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Indo American News • Friday, March 18, 2011

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Friday, March 18 2011 | Vol. 30, No. 11

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Congressman Al Green presents a Certificate of Congressional Appreciation to India House officials, Jugal Malani, President; Kul Bhushan Uppal, Vice-President of Operations; and Brij Agrawal, Vice-President of Finance Photo: Krishna Giri

Jindal and his wife Arti. The first building structure on the India House premises has been named in memory of O. P. Jindal, the father of P. R. Jindal. “My heartfelt thanks to all who joined, supported, and shared our vision of India House. Our mission is to have a warm and welcoming place for Indians and non-Indians to come together, a place that pro-

motes our culture and heritage and serves the needs of our community,” said Malani. In an interview before the event Malani confided that the goal was to raise $1 million. “When people see that there is a good team in place, they have confidence. I have been lucky in that I have good friends that support me, so not a single call was wasted,”

added Malani. He has every confidence that the community will step up and and help further the vision that includes an auditorium and a library. Houston’s Mayor Annise Parker lauded the Indo American community for their endowment to this city by way of education, professionalism, cultural diversity, and now, India House. “I wanted to be here to share this proud evening with you. The relationship between India and Houston has never been stronger as it is today through India House,” said Mayor Parker. “You have enriched our community by being the focal point of a strong and vibrant business community in this city and you make my job a joy. You also understand that we are stronger when we engage in civic actions, we are stronger when we work together.” Keynote Speaker for the evening was Chancellor of the University of Houston (U of H) Dr. Renu Khator, who co-chaired the gala with her husband Suresh, along with Judge Ed Emmett and Susan Emmett, and gala chair Gopal Savjani. Dr. Khator related her oftentimes arduous journey from smalltown continued on page

Katy Art student wins at Houston Livestock show

By Sara raSlan HOUSTON (Chronicle): A Katy student’s color pencil drawing of a man riding a horse raked in a record $205,000 at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo’s School Art Auction Sunday. Seventeen-year-old Komal Agarwal, a junior at Seven Lakes High School, couldn’t believe her drawing was selected as the grand winner of the auction. “When I first started this drawing I was hoping and praying with every stroke of my pencil to just make it into the top 10,” she said. “I didn’t expect this to happen.” Her subject, the man on the horse, works at George Ranch, where she took photos for the drawing. Alka Agarwal knew her daughter was artistic when she would correct her parents at a young age if they called something pueple, rather than magenta. She’s had her

auction.” When her art teacher mentioned the Rodeo’s School Art Auction, A g a r w a l jumped at the chance to participate. The 17-yearold will receive $30,000, which she plans for using for coltuition. Komal’s drawing won grand champion prize and lege fetched $205,000 at the Houston Livestock Show The rest of the proceeds will and Rodeo fund scholarsights set on the rodeo for years. ships. “With this support we won’t “Since I was a kid, I always have to worry about the extra excame to the Rodeo,” Agarwal said. penses of college,” her mother “ I saw the art galleries and loved said. “Komal will be proud to use how realistic they were. I have al- money she earned herself on her ways wanted to be part of the art education.”

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This Week Inside:

India House Gala raises $800, 000 for Building Projects

By Kalyani Giri HOUSTON: India House gloriously came of age when over 600 from the diverse communities of this city gathered at the Intercontinental Hotel on March 12, 2011, to celebrate and contribute over $800, 000 to the visionary project. Sophistication was a hallmark feature of the annual gala held at Legends Ballroom which was strikingly enlivened by a bold black and silver color scheme, and softened by glimmering candles and vivid flower centerpieces. That India House is fast rising in the echelons as a power edifice was evident in the stellar outpouring of support from dignitaries and movers and shakers alike, who graced the event. Preceding the formal banquet was an early VIP reception for a select group of major donors and sponsors. The program began with the singing of the Indian and American national anthems, followed by an invocation rendered by youth from the Chinmaya Mission. Jugal Malani, President of India House, welcomed guests and recognized the presence of dignitaries, noteworthy amongst them, steel magnate and substantial contributor to India House, Prithvi Raj (P.R.)

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The drawing was purchased by four buyers; Jim Fiume, Joe Van Matre, Tom Dompier and Paul Sommerville. “This drawing is good talent,” said Joe Van Matre, member of the School Arts Committe and chairman of the Wine Sales Committe at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. “It’s one of the best things you can do for education,” he said. Tom Dompier, lifetime vice president of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo and former vice president of the school Art Auction, agreed that the events have a tremendous benefit. “We enjoy helping kids,” he said. “If they are in school that means they are not out getting in trouble somewhere else. It’s like giving them a job for four years.” This year’s grand champion tops last year’s by $15,000.

