vessel and The Bob Barker. But for three months on the high seas, the pursuers remained single-minded and unrelenting. The captain of The Bob Barker, Peter Hammarstedt went on record saying that “although the whale poachers have not yet released the number of whales they have killed this season, we are confident that they have not even reached one-quarter of their bogus self-allocated quota, and estimate that our efforts have saved over 750 whales.” He added, “we are gladdened by the thought that these whales are swimming with us on their migration north, and proud that our tenth Antarctic Whale Defence Campaign has been a true testament to how relentless we can be.” Captain of The Steve Irwin, Siddharth Chakravarty (see interview), said, “Using their aggression the poachers ran, but they could not hide from us. This is the longest that the Sea Shepherd Fleet has ever remained in the Southern Ocean, as the whalers desperately tried to make up for profits lost due to Sea Shepherd’s direct intervention. After 94 days at sea, I am honoured to return to port at the helm of The Steve Irwin.” He added, “am deeply proud to be a part of this organisation, vigilant in our defence of life in our oceans, relentless in our pursuit of justice for the whales.” Managing Director of Sea Shepherd Australia, Jeff Hansen, stated, “I take my hat off to the Captains and crew of Operation Relentless. These whale poachers, heavily funded and backed by the government of Japan, have thrown absolutely everything at us and we have come out on top.”

Over the course of its previous nine Antarctic Whale Defence Campaigns, Sea Shepherd has saved the lives of 4,500 whales and remains the only organisation committed to upholding the sanctity of the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary, directly intervening against the illegal operations of the Japanese whaling fleet. While most of us may never find one, the men and women at Sea Shepherd have certainly found a cause to keep returning to the Southern Ocean. At the edge of the 60º S parallel

SOUTHERN OCEAN GREAT WHALE SANCTUARY

Antarctica: Land of penguins

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Cover story

“We are determined to sink the whalers financially” Captain of The Steve Irwin, Siddharth Chakravarty, has been at the helm of The Steve Irwin, one of the conservation vessels that moves around in the waters of the Great Whale Sanctuary in the Southern Ocean. Grandson of a sailor, Chakravarty likes to read up and see films. The last book read was “The Immortals of Meluha”, the last film seen was “Forbidden Ground Fukushima” at the Uranium Film Festival at Mumbai in 2014. He spoke to India Empire about his dauntless excursions into the Southern Ocean As captain of The Steve Irwin, please give us a feel of what it is like being in the Southern Ocean— the ‘Furious Fifties’ and the ‘Shrieking Sixties’ must be difficult sea terrain as well as a tough climatic zone to be navigating in, let alone keeping whaling intruders at bay? The journey south from Australia is always one of excitement and with a sense of new found innocence. Nothing that exists in the Southern Ocean is found anywhere else in the world, be it the life that exits there, or the oceanic landscape The 40s and the 50s are always the latitudes where ships gets rocked like little dinghies, swaying to the force of nature. Once past those belts though, far away from human civilisation, nature continues to play out its delicate balance. To be entering an unforgiving and harsh environment fills me with awe and wonder, while at the same time reminding me of my own vulnerability. What motivated you to opt for a career with Sea Shepherd? Anyone who wants to live in harmony with the planet, or has experienced the wonder and joys of nature, is pushed to act when they see the destruction around them. I spent 10 years working on commercial ships, and when I realised that I could use my skill to safeguard the future of this planet and the oceans, I immediately opted for Sea Shepherd. Cities are nothing but concrete jungles that are choking everyone. The real beauty in living is to experience nature in its most pure form. That for me is motivation enough. What is your background—where did you grow up, and train to navigate ships? I was born in Bhopal in 1983 and was 6 months old when the Bhopal Gas Tragedy happened. I lived there for another 6 years before moving to Nasik in Maharashtra. I trained to go to sea while I was still 17 and a few days after turning 18, I was away. I worked on different types 12 india empire | april 2014

Siddharth Chakravarty

of ships before settling for chemical tankers. However being born in Bhopal and having heard first-hand about the disaster of the gas leak, I soon realised that I needed to move on. I sent in an email to Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and now I find myself working full time with the organisation. Tell us about some of the “close shaves” you had with the Japanese whaling fleets… Sea Shepherd operates on the principle of "non-violent direct action". What we do is that we place our ships


in the midst of the illegal whaling operations and disrupt the hunt. This has successfully driven the whaling fleet into financial losses and our premise is to sink them financially. However, this also means that the whalers have turned to be more aggressive and are trying hard to protect their sinking industry. Over the last 3 campaigns, my ships have been rammed by a factory ship about 8 times the size of my vessel. This year my ship was attacked by 3 harpoon ships, a total number of 45 times. In the past, one of our ships has been sunk as well. It is the price we pay to stand strong and confront the whale poachers. The Steve Irwin is a 60 meter ex-Scottish Fisheries Patrol Vessel. We've had her for 8 years now. She was built in 1974. The Nisshin Maru is the Japanese factory ship which is used for butchering the whales. It's a former deep-sea trawler converted to her current job. She has been built in 1972. Why do you feel so strongly for the cause of whales? Sea Shepherd has led campaigns all across the world's oceans for different species as well. From being on campaigns saving Blue Fin tuna in the Mediter ranean to the sharks in the South Pacific, I have led and captained ships on various other campaigns. However the poaching is inside a whale sanctuar y and is completely illegal. Just recently, the International Court of Justice has delivered a verdict that Japan must end its hunt immediately. Sea Shepherd has been saying this time and again through our decade of campaigning to uphold the sanctity of the

A whale being hauled up

Evidence of whale slaughter from a helicopter

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Cover story

Whale meat in demand in Japan

A popular Japanese dish

Butchers tear into a whale

Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary. Do you receive enough support from Governments around the world for the kind of tireless voluntary work that you do? The truth is that until now very few Governments have voiced their support for Sea Shepherd. We have very often done the dirty work for the governments. For example the governments of Australia and New Zealand claim territory in Antarctica but though whaling is illegal in their countries and their waters, they have done nothing to stop the whale poachers from operating there. Had it not been for Sea Shepherd, over 10,000 whales would have been killed, as opposed to the 3,500 that the whalers have roughly got. That being said, Sea Shepherd has recently formed alliances with the governments of Senegal and Guatemala to patrol their waters for them. Could more be done by Governments, and if so, how? Good laws exist to safeguard the oceans. However the cost of patrols is deemed to be too much by most countries. The constituents and the governments need to realise that we do not live on this planet without having a healthy and functioning ocean. Our life hinges on the state of the oceans. Governments need to first begin patrolling their waters, set massive fines for offenders and ensure that poachers are literally scared to fish in these waters. Additionally revoking fishing licenses and reducing the number of fish being caught annually is an urgent need of the hour. We're literally emptying the oceans and somehow being out of sight and therefore out of bounds, it is deemed to be okay and sustainable. 14 india empire | april 2014