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Mahashivrathri Celebration Across H Town

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Akshay Patra Wins the Gold Shield for Second Year in a Row

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Ovo: A New Kind of Bug Story

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Community Felicitaion for Dr. Rathna Kumar

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India House Gala raises $800, 0000 for Building Projects 1

Indo-American News (ISSN 887-5936) is published weekly on every Friday (for a subscription price of $30 per year) by Indo-American News Inc., 7457 Harwin Dr., Suite 262, Houston, Texas 77036, Tel: 713-789-6397, Fax: 713-789-6399, Email: indoamericannews@yahoo.com. Periodical postage paid at Houston, Texas. POSTMASTER: Please send address changes to Indo-American News, 7457 Harwin Dr., Suite 262, Houston, Texas 77036.

Above: Attendees enjoy refreshments during the social hour Below: India House President welcomes Mayor Annise Parker Below Right: Cover page of a commemorative souvenir compiled by Krishna Giri at Indo American News Photos: Manasi Gokhale Bavadekar

Judge Ed Emmett extolled India House as a legacy to India and the Indian community. “We are here ostensibly to honor India House as a building, when indeed it is much more,” said Judge Emmett. “It is the heartbeat of the community that will serve all communities.” The gala was also an occasion that lauded individuals and sa-

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luted achievements. The India House, Inc. 2011 Community Service Award was presented to a stalwart in the community, Colonel Rajinder P. S. Bhalla. Namita Asthana took honors as the 2011 Woman of the Year in recognition of her active contribution to her community and as a prominent businesswoman. Co-founder and CEO of AirGenerate, Rick Pal reGiri

Farrukhabad in Uttar Pradesh, to big city Houston where she set out to break glass ceilings. Married at 18 years of age she moved to the USA without any knowledge of spoken English. She worked hard to achieve her goals, that included a doctorate, while nurturing two young daughters. “Dreams are very important. I had the dream of having the highest education and I had the support of my husband in achieving them,” said Dr. Khator. “India House was also born of a dream and is worthy of your support.” Dr. Khator, who has raised U of H to a Tier One university in three short years, also revealed at the gala that the school has been included in the prestigious Princeton Review, which is reflective of her determination at accomplishing goals Vice President of Operations, Kul Bhushan Uppal told gatherees that the four generations of Indians living in this city have rendered India House even more significant. A video presentation narrated by Executive Director of India House Yolanda Benoit showed its evolution from a piece of land to a community center that is fully functional, and where the community gathers for weddings, celebrations, parties, meetings, seminars, and to attend classes in dance, yoga, and Indian languages. A free clinic operates out of India House. On weekends it is a hive of activity as cricket games take place on its grounds, and cultural programs are hosted at the premises. Also a speaker at the event was Congressman Al Green who presented India House officials with a Congressional proclamation.

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ceived the India House, Inc. 2011 Entrepreneur of the Year Award; a former area developer for Liberty Tax Service, Pal pioneered the development, production, and marketing of patented energy saving devices for liquid heating. Another worthy recipient Swatantra Jain was presented with the 2011 Philanthropist of the Year Award for prolific and consistent service to many charitable organizations; he currently serves as Chairman of the BOD at Preksha Meditation Center. Two young students Madisen Hollie-Raiven Alexander and Khyati Jariwala wrote winning essays on “Communities Coming Together”; their interpretations garnered the girls cash prizes. “Our main goal was to raise funds for India House and to start paying off the outstanding loan amount on the building. India

House staff and Gala Committee worked judicially to iron out all problematic areas before the event,” said Kul Bhushan Uppal. “The whole event came together very nicely and everyone present enjoyed the evening.” Guests were entertained by Taal Anubhav and the Nritya Kala Dance Academy who presented dances. Dinner and dessert were catered by Daawat, a catering division of popular local restaurant, Madras Pavilion. Décor One’s Nalini Kannan turned the ballroom into a magical wonderland, and inspired guests to linger and kick up their heels on the dance floor. India House’s tireless and efficient Executive Director Yolanda Benoit was elated by the success of the evening. “Many thanks to Mr. Kul Bhushan Uppal for his tireless efforts and time volunteered to make this Gala a success,” said Benoit. “All of the exhaustion felt prior to this event from the long hours of work instantly vanished as I entered the ballroom to behold the breathtaking décor of the Legends Room, to hear the laughter of all guests and generous dollars raised made this event extraordinary. It was incredibly rewarding,” added Benoit.