Getting support and raising resources for such daunting operations must be challenging. How does Sea Shepherd reach out to the people, and convince them of providing support for protecting whales in a very remote part of the world? Sea Shepherd does not believe is canvassing or holding posters and forcing people to sign up. Sea Shepherd believes in delivering the result and thereby attracting interested people. Over the last 37 years, we have grown for one reason alone and that is that we're extremely effective. When we set a goal we achieve it and this attracts caring and passionate individuals who want to be a part of the movements to protect the oceans. In terms of water mass, how large is the Whale Sanctuary? The Whale Sanctuary covers an area that is roughly 5 million square miles. However whaling occurs in only half of this region, only by the Japanese Whaling Fleet. In terms of stretching one’s sailing endurance and skills, what according to you is the most difficult or hostile spot in the Southern Ocean? I would reckon that the most hostile spot and time in the Southern Ocean is the month of March. By that time we're already at sea for over 2 months, which means that exhaustion is setting in. However it also is the time when winter sets in which means the temperatures plummet and the ice begins to form fast. It is also the time when the 40s and the 50s become very hostile latitudes to be in. From avoiding being caught in the forming ice to lasting through the rough weather, March is the time when â?? our endurance is really tested.


investing in india

INVESTMENT Overseas investors are waiting with bated breath for the outcome of the national elections. For the investor, stability and an enabling environment are key decision-making factors. From indications already coming in, several investors are poised to engage vigorously with new state Governments and the central Government in terms of investments across sectors. After all, India with its solid domestic market, educated workforce and competitive labour costs is no doubt an attractive investment destination. The consumer products, industrials, technology, media and telecom (TIMT) and life-sciences sectors are set to drive India’s growth over the next two years. In the coming pages find excerpts from the India Attractiveness Survey, prepared by Ernst and Young and shared with Invest India and FICCI. In January 2014, India Empire had partnered Invest India and FICCI to put together a day long investment summit known as the Global Indian Business Conference. The findings of the survey, no doubt, will be useful to those readers who are looking for pointers on investment

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Migration and reMittanCes

WORlD BANk REPORT

Diaspora remits UsD 70 billion+ to inDia According to a report prepared by the Migration and Remittances Team in the World Bank, officially recorded remittances to India in by its diaspora in 2013 was about USD 70 billion—the largest of such remittances in the world. Overall, remittances to developing countries are estimated at USD 404 billion in 2013, up 3.5 percent compared with 2012. Growth in remittance flows to developing countries is expected to accelerate to an annual average of 8.4 percent over the next three years, raising flows to USD 436 billion in 2014 and USD 516 billion in 2016. India remains the largest recipient of officially recorded remittances in the world, and received about USD70 billion in remittances in 2013. Other large recipients include China (USD60 billion), the Philippines (USD25 billion), Mexico (USD22 billion), Nigeria (USD21 billion), and Egypt (USD17 billion) (figure 3). Revised estimates suggest that remittances as a share of GDP were 52 percent in Tajikistan, 31 percent in the Kyrgyz Republic, and 25 percent in both Nepal and Moldova. Remittances to many smaller developing countries tend to be equivalent to a larger share of their respective GDP. Remittances in 2013 to India were equivalent to 15 percent of exports, and covered 12 percent of imports. Comparisons with key foreign exchange earners are similarly striking. In 2013, remittances to India exceeded earnings from IT services, and inflows to Egypt were larger than earnings from the Suez Canal. During the same year, remittances to Bangladesh were equivalent to 84 percent of garment exports, and inflows to Nigeria amounted to about 22 percent of receipts from petroleum exports. Growth in remittances to the South Asia region (SAR) has slowed, rising by 2.3 percent in 2013 compared with the very rapid increases of the previous three years. This was driven by a modest increase in India of only 1.7 per-

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cent in 2013, and a decline in Bangladesh of -2.4 percent. The depreciation of the Indian rupee during 2013 appears to have attracted inflows through a surge in the deposits of non-resident Indians rather than remittances. In Bangladesh, the fall in remittances stems from a combination of factors, including fewer migrants finding jobs in the GCC countries, more migrants returning from GCC countries due to difficulties in resolving legal status, and the appreciation of the Bangladeshi taka against the US dollar. Still, some rebound is projected in the coming years, and remittances continue to play an important role in underpinning the balance of payments. Pakistan continued to register robust growth in remittances – its dependence on remittances, which are now nearly three times the level of international reserves, remains high. Nigeria is currently in the process of implementing a diaspora bond.10 In the past, India and Israel have successfully issued diaspora bonds to raise external financing. Ethiopia, Kenya, Nepal and the Philippines have also experimented with some forms of diaspora bonds with varying success. A key requirement for issuing diaspora bonds is registration at the US SEC, which has discouraged many interested countries from issuing such bonds. Another key requirement is gauging the diaspora’s trust in the government’s ability to invest the funds appropriately. South Asia Remittance flows to the South Asia Region are estimated at USD111 billion in 2013. Growth in remittances to the region has slowed, due to modest growth in India and a fall in Bangladesh. Still, remittance inflows are critical to underpinning the balance of payments in many countries of the region. The Pakistan Remittance Initiative, which was launched in 2009, remains a central part of the government’s


efforts to encourage inflows from the Pakistani diaspora, while Nepal is exercising greater prudence in managing liquidity generated by the current growth in remittances. The price of making remittances is falling, but faster progress in the Europe and Central Asia region mean that South Asia is now the second lowest cost destination for remittances. Growth in remittances to the South Asia Region (SAR) is projected to moderate to 2.3 percent in 2013, after averaging 14.1 percent in 2011 and 2012. Remittances to India increased by only 1.7 percent to reach USD70 billion in 2013, as the impetus from the depreciation of the Indian rupee during much of 2013 appears to have attracted inflows mainly for investment purposes, as indicated by the surge in non-resident Indian deposits (figure 21). In Bangladesh, the third largest recipient of remittances in the region, inflows decreased by 2.4 percent, largely due to the combined dampening effect of fewer migrants finding jobs overseas (lowering net migration), the appreciation of the Bangladeshi taka, and difficulties in resolving the status of migrant workers in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries. Growth in remittance flows to Nepal and Sri Lanka, which were equivalent to 25 percent and 10 percent of GDP, respectively, was more robust. Remittances to Pakistan grew rapidly in the second half of 2013, and continue to provide essential support to the balance of payments, and they were equivalent to 284 percent of international reserves in 2013 (figure 22). The outlook for remittances in SAR is strong, and growth is projected to accelerate to an annual average of over 7 percent in 2014-2016. Remittances remain the largest source of external resource flows in SAR, greatly exceeding foreign aid and substantially more stable than FDI and private flows (figure 23). Remittance costs slightly lower The total average cost of making remittances in SAR fell to 6.6 percent in the first quarter of 2014, from 7.2 percent a year earlier. Larger corridors, like the Saudi Arabia to India, UAE to India, and the US to Pakistan, attract more remittance service providers and are typically more competitive, leading to some of the lowest remittance costs in the world (figure 24). The adoption of improved technology, such as cell-phone services that enable remittances, as well as the implementation of targeted government policies aimed at facilitating remittances, like the Pakistan Remittance Initiative, are helping exert downward pressure on the costs of making remittances to the region,

and the trend is likely to continue. Rising anti-immigrant sentiment in many developed destination countries, as evident from deportation of migrants, is a growing concern. Saudi Arabia deported more than 370,000 migrants in the 5 months since November 2013, many of whom come from Ethiopia, Egypt and Yemen. In the US, over 368,000 people were deported in 2013 (mostly migrants seeking entry into the US and apprehended at the border), with Mexico and Central American countries the main places of origin. The average total cost of sending remittances fell in the first quarter of 2014, dipping below 8.4 percent (simple average of country-specific corridors), compared with over 9.0 percent a year earlier. The dollar-value weighted average dropped a full percentage point to 5.9 percent at the end of 2013, from 6.9 percent the previous year, confirming the importance of remittance volume and competition to maintaining downward pressure on fees. The average cost of remittances to Sub-Saharan Africa has remained stubbornly high around 12 percent. Also South-South remittances are either not permitted or very costly due to outward capital controls in many developing countries. Efforts are underway to mobilize diaspora savings for development purposes, including through diaspora bonds. Migrants living in high-income countries hold savings in excess of USD500 billion, and several countries, such as Nigeria, are readying diaspora bonds to tap into this large pool of funds. With nearly 1 out of 7 persons in the world being either an international or an internal migrant, there is a growing awareness of the importance of migration in the post-2015 development agenda, especially the need for reducing migration costs (such as recruitment costs) and improving migrant rights. In addition, diaspora remittances and savings can be leveraged to boost financing for development. The UN High-Level Dialogue on migration and development concluded successfully in October 2013, with unanimous support for a declaration of an 8-point action plan. The closure of bank accounts of money transfer operators serving Somalia and other fragile countries is a matter of concern. Remittances provide a lifeline to ‘fragile and conflict-affected’ countries where they are more than 5 times larger than foreign aid, FDI and other sources of international currency. Anti-money laundering and countering the financing of terror (AML/CFT) regulations have to be carefully balanced with the development â?? objective of helping the poor.

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nri WoMen

WOMEN EMPOWERED EVENT

Think Big Reena Ranger, chairman and co-founder explained that the event was meant to discover how each one of the speakers pursued big ambitions and became pioneers in their respective fields, the secret to their success and how one could use lessons from them to seize big opportunities and fulfil great ambitions for ourselves. Women Empowered (WE) had the privilege of hosting Gurinder Chadha OBE, Ahlya Fateh and Rishi Rich. Speaking to almost 140 guests, Gurinder Chadha said that her idea of thinking big came from the dialogue in one of her most successful films, Bend it Like Beckham, and the character Jess Bhamra. “Anyone can cook aloo gobi, but who can bend it like Beckham?!” Gurinder spoke about how whilst growing up she was told what to do and how to behave, much like Jess Bhamra had to in the film. She said that Jess was always going to have it all, the only question was how she was going to get there. To answer that question you had to think big and look within yourself, remember your younger self and overcome challenges in whichever way you could. It would not always be simple but the answers lay within you. If you want to achieve something and your reasons are correct, you would get there. She said she wanted to challenge the perceptions of

British Asians in the 1970s and 1980s. It was the prevailing inequality and prejudice of those times that she had witnessed that propelled her journey. She still has to fight battles and the power to do so comes from wanting to overcome barriers and obstacles. She said that at times she had asked herself “why was she the one who always had to push the envelope?” Today she has an answer, it lies in the fact that she is a Sikh and has stood on the shoulders of the Sikh male and female warriors who fought for justice, their beliefs and equality. So when you want to think big then draw strength from your childhood and your history. Ahlya Fateh began with the importance of education, especially in developing countries, and the positive impact it has on the mortality and life of a girl along with the positive impact that it has on the county as a whole. She went on to say that we all owe it to ourselves too. The chances that we have been given to be grateful for our own empowerment can be used to help other women who may not have felt what we have felt, and who may not have enjoyed the opportunities that we have had. She spoke of her strong ethic, her journey and her ambition. She also spoke about how she also grew up with being told what to do. She spoke of the importance of

L to R: Rukhsana Ali, Rishi Rich, Mimi Harker, Mona Remtulla, Gurinder Chadha, Reena Ranger, Tasmin Lucia-Khan, Ahlya Fateh, Kulveer Ranger

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Guests at the event

loving what you do but understanding that you must also pay the bills and went on to say that we only like to do the things we are good at but sometime it is a better to battle the things we aren’t naturally gifted at. It teaches you humility and respect for those who have skill that you may not possess. She sees that problems are now solutions waiting to be found. She went on to say that when faced with an obstacle, you should ask yourself, “What would I do if I wasn’t afraid?” The answer may seem ridiculous at first but it would still lead you to a solution you may never have found if you were paralyzed with fear in the first place. She spoke about her career path and said that if you don’t ask, you don’t get. She asked her audience not to psyche yourself out of trying because you don’t think you have a chance. Rishi Rich spoke candidly about his childhood and paid tribute to his mother who raised him single-handedly, and had made choices that she thought would benefit her son’s future and always was supportive of his ambitions. He reflected on his childhood circumstances and how far he had come and that thinking big was instilled in him by his mother. She was his main influence and he was grateful to her for her support. He always took the approach that he didn’t necessarily aim to be the best but always had ambitions to be one of the most respected producers in the world. He stayed focused----“this is what you want to do and this is how you are going to get there”. He found that ethos took him from his humble beginnings in council accommodation to where he is today.

He spoke of all his childhood heroes and idols and how he had had the privilege to cross paths with a majority of them. He spoke about learning to be resilient and also learning from all your experiences. He has always known what he wanted to do and where he wanted to go, mainly because he wanted to always ensure his mother was looked after and that clear focus has always guided him. His mum and now his wife are his main inspirations and that he is lucky to be surrounded by strong inspiring women. At each event WE partners with an enabling partner to facilitate the change from an idea to bringing it to fruition. At this event, Equity Stake was that partner. They are an investment company for the entrepreneur in the making. It has one simple aim – to help those with a great business idea but maybe no real entrepreneurial experience or background to grow a business. WE raised awareness for Delete Blood Cancer and offered the opportunity for people to sign up to the donation register. Reena went on to say “When we think of thinking big, what could be better that offering someone the gift of life?” Mona Remtulla, Co-founder, WE said, ”this has been a great success and we have received positive feedback and are pleased to see a more diverse range of people attending our events and are happy to have welcomed more men here than ever before. This ensures that we have a great balance and have a fruitful dialogue as a collective group. Each speaker has been fantastic and I think we can all leave here today taking at least one thing home from each of them that will help us to think big in the future.” ❐