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Indo American News • Friday, March 18, 2011

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maha shivrathri s celebration at sri c s saumyakasi saumyakasi sivalaya sivalaya

By y Chitra DivaKaruni K Karuni & Shiva K. SivaramaKri K Shnan Kri STAFFORD: On the evening of Wednesday, March 3rd, 2011, scores of ardent devotees congregated at Sri Saumyakasi Sivalaya to observe the holy and the austere occasion of Maha Sivaratri with great devotion and celebration. Located in Sugar Land, Texas, the Sivalaya is part of Chinmaya Prabha—an institution that embodies the vision of Pujya Gurudeva Swami Chinmayananda. A unique and notable philosophy in this temple is that devotees actively participate in all pujas. Maha Sivaratri is observed every year on the fourteenth day of Krsna Paksa (waning moon) in the Hindu month of Magha. Traditionally, Hindus fast all day and offer prayers to Lord Siva in the evening and meditate all night long. At Sri Saumyakasi Sivalaya, this auspicious occasion began on the morning of March 3rd with Mahanyasa Purvaka Rudrabisekam. Sri Rudram is an important mantra in the vaidika religion dedicated to Sri Rudra, a form of Lord Siva. It is believed that performing Rudrabisekam bestows prosperity, leads to fulfillment of all desires, removes negative tendencies and spreads all around happiness in life. Devotees, young and old, were deep in meditation as the melody of the chants engulfed the temple. The mood was serene and austere befitting the occasion. It was a glorious evening with

Acaryas Gaurangbhai Nanavaty performing the Ksirabhiseka to the Utsava Linga. All the devotees had an opportunity to offer abhiseka with milk to the Utsava Linga. Photo: Jay Deshmukh

clear skies and a gentle cool breeze as the devotees began to gather at the Sivalaya around 7PM. The majestic dome of the temple, shaped like the Sivalinga, looked divine in the brilliant evening light. The event was organized impeccably with attention given to every last detail under the watchful guidance of Acaryas Gaurangbhai and Darshanaben Nanavaty and the tireless efforts of numerous volunteers. As the devotees, adorned in colorful traditional Indian clothes, entered the temple, they were seated in a very orderly fashion in the main hall. They brought flowers and fruits to offer to Lord Siva. The melodious chanting of the manta “Om Namah Shivaya” resonated in the hall and set the mood

for the evening. Before long, the hall was full and the devotion in the air was palpable. With the customary precision that one has come to expect at the Chinmaya Mission, the festivities began exactly as planned at 7:30PM. The strong and melodious voice of the priest, Sri Ganesh, rang through the air as he began the Sodasopacara puja. The first step was the invocation of Lord Ganesa to pray for the smooth completion of all puja activities without any obstacles. As is traditional, the priest then performed Sankalpa --- a declaration of the intent, the time, the place, and the people present. After welcoming Lord Siva, and offering Him Asana, the Lagunyasa Purvaka Eka-

dasa Rudrabhisekam began. Several devotees accompanied the priest in reciting Sri Rudram and Chamakam. The abhiseka of the Sivalinga was performed with five different dravyas including milk, yoghurt, honey, ghee, sugar, and water. According to the mythology, each of these dravyas used in the abhiseka blesses a unique quality: Milk is for the blessing of purity and piety, Yogurt is for prosperity and progeny, Honey is for sweet speech, Ghee is for victory, Sugar is for happiness and Water is for purity. After the Rudra parayanam, the devotees chanted the Durga Suktam, Sri Suktam, Purusha Suktam and Manyu Suktam. The screen came down as the priest offered alankara - adorning the Sivalinga beautifully with vibhuti, sandal wood paste, kumkum and flower garlands. As devotees waited patiently for the screen to come up, they sang captivating bhajanas. In due time, the screen was drawn to reward everyone with what they had been eagerly waiting for -- the Divine Darsana of Lord Siva in full splendour. Sri Ganesh, the priest, then chanted the Sri Rudra Trishati and performed arcana of Lord Siva. The evening puja activities concluded with Arati, Mantrapuspam, Astavadhana seva, which involves the chanting verses from the four Vedas, the three sastras and Sangita Aradhana. The priest Sri Ganesh chanted the verses from the