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nri FilMMaker

“MuMbai is alWays going to be hoMe” Success comes to those who think out of the box and work with passion and devotion towards a goal. This is what Rohit Gupta did when he went out of his motherland- India to United States. Just like many other Indians who are surprising people across the globe with their extraordinary performances in different. Whether it is business, academics, media, politics, information technology or literature, Indians are everywhere. Rohit has proved this with his awe-inspiring performance in field of cinema. Rohit Gupta, a native from Mumbai moved to United States about 12 years ago to pursue his MBA degree from Wingate University in North Carolina. But decided to switch careers and get into filmmaking. Coming from a family of entrepreneurs, he knew nothing about filmmaking until he joined the New York Film Academy for a four week workshop. This is when he realised his love for filmmaking and craft and decided to extend his course and enrolled to the one year conservatory program. For him, it was a shot in the dark but he took his chances and decided to go with it. His first project was a four-minute American suspense-thriller film Another Day Another Life, which received remarkable acclaim from around the world including an Official Selection at Cannes in 2009. Gupta is currently working on the post-production of his upcoming American comedy feature Midnight Delight, due for release in 2015. Recently, Rohit Gupta’s name has been added to Limca Book of Records for setting up two national records for his work in award-winning feature film “Life! Camera Action”. The new record set is for the first full-length motion picture shot by just a two-member crew that were the producer and director Rohit Gupta and Ravi Kumar respectively. The second record is for the first film to release on Facebook. Since the release, Life! Camera! Action has been appraised and critically acclaimed at various international platforms. The film has received over seventy international accolades in various categories including awards in the prestigious award functions in the United States of America. These awards include Orson Welles Award in California International Film Awards, Royal Reel Award in Canada International Film Festival, Grand Jury Award in Oregon Film Awards (USA) and Best Feature Film in World Peace Film Festival amongst many others around the world. Apart from all the awards the film left everyone flabbergasted by winning nine Board of Directors' Special Awards at 28th Goldie Film Awards (USA). Rohit’s work in film has taken him to all together a different height. Adding to the accolades is the list where the film has been listed as “One of the 10 Outstanding Movies by Indian American Filmmakers” by a news house. The list also includes Hollywood blockbusters such as The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable by M. Night Shyamalan, Mississippi Masala and Namesake by Mira Nair, and Fire and Earth by Deepa Mehta. In a brief Interview with India Empire’s Assistant Editor Misha Singh, Rohit Gupta talks about his decisions, inspirations and films

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Mr Rohit Gupta

Please tell us something about your connect with India. I was born and raised in Mumbai so it's always going to be home. I moved to the US over a decade ago but I often come and spend time Mumbai. You are a management postgraduate. What drove you into filmmaking? I have run several business enterprises in various streams but just didn’t feel the pulse in any of them. Every endeavour got boring after a while. There came a time when I wanted to explore. Since, movies are a part of our life I was always influenced by the glamour and wondered how could I be a part of it? The entertainment industry is generally considered unstable so coming from a business family I could never get an opportunity to explore in that direction. But somewhere within me I had that feeling and inkling to be associated with this industry and that kept coming up. Call it destiny, one day I decided to enroll into NYFA for a short program to take a shot at this feeling and get it out of my system once and for all. As, you can see here I am now and it feels like one of the most beautiful experience I have ever had. It feels like the best thing that could have ever happened to me. This is how it all changed and guess at one level it connected me to my goal of existence. It just comes naturally but not to forget, I still get bored at times! (laughs). Your movies have more of a realistic approach. Where do you draw your inspiration from for the plot of your films? Generally our system and existence. During the making of Another Day Another Life and Life! Camera Action... inspiration were mainly to firsthand experience the creative

and business process of the over-hyped world of moviemaking. I also feel that I did not choose these scripts, but it was the scripts that chose me and it all worked out magically in the end. It is an exhilarating process to crafting a thought to words and words to screen. Anything that has the ability to transport me in to a different world or experience becomes my inspiration. I entered move making primarily for the reason to be able to transport myself in to a world which I could never experience in real life. To imagine and create a world that is completely unheard of. How do you feel after receiving such a response for your film "Life! Camera Action" and entering Limca Book of Records for setting up a new record. I enjoyed the making of it and knew we have done the right thing. So, we kind of expected this kind of a response. From the very start I was confident of the film’s relatability factor between its audience and their emotional connection. Accolades, Awards and Limca Book of Records are all great. It's an add-on towards overall credibility and valueperception. When I started off, without any guidance these accolades came in handy as the only form of encouragement and reassurance but in the bigger picture I feel it is only one of the elements in product’s packaging and its success as it changes perception and increases its recall value. I believe in a win-win situation, so being ahead of anyone doesn’t feel any special or exciting therefore accolades did not provide any personal gratification. Mainly it feels happy to know that our short journey has made many people gain strength and take steps in pursuit of fulfilling their dreams in various streams. At one level, there is no better feeling than knowing our actions have benefited someone. ❐ april 2014 | india empire 31


oFBJP

Political outreach the overseas Friends of the bJP has been meeting like-minded people in the indian diaspora to garner support for the party in the coming days, as well as to strengthen its outreach in foreign shores

Run for Unity by OFBJP in Oslo, Norway led by Mr Mohan Singh Varma, Convenor, and others 32 india empire | april 2014


OFBJP Convenor Vijay Jolly, VHP President Susheel Saraff, Vijay Mehta and Digvijay Singh, President, Hindu Dharam Sabha Vishnu Temple Committee in Bangkok

NRIs in Thailand pledge support for Modi in presence of OFBJP leaders Vijay Jolly and Vijay Mehta in Bangkok

Vijay Jolly launching OFBJP Thailand chapter at Hindu Dharam Sabha Vishnu Temple in Bangkok

OFBJP Convenor Vijay Jolly flanked by prominent NRIs at OFBJP Thailand launch program april 2014 | india empire 33


dukaWallas

the DUkawalla that bUilt

eastern africa By Kul Bhushan The pioneering Indian Dukawalla or shopkeeper introduced the use of money to buy goods in Eastern Africa. Thus he launched the monetary economy in this part of the world. The Duka, derived from the Hindustani word Dukan, was set up in the remote locations after the British built the Uganda Railway at the end of the 19the century. Housed behind the Duka, the hardy Dukawalla faced wild animals at night, hot sun during the day and isolation from his relatives and friends but he persisted and survived. Over time, he built a stone structure and then enlarged the building as his business flourished. More traders came and the sole Duka multiplied into many more and their location became a mini-township with administrative services moving in. All over Eastern Africa, these Dukas can still be seen in isolated locations and observe them as foundations of every town and city as the bazaar created by these Dukas. The Dukawalas have, in no small measure, played an important role, in the economic growth of Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania: and also Zambia and Malawi. The story of Dukawalla is the heroic story of hard work, persistence and survival against massive odds. Kersi Rustomji, born in Mwanza, Tanzania, grew up with these Dukas and his keen observation and attention to detail in his colourful "Ode to Indian Dukawalla" and the illustration are historic documents for the Indian diaspora. These are unsung intrepid pioneering Indian traders , very often with their families, braved the unknown hazards of the Dark Continent, carried on regardless of disease, lack of comforts, privations, ill health, and even death, which they knew was their constant and real possibility. "Hitherto the dukawala remain unrecognised nor given a deservedly appropriate place in the annals of these nations. Without record of these traders and other Indians who also played a very prominent and important part in the economic and the political growth of these nations, the histories of these East African countries would be in-