Vedas and the Sastras with great precision and devotion. The divine voices of two Bala Vihar students then filled the air with a beautiful rendition of the Thyagaraja Kirtana “Siva Siva Siva Ena Radha” in Raga Panthuvarali set to Adi tala. The temple was then transformed into a Dhyana Mandira as many devotees stayed back for silent meditation and contemplation till midnight. The lights were dimmed and a peaceful and blissful atmosphere was created as a soft, continuous chant of” Om Namah Sivaya” played in the background. At midnight, a joyous final Arati was offered to the Lord as a fitting conclusion to this holy day. A continuous stream of devotees, over 2000 of them, visited the temple to seek blessings of Lord Siva throughout the evening on this auspicious occasion. The highlight of this year’s pujas was the Ksirabhiseka to the Utsava Linga by all the devotees. While Rudrabhisekam was performed in the temple by the priest, all the devotees had an opportunity to of offer abhiseka with milk to the Utsava Linga installed in the basement of Sivalaya. The beautifully decorated hall resonated the devotion in the hearts of one and all as they offered Abhiseka with mind completely absorbed in single thought – the Name of Lord Siva. The Maha Sivaratri program continued on to Saturday and Sunday, when 3 beautiful Maha Mrtyunjaya Ho-

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Indo American News • Friday, March 18, 2011

VPSS Starts Networking Forum for Young Professionals Bijal Shah. Future events include guest speakers, social activities, career seminars and community service events. If you are interested in learning more about the Professional

Networking Forum, please visit and join at www.vpsshaveli.org Vallabh Preti Seva Samaj (VPSS) is Pushti Marg mandir serving the Hindu community since 1984

From left: Manish Parikh, Rajiv Shah, Chintan Parikh, Snehal Desai, Smita Parikh, Sejal Desai, Bijal Patel, Aarchna Shah,and Tejas Patel at the first professional networking dinner at the Vallabh Hall

HOUSTON: Vallabh Preti Seva Samaj (VPSS) hosted its first Professionals networking dinner on Saturday, March 5, 2011 at the Vallabh Hall at VPSS. The event was attended by over 100 professionals between the ages of 25 – 45 from the Greater Houston Indian community. There were individuals representing various trades such as, finance, engineering, health and medicine, dentistry, pharmaceuticals, retail and service, and Information Technology etc. They also had an opportunity to meet with managers and owners of business. The evening was ably hosted by Smita Parikh and Dr. Snehal Desai. Dr. Kamlesh Lulla, NASA Scientist and Director of Research, was invited as the guest speaker whose topic was “Including Spirituality in our Professional Lives”. His interactive speech was well received by the audience. “Our hope is that this evening will bring together young fresh minds ready to make a footprint in their field and more experienced minds that can provide guidance” said Smita Parikh. “During these hard financial times, we have humbly come to realize that our role here at the Haveli cannot just be spiritual in nature. Our role can and must be broader. We can help better the lives of people in all aspects, be it education, social, or economic success.” The secondary intent was to have the indi-

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viduals understand what VPSS and its wings VVM and Gokul Gaon were all about; and how much they would enrich these respected group if they were to volunteer their talents, services, and time. The vision of the group is to provide a forum for professional networking, growth and a group at the Haveli to consult, encourage and guide each other. A community such as ours has much to learn and benefit from each other which include the Haveli leaders, volunteers, and teachers. Dr. Snehal Desai, member of VPSS Board of Trustee, stated that “the leadership at VPSS was enthusiastic about supporting and providing the foundation for young professional’s community and events like these.” After a delicious buffet-style dinner catered by culinary masters in the VPSS kitchen, the evening ended with the hosts thanking Dr. Kamlesh Lulla and all present at the event. It was truly a professionally managed event which was rightly appreciated by the impressive turnout. Rajiv Shah and Manish Parikh provided the vision and the leadership to the newly formed ‘The VPSS Professional Networking Forum Committee’. The other founding members include Dr. Sejal Desai, Dr. Tejash Patel, Dr. Snehal Desai, Smita Parikh, Archana Shah, Chintan Parikh, Beejal Patel and

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Indo American News • Friday, March 18, 2011

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mahas ahashivrathri ahas shivrathri c celebrated at s saumyakasi sri saumyakasi sivalaya sivalaya