34 india empire | april 2014

complete," says Rustomji. Indian traders have been active on the East African coast since Biblical times as they sailed forth and back in with the annual monsoon winds in creaky ships known as dhows. After the Indian labourers built the Ugandas Railway, some stayed back as craftsmen and opened their workshops near railway stations. Meanwhile, the traders moved inland and set up small dukas. Braving malaria, dengue, Black Water, Sleeping Sickness and other diseases; undeterred by lions, leopards, snakes, hyenas, owls, bats and other nightly beasts; tormented by mosquitoes, Tse Tse flies, jiggers, bugs and other insects, the traders spread far inland. On the vast sprawling, warm, savannah plains, they attracted the African tribesmen in skin robes, armed with spears, bows and arrows. Full of curiosity, first with trepidation then cautiously, they entered the duka somewhat nervously to ogle, to feel, to taste and try many new goods - sugar, salt, groundnuts, tobacco, snuff, knives, tools, weapons, bright fabrics, matches, lanterns, mugs and many more - they had seen never before. But they had no money. So the traders suggested that they bring what they produced - maize, vegetables, honey and other products - and exchange them with what they wanted. Thus began barter. Sometimes, they brought in much more than what they wanted at the moment. So the trader gave them coins they could keep and exchange for goods. Gradually, they were given currency notes of five, ten and twenty Rupees - yes, Rupees in Africa. The traders added more goods - spices, grains, rice and lentils; basic medicines for malaria, pains and injuries; cigarettes and beer; glassware, jars pots and pans; mirrors, scissors, combs, beads, necklaces, bangles, soaps and oils; axes and farming tools. the variety increased over time. The Africans also brought more produce to barter or sell: skins, milk, charcoal, wax, coffee, cotton, millet and sorghum and other local produce. The boiled, bland African dishes gave way to spicy foods, chappatis and rice with lentils as they


This poignant scene created by Kersi Rustomji realisticly depicts the virgin African bush where the enterprising Indian Dukawalla or shopkeeper constructed a tin shack, stocked it with the basic goods the African peoples were beginning to use and bartered and later sold them for produce. The signage, with spelling errors, is also typically hand painted work of the duka owners. You can almost hear the conversations of the Maasai warriors, in the foreground, deciding on what they want to buy. The advertisements in bold colours on the corrugated sheets were aimed to introduce and promote the top selling products of the day. You can hear the clinking of the five and ten cent coins with holes for threading them in a string to carry them as their robes had no pockets. The paper currency at that time was the Indian Rupee issued by the East African governments. If they had no money, they could trade their produce like vegetables or maize. Thus the Dukawalla introduced the monetary economy in Eastern Africa

planted a greater variety of vegetables and fruits. Over time, the duka was re-built with stone and the White Settlers moved in to develop their vast farms. Now the trader added brandy, whisky, rum and vodka; razors and blades; Vaseline and hair oil; shoe polish and brushes; combs, safety pins ribbons, buttons and thread, lipsticks and cream, talcum and face powders for the Bwana (boss) and his Memsahib. The White settlers disliked derided and mistreated the Dukawala most unfairly. They said he cheats and overcharges, claimed he keeps his accounts in Indian language for the white taxman to properly assess his profits. But when the White Settler was hit by drought and his banker refused to lend him more, he came to the Dukawalla to get credit for his immediate needs and even borrow cash for his survival. Except for Rustomji's effort, Dukawalla's contribution to nation building remains an untold story. â?? —Kul Bhushan worked as Business Editor for three decades in Nairobi, Kenya, and now lives in New Delhi.

Afro Prints Kulive Kulove Kulaugh

april 2014 | india empire 35


Book

hazarding the illegal ‘Donkey route’ to britain The harrowing journey of hopeless, homeless, visaless, immigrants in search of jobs and the good life is presented in stark reality in a new novel by Shamlal Puri. Here is a profile of the novel and the author by Kul Bhushan

Hell bent on entering Britain, a group of young Punjabis board a container truck in Amritsar for their tough journey to jobs and riches. Freezing and bouncing, they arrive in Kabul, Afghanistan. After a brief rest, they trundle to Krasnoyarsk in Russia’s Siberia. From here, the container truck rolls to the Russian capital, Moscow. Next stop is the capital of Belarus, Minsk, before entering Poland for Warsaw and then on to Germany and finally to Belgium or France to take the ferry to Britain. This is the hair-rising tale of twelve Indians cheated by a dodgy agent who extracts big money from them on false promises and sent off on ‘the donkey route’ through Russia and Europe to Britain. Once in a while, the drivers stop at isolated spots to relieve themselves, stretch their legs and maybe sip some tea. Many fall sick with no medical care during a real bone shaker drive. The money paid to the Indian immigration agent lasts halfway en route. Stranded in the middle of nowhere, they are forced to pay their own way for the rest of the trip. They beg, borrow and steal to pay truckers. The real test comes in crossing the English Channel as the police use digital scanners to measure the heat inside the container to determine if any person is hiding. To avoid detection, they wrap themselves in thick, black plastic bags and are drugged. Sometimes, they suffocate to death. One tried to jump on the roof of the chunnel train from a bridge in France, missed the fast moving train and died. Less than half of them survive the long road trip. If discovered during the trip, they are imprisoned and deported. When they flew to Britain for illegal entry, they were dubbed as ‘kabuttars’ or pigeons. If they go by containers, they are called ‘faujis’ or soldiers battling against impossible odds. After reaching Britain, their ordeal takes a new twist as they have no legal papers to work, no home, not even proper meals. So now they are called ‘illegals’ living in fields, under motorway bridges, in four-wheeler bins and even in ceme36 india empire | april 2014

teries in Southall, west London, eating from soup kitchens or Sikh temples or gurudwaras and looking for work for a pittance. If they are caught by the authorities, they are deported and their employer fined 10,000 pounds per illegal worker. Shamlal Puri, a veteran London-based international journalist and a novelist, has tracked, interviewed and recorded the travails of these Indians at every stopover from Amritsar to London in a brilliant work of faction – fiction based on fact – entitled ‘The Illegals: Visa-Less, Homeless, Hopeless – Striving for the Good Life ’(jointly published by Crownbird Publishers and Har Anand Publications) launched in Delhi and London recently. A group of 12 educated and uneducated Indians from the Punjab, frustrated with financial problems in their own country, set out for a new life in the United Kingdom. They approach an immigration agent who says he would facilitate their trip on payment of a fee to him. Each of them pays sums ranging from 25 lakh rupees to 50 lakh rupees, de-


pending on their affluence, to travel to the UK. The agent misleads them into believing he would obtain UK visas for them and that they would travel by air. The agent is just one link in the long chain of people involved in the racket. Instead, the men are sent on the “donkey route” through eight Asian and European countries travelling thousands of miles across inhospitable terrain and war zones in the back of container trucks. The money paid to the Indian immigration agent lasts only until four countries on the route. He swindles the balance. Stranded in the middle of nowhere, the travellers are forced to pay their own way through for the rest of the trip. They beg, borrow and steal money to pay truckers to take them forward. The novel traces their journey the Land of Hope. Some of them die on the way or are murdered; others drop out in countries along the way because of frustration, inability to pay more money to human traffickers and fear of an uncertain life ahead. Only three of the 12 make it to the UK. On arrival in the Southall suburb of London, they have a new battle ahead of them. In spite of their desire to work hard and settle down, they end up getting low paid jobs as labourers and are exploited by their compatriots settled comfortably in the UK. They lead an uncertain life. Desperate, homeless, jobless and hopeless, they end up sleeping rough on the streets, behind garages, in cemeteries and garbage bins.

This novel is based on true stories narrated to the author by illegal immigrants, their travails and, in many cases, their failure to eke out a living in the UK. They end of turning into drug addicts and suffering from mental problems. The book lifts the lid off the lives of paperless immigrants. It has a lot of drama. Its action does not stumble. The story is told through the hero Rajainder Singh Bajwa ‘Raja’. Without revealing the content of the book here and its dramatic end I can confidently say The Illegals will be read with great interest by the younger generation. It throws a dampener on those dreaming of entering the country paperless and attempting to settle down in the UK, a country with no jobs and no hopes of a cushy future. “After reporting on ‘faujis’ for many years, my late father, Hussan Chand Puri, encouraged me to write a book to record their problems so that the Indian children and their parents do not have to go through this suffering,” says Shamlal, “These desperate young me want to get away from Punjab at any cost. Jobless, they just want to start a new life no matter what the consequences. “Unfortunately, their worst enemies are fellow British Indians who employ, rather exploit, them with far less than legal wages as they risk a huge fine if they get caught. Many small businesses have gone bankrupt by employing these faujis,” he said. ❐

Stamping 100 years of Sikh presence The Uganda postal service Posta Uganda has commemorated 100 years of Sikh presence in the country by issuing four postage stamps releasing a book titled ‘The Human Rights of Women in Sikhism,’ by Justice AS Choudry, in a function held at Resort Beach Hotel, Entebbe, recently. The four stamps depicted the gurdwara on Sikh Road, Kampala; the Khanda, the Nishan Sahib and the Golden Temple in Amritsar. This is the first time that a country has issued four triangular stamps in recognition of the contribution of the Sikh community. The stamps were released jointly by Posta Uganda and invited members of the Sikh community, with high court judge, Lady Justice Catherine Bagumeriere, as the chief guest. Chief of Posta Uganda, Emmanuel Okurt, said the triangular stamps would market Uganda to Asians. Justice Choudry said, "I am thrilled and humbled to see these stamps, as they mark our existence in Uganda over the last 100 years, and recognise the contribution of our forefathers, who were the pillars of the economic and

social development of Uganda, which we enjoy today." He has also edited the Sikh Centenary Magazine. Pastor Bosco Odiro said the Sikh history and contribution should be reflected in the curriculum of school history books. In reply, Lady Justice Catherine described the Sikhs as a "meek, humble and peaceful" community, which has existed alongside Ugandans without any conflict, adding that their character should be emulated by all foreigners in Uganda. She assured the audience that she would present the concern raised by Pastor Bosco to the ministry of education. The names of nearly 40 people were announced as winners of the Sikh Centenary Gold medals, which would be awarded at a function at the end of this year. Participants included Gurmel Singh, secretary general of the UK Sikh Council, and Baldev Singh Bains, a member of the Sikh Council. The Sikhs came to East Africa in the 1880s as soldiers who offered skilled and semi-skilled labour at a time when the region had no infrastructure, and curbed Kabaka's mutiny in 1899. ❐

april 2014 | india empire 37


raJan Zed

SANSKRIT INVOCATION AT NEWMAN COUNCIL Newman City Council in California (USA), which celebrated 125th Anniversary in 2013, had its first historic Hindu invocation on April 8 evening, containing verses from world’s oldest existing scripture. Hindu statesman Rajan Zed delivered the opening prayer from ancient Sanskrit scriptures before the City Council. After Sanskrit delivery, he then read the English translation of the prayer. Sanskrit is considered a sacred language in Hinduism and root language of Indo-European languages. Zed, who is President of Universal Society of Hinduism, recited from Rig-Veda, the oldest scripture of the world still in common use, besides lines from Upanishads and Bhagavad-Gita (Song of the Lord), both ancient Hindu scriptures. He started and ended the prayer with “Om”, the mystical syllable containing the universe, which in Hinduism is used to introduce and conclude religious work. Reciting from Brahadaranyakopanishad, Rajan Zed said, “Asato ma sad gamaya, Tamaso ma jyotir gamaya, Mrtyor mamrtam gamaya”, which he then translated as “Lead me from the unreal to the Real, Lead me from darkness to Light, and Lead me from death to Immortality.” Reciting from Bhagavad-Gita, he urged council members to keep the welfare of others always in mind. Council members, city employees and public were seen standing in prayer mode with their heads bowed down during this invocation. Wearing saffron colored attire, a ruddraksh mala (rosary), and traditional sandalpaste tilak (religious mark) on the forehead,Zed sprinkled few drops of water from river Ganga of

Just before the Newman City Council Hindu invocation, from left to right, are— Councilmember Nicholas Candea, Mayor Pro Tem Robert Martina, Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, Mayor Ed Katen and Councilmember Roberta Davis

India, considered holy by Hindus, around the podium before the prayer.Zed presented a copy of Bhagavad-Gita to Mayor Ed Katen, who introduced and thanked Zed. “It is a historic moment of pride for the community when the prayers from ancient Sanskrit scriptures are being read in this great hall of democracy of this great city of Newman”, Zed stated before starting the invocation. ❐

HINDU STUDIES AT BERKELEY Hindus have welcomed plans to establish a program of Hindu studies at prestigious Graduate Theological Union (GTU) at Berkeley in California (USA). Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, in a statement in Nevada (USA) welcoming Hindu studies program at GTU, said that religion was the most powerful, complex and far-reaching force in our society, so we must take it seriously. And we all knew that religion comprised much more than our own particular tradition/experience. Rajan Zed, who is President of Universal Society of Hinduism, pointed out that in our shared pursuit for the truth, we could learn from one another and thus could arrive nearer to the truth. As dialogue brought us reciprocal enrichment, we would be spiritually richer than before the contact. The first two courses in Hinduism at GTU will be offered in the fall semester, which will include sacred texts of Hinduism, and there is a goal to establish a Center for Dharma Studies within GTU. GTU, “where religion meets the world”, founded in 1962 and said to be home to the largest Ph.D. program in religious studies in North America, includes nine seminar38 india empire | april 2014

ies and a variety of centers and affiliates. It enrolls about 1,300 graduate students representing 20 countries from around the world and its library has over 440,000 volumes. Riess Potterveld and Arthur Holder are Acting President and Dean respectively. ❐