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The priest, Sri Ganesh and Sri Harish Bhat performed Rudrabhisekam

mas were offered in Chinmaya Prabha. A powerful and dynamic atmosphere was created each time as the priest, Sri Ganesh, invoked the Divine through prayers to deities such as Lord Ganesa and Lord Siva in the

form of Amrta Mrtyunjaya. The fire ceremony on the stage captured the attention of a hall-full of devotees (including many children) who watched and listened in pindrop silence. All devotees were given black sesame seeds and flattened rice for offering so they could participate in the homa and reap its benefits. This sacred homa brings health and protection to participants on the physical level, peace of mind and fearlessness on the mental level and a deep spiritual understanding of the nature of life and death on the intellectual level. The blessings of Lord Siva enfolds devotees through this ancient fire ceremony in which the holy tryambaka mantra is repeated 108 times, following a puja performed to the Lord. The Homa ended with an arati performed at the homa kunda on stage and with the distribution of Prasad. The pristine and peaceful Sivalaya located at 10353, Synott Road, Sugar Land, TX77498 is a blessing for the entire Hindu community of Houston. For more information, visit www.saumyakasi.org and www. chinmayahouston.org or call temple 281568-1690 or Jay Deshmukh 832-541-0059

Lanka: An epic pic on stage stage

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HOUSTON: Get ready for an audio-visual feast in the month of March! Agni Productions is gearing up to present a one of a kind stage production called Lanka – An Epic on Stage. Lanka is a unique stage production that combines story-telling, dance and martial arts to narrate an epic tale. The presentation will be entirely in English interlaced with contemporary dance and martial arts and draws inspiration from varied influences. Lanka tells the fictional story about what transpires in Lanka after the Ramayana, the great Indian epic. The production is the brainchild of writer and director Prakash Mohandas – the founder of Agni Productions, a sister concern of Agni - The Dance Company, based in Austin, TX. Prakash has been an active member of the Austin South Asian community in the spheres of dance, theatre and music for several years. Lanka is the confluence of his vision to bring together aspects of various dance styles, martial arts and theatre along with a cinematic feel to the stage. The production will be supplemented by breathtaking stage setting, costumes and theatrical make-up. The visual element will be enhanced by professionally managed lighting and sound to present an unparalleled experience on stage. Check out the Lanka trailer directed by Sushma Khadepaun-Parmar from Cutting Chai Productions on our website.

The scale of the production is unprec unprecedented in comparison to any project by the South Asian community in Texas. Lanka brings together a cast and crew of 60 individuals comprising actors, dancers, choreographers, stunt specialists and voice artists. The production crew also includes set designers, light and sound technicians, makeup artistes and costume and set designers. Additionally, Lanka boasts a completely original and professionally composed musical score, by up and coming music director Rohan Joseph, which is sure to enthrall audiences. Samples of the Lanka music can be found on our website. Lanka tours Texas in March and April 2011 with scheduled performances in Austin, Houston, San Antonio and Dallas. Lanka heads to Houston on Sunday March 27, 5pm at the Cullen Theater (Wortham Center). Agni Productions is committed to supporting community and humanitarian causes with its events. Part of the proceeds from the Lanka show in Houston will be donated to Asha for Education – Houston Chapter. Asha for Education is a non-profit, voluntary organization dedicated to bringing socio-economic change in India by using the medium of education. For more information including ticket ticketing, please visit www.lankaproduction.com, send an email to agniproductions@gmail. com, or call 281.686.6666.

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Indo American News • Friday, March 18, 2011

Cinema Payithiam Plays to Packed Audience

By rajee hari HOUSTON: Well-known local dramatist Anantha’s passion for stagecraft over the past three decades is legendary. He has written plays, identified ingenue actors in the local community, and inspired many to give off their best. He’s also directed and acted in many of his own productions through his

none of the artists are professional actors and amidst their busy schedules and lifestyles, found time to rehearse and do their best on stage. It was heartening to note that the second generation Indo American youngsters, with limited exposure to Tamil plays, were enjoying and giggling at the comedy scenes com-

BKM honored local dramatist Anantha by presenting him with the “Lifetime Achievement Award” on behalf of the Tamil Community

drama group, Tamil Stage Creations. In celebration of Tamil Stage Creations’ 33rd Anniversary, the Bharathi Kalai Manram (BKM) hosted his latest opus, a Tamil comedy Cinema Payithiam, meaning, movie fanatic at the Jewish Community Center on February 27. The play’s debut also marked the directorial debut of Anantha’s daughter Luckmi Pawa, to whom he willingly passed the baton. The play received rave reviews, earning Luckmi kudos as the new producer/director on the horizon. Based on the premise that there is a craze in the community for movie production, direction, and acting, the play sought to show that people are willing to take any kind of risk to achieve this dream. The story was very well written by Anantha and the artists who played the various roles in the drama did a phenomenal job of bringing the characters to life and lifting the spirit of the evening. It should be noted that

ing to life in front of them. The uniqueness of Anantha’s play is that he incorporates music, dance and drama into his plays. He also craftily inserted the three aspects into the story that entertained the audience for 120 minutes. Another important feature of the play was the various dialects from different parts of the southern state of India, Tamilnadu spoken by different characters. It must have taken hours of practice to master the delivery of some of the dialects and it was definitely an admirable performance by the artists. A first success for Luckmi, that heralds many more in future. BKM fittingly honored Anantha by presenting him with the “Lifetime Achievement Award” on behalf of the Tamil Community. BKM also honored Dr. Rathna Kumar with a plaque of honor and a silk shawl for being awarded the “Sangeet Natak Academi” for Kuchipudi dance for the year 2010.