ColuMn: yogi ashWini

Mind and Body

Yog flows into shishYa By Yogi Ashwini Yogi AShwini

i

n the twenty years of teaching yog, I have interacted with lots of spiritual aspirants – some come looking for solutions to their problems, some others are seeking peace and happiness. Some want to add to their knowledge and some just want to try something new. Most of these people remain dissatisfied and leave the path, the experience of yog evades them because one can only get what they are looking for and none of the above is a search for yog. Yog begins and ends at the feet of your Guru. Guru is the channel through which the gyan and experience of yog flows into the shishya. And to get a Guru, you need to have the intent for the Guru. That is, whoever you are going to, you must want to access him completely, whatever he is, his positives as well as negatives, only then can you reach somewhere because his positives and negatives are not for you to judge and if you are judging your Guru, you might as well read a book. The path of yog first leads to the Guru and then your Guru carries you on the journey that lies ahead. So before going to anyone for yog, be sure that you want to be that, only then can you get any experience from him. What is experience? When I ask people if they have had any experience of yog, they tell me, they saw certain shapes and colors when they sat with their eyes closed…even the mentally unsound see shapes and colors. The experience of yog is something else. Mentally sound and unsound, those with eyes and without, those with exceptional hearing abilities and those who are deaf, all those who are connected experience the same things. There is person at Dhyan Foundation who went for jet skiing with his friends, his ski turned over and he was stranded in the middle of the ocean with no one around to rescue him. He just remembered his Guru and out of nowhere a boat emerged and took him to the shore. In those ten minutes of being stranded in the ocean he got his experience...there was a complete transformation in him, he who could not see beyond himself and his social life, suddenly immersed himself into charity and service. There is yet another person in the Foundation who regularly lectures a huge crowd on Bhagwad Geeta. His friend, who is well into his 70s, recently developed a serious ailment. He came to me nervous and in a state of frenzy, asking me to help save his friend. I asked him, why just your

friend? Why not thousands of others who too are suffering? After all, Geeta teaches nishkam karma, that is, helping whoever comes your way in a detached manner. He had no answer, he just asked me to help his friend live ten more years. Here was a man who preaches the world the path of detachment, a slight problem in his own house, and he was in a state of complete mess, Geeta forgotten. I wonder what would be happening to his students! This event explained to me the reason for the present state of world for here the teachers themselves have no faith on what they teach. So, in a matter of seconds a complete nobody can get so much gyan that he starts teaching me only and someone who had attained so many heights, reaches rock bottom. This is the process of Guru and gyanand it is beyond the understanding of brain. Till this process begins inside you, you will keep wandering in circles looking for solutions to your problems. There were four kids who came to me to learn chess. They were fourth-class students who wanted to appear for an open tournament (where classes upto 12th were participating). The game of chess requires at least 6 to 8 months of training and they had just three weeks. Nevertheless they had complete faith in me and for those three weeks they came to my house every single day. At the end of the training, I accompanied them for the tournament. I would go with them every single day, excepting one day when I reached late. That very day, the instructor replaced one of the better players in their team with an extra, who was the son of a bureaucrat…no prize for guessing that the instructor had got a call from the top. The final result was 22 but the 4th class kids got half a mark less than their senior team, thanks to the ‘call’. The ‘call business’ is the most unfortunate thing in our country… So imagine if 4th class students in just matter of three weeks could match the capacity of their senior teams, there is no limit to what you can achieve if you have the focus. The capacity of the Guru is limitless for the shishya, he is willing to give it all away, but you should have the desire and ❐ capacity to receive it as well. —The writer Yogi Ashwini Ji is the head of Dhyan Foundation, Delhi. For details contact: ashwiniyogi@yahoo.co.in

april 2014 | india empire 39


indians in CaliFornia

Yuba City—the Mini Punjab in USA

y

uba City, the headquarters of Sutter County, California, is about 125 miles from San Francisco. Punjabis came to Yuba City as migrant laborers in search of work over 100 years ago and faced enormous social and economic hurdles. They were peasant proprietors in India and their farming skills and willingness to work hard helped them find work. Some of them even leased or purchased their own farms and a few became successful and prosperous farmers. From 1917 to 1946, legal immigration from India was barred and the growth of the Punjabi population in the Yuba-Sutter Area dwindled to a trickle. In 1946, Indian nationals got the right of citizenship. The law allowed 100 immigrants to come annually from India and thus slow growth of Punjabis started again. However, after the passage of 1965 Immigration Act, the Punjabi population in Yuba-Sutter Area started growing steadily and today, Punjabi community population is probably the largest over any other similar city in the United States. Punjabis now comprise over 10% of the total population of about 80,000 in YubaSutter area. Several of them are engaged in agricultural or horticultural activities. In Yuba-Sutter County, Punjabi farmers grow about 95% of the peach crop, 60% of prunes and 20% almonds & walnuts. With the sizeable increase in their population, the community has diversified from the core business of farming into various occupations, businesses and professions. Many Punjabis have become successful entrepreneurs, venturing into trucking, commercial property, and various other businesses and contribute significantly to their local economy. Several with university degrees have gone into various professions — medicine, teaching, banking, engineering, etc. A inder Singh number of prosperous Punjabis goPio Chairman 40 india empire | april 2014

in the city own palatial houses and drive expensive cars. They endured tremendous hardships and worked very hard to realize their American Dream. Yuba City is literally a mini Punjab in the USA with three Gurdwaras and a temple. “Sat Sri Akal” is the preferred form of greeting; speaking in Punjabi is not considered “foreign” and Punjabi is officially taught in public schools. A radio program in Punjabi is regularly on the air. The Punjabi American Festival (Baisakhi) is organized every year in May by the Punjabi American Heritage Society which was founded by Dr. Jasbir Singh Kang in 1993 to help the younger generation get connected to their roots. The annual event features some internationally acclaimed artists and hundreds of local artists, including students from California schools, colleges and universities, who perform traditional Punjabi dances such as Bhangra, Giddha, Jhumar, and other ethnic dances. The ticketed event attracts over 12,000 people and is aimed at promoting a better understanding of the Punjabi community, its culture, and the many contributions they make to the region. Many business owners rent display booths to put themselves in front of the prospective customers. Yuba City is well known for its annual Sikh parade which draws a large number of Sikhs from various parts of the United States, Canada, India, the United Kingdom and throughout the world. In 1969, the first Gurudwara in Yuba City was started on the 500th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev, the founder of Sikh relegion. Since then, on first Sunday of November, Guru Gadi Divas (Coronation Day) of Guru Granth Sahib (Sacred Sikh Scriptures) is celebrated by organizing a huge parade featuring many floats. The 34th annual parade in November 2013, attracted an estimated 80,000 to 100,000 people.i Two days preceding the event, the 48 hour nonstop recital of Sikh scriptures (Akhand Path) is started on Friday. After the concluding ceremony (Bhog) on Sunday, the sacred Guru Granth is ceremoniously carried onto a lavishly decorated float. As the main float leaves the Sikh Temple to lead the procession, rain of flower petals comes down