Indo AmerIcAn news • FrIdAy, A mArcH 18, 2011 • Online editiOn: Ay, On: www.indOamerican-news.cOm O

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Indo American News • Friday, March 18, 2011

By Chittoor ramaChanDran PEARLAND: Sri Meenakshi Temple of Pearland has the great reputation as a place Hindu devotees look upon for spiritual inspi-

mTs mT Ts celebrates c mahashivarathri

ration. The wholehearted interest shown by nearly five hundred devotees on the evening of Mahasivarathri was not the result of any persuasion. The increasing

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number of Hindu temples proportional to the population of Houston Hindus provided facilities for Shiva worship on this most honored religious day. Despite being a weekday, there were numerous newcomers amongst those who assembled to spend the evening at Sri Meenakshi Sametha Sundareswarar Sannidhi. The vibrations that reflected from the majestic vimanams were capable of captivating every devotee as soon as they assumed their barefoot mode that evening. The air was filled with the aural fragrance of Shankarabharanam from one side and Purushasuktam from the Vaishnava Vaidikas. Sri Manicka Bhattar and Sri Kalyana Sundaram were getting ready with the array of traditional 108 shankhas. Soon the devotees realized the astrological importance of Mahashivarathri 2011. The astrological significance of this year’s Mahashivarathri was greater as it coincided with Shravana nakshathram and Pradosham, the special day for the worship of Sri Mahavishnu. The purport of the Bhagavata slokas, viz., “vaishnavanam yatha sambhuh” says that no one is as ardent a Vaishnavite as Sri Mahadeva. So the main temple was filled with the timehonored Vedamanthrams -Sri Rudram, Sri Suktam, Purushasuktam, Desikar’s Chathu Murai, etc. At the concluding stage of Sri Venkateswara abhishekam, Sri Narayanacharyulu chanted the line “Aakashat pathitham thoyam yadha gachathi sagaram sarvadeva namaskaram srikeshavam prathigachathi.” The meaning of this mantra is that just like every drop of water that falls from the sky eventually merges with the ocean, all the prayers reach Sri Keshava. During the celebrations at MTS on Mahashivarathri night, devotees expressed their bhakthi to Shiva

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abhishekam of Shivalinga with water poured from the shankha (Shankha-abhishekam) is considered very auspicious. The priests ceremoniously carried the 108 shankha filled with the sanctified water to Sundareswara sannidhi to perform the abhishekam. The temple resounded with the chorus of the most auspicious Rudram during the course of abhishekam. The flawless chanting of Veda by the leading ritwiks elevated the impact of the rituals to an exalted level. Simultaneously several dance

schools danced before the Lord of Dance, Natarajar. For these students of dance, what better way of prayer to Lord Shiva! Respected guru of dance Dr. Rathna Kumar’s mind crossed the seven oceans and stopped at Thillai Ambala Natarajar of Chidambaram. Particularly impressive was the spectacular performance of Sri Venugopal Josyula. His choreography of Sivashtakam in Kuchipudi style was very inspirational. He showed his prowess in the art with this powerful dance item. The dance programs were followed by the rendition of Muthuswamy Dikshitar’s masterpiece Panchabhootha Krithis. The vocalist Sri Harsha Nagarajan led the team very professionally consisting of vocalists, and instrumental musicians. Many Shiva devotees continued to be present at Sri Sundareswara sannidhi to attend Chathur Kala pooja singing bhajans. Ekadasha Rudram that followed Rudra Thridashi made the night very special. As a tradition, abhishekam and archana were repeated every three hours during the night. Shivarathri is the only time the Temple remains open to the public in the night time. This year, nearly one hundred devotees stayed awake throughout the night. While some believe that Mahashivarathri or Shiva’s Great Night symbolizes the wedding day of Lord Shiva and Parvathy, others, however, believe that Shivarathri is the night when Lord Shiva performed the Tandava Nritya-the dance of primordial creation, preservation and destruction. There are many other legends and folklores that have been handed down through generations as to how people celebrate the festival of Mahashivarathri. Serving the Lord with ardent devotion is a path toward happiness and peace that was experienced by many devotees on Mahashivarathri.