Many Sikhs have retained the distinguishing marks of their faith. They have invariably added to the ethnic and cultural diversity of America and have become part of the unique and distinctive multicultural character of the new society. They have contributed to the development of the region’s economy at all levels and reshaped the landscape of the cities and towns where they have their homes

from a helicopter hovering above the parade. The main float is preceded by five people dressed in orange robes, known as Panj Piare or the five Beloved of the Guru. A band of devotees continuously sweep the street in front of its path. Many Sikh groups from different parts of the United States put up their own floats which follow the lead float. Several floats have Raagi Jathas (bands of religious singers) singing hymns. All along the parade route, enthusiastic devotees put up stalls to serve free refreshments to the bystanders and passersby. Thousands of participants join the procession, many follow the floats while several thousand stand along the route and watch. Langar (free food) is prepared for the participants gathered for this momentous occasion. Feeding of huge number of people is a major undertaking and it is done with the help of volunteers who have the spirit of Seva uppermost in their minds. As many as 200,000 meals are served during the Guru Gadi Divas weekend. There is no parallel to the event in the United States. Yuba City looks like a typical city in Punjab on this festive occasion. All kinds of goods imported from India are sold in the Punjab Bazaar, a temporary mini shopping mall. Thus, the annual parade provides major economic benefits to the community. The city gets its share of revenue in the form of sales and other taxes. The annual event is also a homecoming weekend for many younger Sikhs who have

left Yuba City for other parts of the US. Didar Singh Bains started the parade tradition in Yuba City. He came to the US in 1958 from Nangal in Hoshiarpur and worked as a farm laborer. He and his father bought their first farm in 1962. At one time, he was one of the biggest peach growers in California and was called “Peach King of California.” He is probably the wealthiest farmer among Indians in the United States. Yuba City has the distinction of having permanent multi-media exhibition housed in the Community Memorial Museum of Sutter County. The exhibition was developed by the Punjabi American Heritage Society and captures the story of over 100 years of the Punjabi community in the United States. The exhibit is appropriately titled, “Becoming American: The story of Pioneer Punjabis and South Asians.” There are also large Punjabi farming communities in other cities in California such as Fresno, Bakersfield, El Centro and the areas surrounding these cities. Some of the farmers have earned name, fame and fortune. A Sikh farmer from Fresno has earned the title of “Raisin King of California.” The New York Times calls Harbhajan Singh Samra “the okra king of the USA”. Samra specializes in growing Indian vegetables such as okra, mooli, tinda, bitter melon, Indian eggplant, methi, etc. near Palm Springs, Southern California. Many Sikhs have retained the distinguishing marks of their faith. They have invariably added to the ethnic and cultural diversity of America and have become part of the unique and distinctive multicultural character of the new society. They have contributed to the development of the region’s economy at all levels and reshaped the landscape of the cities and towns where they have their homes. At the same time, they have established themselves as a vibrant part of the society that has come to depend on their con❐ tributions in the local and national economies. —Inder Singh regularly writes and speaks on Indian Diaspora. He is the author of The Gadar Heroics – life sketches of over 50 Gadar heroes. He is Chairman of Global Organization of People of Indian Origin (GOPIO). He was president of GOPIO from 2004-2009, president of National Federation of Indian American Associations(NFIA) from 1988-92 and chairman from 1992-96. He was founding president of Federation of Indian Associations in Southern California. He can be reached at indersingh-usa@hotmail.com april 2014 | india empire 41


diasPora

APPOINTMENT AND RECOGNITION Prof Kovin Naidoo

Dr Geetha Srinivasan

The Vision Impact Institute (VII) has announced the addition of Professor Kovin Naidoo to its distinguished advisory board. Born in South Africa, Professor Naidoo is a renowned academic, optometrist, researcher, educator and internationally celebrated public health leader. He has worked hard to improve access to and delivery of eye care in Africa and is a strong advocate for the disadvantaged throughout the world. A Fullbright Scholar, Professor Naidoo has a long history of working to raise awareness around the impact of uncorrected vision and was also announced the World Economic Forum African Social Entrepreneur of the year in 2010. “I am honoured to be asked to join the Vision Impact Institute’s Advisory Board, where I can help further raise the awareness of the need to provide everyone – rich and poor, young and old – with access to quality eye care,” said Professor Naidoo. “I’ve seen first-hand the impact that can be made by ensuring communities have access to eye screening and corrective lenses and I am committed to playing a role in helping address this critical social issue.” The Vision Impact Institute serves as a global connector of knowledge, data and solutions in a quest to achieve better vision globally. The Institute’s mission is to raise awareness about the socio-economic impact of poor vision and to foster research where needed, encouraging measures in the field of corrective vision. Impaired vision is currently the world’s most widespread disability, affecting 4.3 billion people throughout the world, of whom 2.5 billion have no access to corrective measures. The cost of this significant public health issue is today either unknown or underestimated by the policy makers even though all the required solutions including eye exams and corrections are available. “The Vision Impact Institute is delighted to welcome Professor Naidoo,” said Jean-Félix Biosse Duplan, President of the Vision Impact Institute. “The social and economic costs of uncorrected visual impairment are significant, and the global community will benefit from his extensive knowledge, experience and expertise in ❐ fighting this international challenge.”

A Queen’s University Belfast scientist has been recognised as one of the leading Asian women in the UK with a nomination in this year's Asian Women of Achievement Awards. Dr Geetha Srinivasan, from Queen's University Ionic Liquid Laboratories (QUILL) Research Centre, has been shortlisted in the Professions category which recognises sustained excellence. The national award acknowledges the extraordinary achievements of Asian women in Britain across various disciplines including business, arts, media, sport, entrepreneurship, professions and social and humanitarian work. This award promotes the concept that geographical relocation is not a barrier to success. Through her research, Dr Srinivasan has contributed significantly to an industrial project with global energy giant PETRONAS in the removal of toxic mercury from natural gas. The project has been commercialised and is running successfully on an industrial scale. She is also developing a novel medical device for combating urinary tract infections. In 2012, Dr Srinivasan, became the first L’Oreal-UNESCO Outstanding Women in Science recipient from Northern Ireland and is also the recipient of an unprecedented three IChemE awards and Nicklin medal as a key player in a team project. Co-Founder of the awards, Pinky Lilani OBE, said: “Geetha is an award-winning female chemist and an outstanding research scientist with six patents to her name. Few postdoctoral fellows can claim to have taken a green sustainable process from bench to industrial plant, winning an unprecedented three IChemE awards for mercury abatement for her team, while at the same time developing a novel medical device for combating urinary tract infections.” Speaking about her nomination, Dr Geetha Srinivasan, said: “I am honoured to have my work recognised by nomination for such a prestigious national award. To have a key area for women like science promoted through awards like these is crucially important. Queen’s is recognised as national leader in gender-equitable employment and continues to attract internationally leading researchers and I am proud to be a part of that.” The awards will be presented for the successful winners in a ceremony in Park Hilton, London on June 4, 2014. ❐

42 india empire | april 2014


INDIA EMPIRE April 2014  

GUARDING WHALES

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