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practicing this belief. Groups of devotees started arriving by early evening to the specially decorated Temple premises prepared to have convenient darshan of the detailed rituals. The major sequence of steps including Sankha pooja and Rudra homam at the main hall were spiritually uplifting. Ever-smiling Mother Meenakshi looked elegant and majestic presiding over all these festivities. Concentrating on the open flame in the homam, the priest Sri Kalyanasundaram made offerings on behalf of the devotees. As a plea to Agni, the priests jointly chanted highly honored Vedamanthrams. It took no effort to draw the attention of all the devotees at the auspicious moment of Poornaahuthi. Among the ways to adore and admire the majesty of Lord Shiva,

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Akshay Patra w wins the Gold shield s for second s year in a row y r The highest honor for accounting practices from ICAI granted to Akshaya Patra have included AmeriCares award for appreciation of nutritional standards, Tech Museum award for leveraging technology to benefit humanity, Indian Urban Space Foundation award for the best innovative project, and the Civil Society Organization award for outstanding annual Report. President Obama, in his congratulatory note to Akshaya Patra wrote, “Your example of using advanced technologies in central kitchens to reach children is an imaginative approach that has the potential to serve as a model for other countries.” A public-private partnership, Akshaya Patra combines good

zation also sources its food stocks from local markets, thereby reducing costs associated with transportation and food spoilage while supporting the local economy. Akshaya Patra has a demonstrated impact on the children it reaches. AC Nielsen, an independent research firm, performed an impact assessment which demonstrated an increase in enrollment, especially among the female students, and better health and improved performance among all students who received school lunches. Akshaya Patra is a great example of what can be accomplished when the public sector, private sector and the civic society collaborate--

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management, innovative technology and smart engineering to deliver school lunch at a fraction of the cost of similar programs in other parts of the world. It costs only $31 to feed a child for an entire year, and with government subsidy, it takes just $11.50. This meal gives these children an incentive to come to school, stay in school and provides them with the necessary nutrients they need to develop their cognitive abilities to focus on learning. The organi-

a cost effective, scalable solution with high quality service delivery. After reaching its goal of feeding one million children each school day, Akshaya Patra’s next milestone is to serve 5 million children daily by 2020. For more information, visit www.foodforeducation.org. For more information about this event, contact Madhu Sridhar at 781438-3090, emailtapf.info@akshayapatrausa.org

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For the second year in a row, the Akshaya Patra Foundation, the world’s largest NGOrun midday meal program, has been awarded the Gold Shield Award for best financial reporting in the NGO sector by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI). Akshaya Patra’s vision is that no child shall be deprived of education because of hunger. The organization currently feeds 1.2 million children each day in 8,000 schools from 18 kitchens in eight states in India through the use of innovative technology. “This award conferred by India’s most prestigious accounting body speaks volumes for the organization’s commitment to transparency and sound accountingpractices,” said Madhu Sridhar, Akshaya Patra USA’s President and CEO. “We are overjoyed by the honor and recognition.” The Gold Shield is the top award given by the ICAI and is only given to those organizations with the highest level of accounting practices. The award was given based on a review of Akshaya Patra’s accounts as well as their policies concerning full disclosure and presentation of financial statements. The organization was selected by a panel of judges for their degree of compliance with accounting standards, statutory guidelines and other relevant pronouncements. In addition to the Gold Shield, previous awards and accolades

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Indo American News • Friday, March 18, 2011

entertainment

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cirque du soleil’s Ovo is a new ew Kind of Bug story tory

By everett evanS (Chronicle) March may seem a shade early for an insect invasion — even for Houston. But don’t call your friendly neighborhood exterminator. The larger-than-life insects in Ovo, the latest touring spectacle from Cirque du Soleil, are out to entertain and amaze. Opening Thursday in Cirque’s trademark blue-and-gold big top at Sam Houston Race Park, Ovo depicts a teeming insect ecosystem where ants, butterflies, crickets, spiders, scarabs and other creatures work, eat, play, flutter, crawl, fight and look for love in a nonstop

riot of energy and movement. A new-bug-in-town arrives bringing a mysterious giant egg, which baf baffles the residents, and the stranger further complicates life in Bugtown by falling for a comely ladybug. (Ovo is Portuguese for egg.) As you’d expect of a show with an all-insect cast, Ovo has generated lots of buzz since its 2009 premiere in Montreal. Some have called it Cirque’s most jaw-dropping touring production yet, the best show the company has ever put on the road. Reviewing the 2009 premiere, Variety saw Ovo as proof that

Cirque du Soleil is not resting on its laurels, as the show “branches out in several fairly bold directions, a sign of an organization willing to challenge the status quo.” The review noted that an increased emphasis on choreography makes Ovo “move with an artistic totality and seamless fluidity” that some past Cirque touring shows have lacked. That was the idea when Cirque Artistic Guides Guy Laliberte and Gilles Ste-Croix (basically, the chiefs of the whole operation) sought out internationally acclaimed choreographer Deborah Colker to direct, choreograph and write Ovo. To mark the company’s 25th anniversary in 2009, they wanted Cirque’s 25th production to maintain trademark ingredients while refreshing the formula. Colker, who won London’s Olivier in 2001 for her choreography of Mix, had never seen a Cirque production when she met Ste-Croix. But by the time she made her first visit to the Cirque whizzes at their Montreal base, she had seen most of the company’s permanently installed Las Vegas productions and several of the touring shows. And Cirque reps had visited her in Rio, where she runs Companhia de Dança Deborah Colker, to

witness her at work in her natural habitat. The only stipulation was that the show Colker created must be about nature and biodiversity. “I asked if it had to be an ecological manifesto, and they said no, it didn’t have to have a message,” Colker says, speaking by phone from her home in Rio. “It just had to treat that subject. Within the theme, I could do what I wanted. I liked the idea, because I think all of us should pay greater attention to nature, to water, to biodiversity and the world. “I began to get ideas about insect life, different insect families, and a sort of nest on stage - and through their world, to convey joy, vitality and sensuality. That insect theme seemed to match up to the possibilities of the circus world - for instance, a contortionist playing a spider.” Colker’s goal was not so much to make Ovo different from other Cirque productions. “What was important was to let it be me - to reflect a way I have of working that I’ve developed through the past 20 years.” (Houston audiences will have another chance to see Colker’s work when Society for the Performing Arts presents her dance company here in fall 2012.) As with any Cirque production, the theme supplies a framework for the company’s trademark blend of mind-boggling aerial, acrobatic and balancing feats, imaginative staging, eye-popping costumes

and extravagant production design. Reviews of Ovo have singled out such highlights as the devilishly challenging trapeze act, a cocooninto-butterfly aerial ballet, a footjuggling display of “ants” tossing giant kiwi slices, and the breathless ensemble routine of figures bounding from a huge trampoline onto a climbing wall. The creative process is extremely collaborative, with the circus artists’ various specialty acts carefully adapted and shaped to fit the show - but the overall vision in Ovo is Colker’s. “I wanted the story to be there throughout,” she says. “Not to start with a story or theme, then have it disappear as the show becomes a succession of acts, as has happened with some shows. In this production everybody has a responsibility to tell the story.” Colker accomplished her work on the show in two phases: 12 twoto-three week trips to Montreal throughout 2008, then an intensive six-month stay beginning in December of that year. The Cirque team’s confidence in its recipe is reflected in something Ste-Croix told Colker early in their discussions for Ovo. “He told me, ‘Remember, this has to be a show for all ages - the grandmother, the mother, the adolescents, the little grandson. And the show has to survive for 15 years around the world.’ I said, ‘I don’t know if I’ll be alive in 15 years!’ And he said, ‘I don’t know about you, but the show will be!’ “

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society

Indo American News • Friday, March 18, 2011

Hindus in the Woodlands Celebrate Mahashivrathri

HOUSTON: Hindus from The Woodlands, Spring, Conroe, Tomball, and other areas in the northern part of Greater Houston joined together on Sunday, February 27, 2011, to celebrate Maha Shivaratri. The event was jointly sponsored by Hindu Temple of The Woodlands (HTW) and Sanatana Sanskriti, provider of Hindu religious education for our children and youth. It was a special event with puja, aarthi, prasad and cultural program. The program was followed by lunch for the more than 300 devotees in attendance. Following the puja by an invited priest, children from the community as well as Sanskriti students in the various classes performed a classical vocal invocation, bhajans and other devotional songs in English as well as Indian languages, and classical dances. S. R. Pinnapureddy, HTW’s construction coordinator, spoke on the process of the construction and invited anyone

to call him to arrange to see the temple site. Thanks to all who attended, participated, and volunteered, making the Maha Shivaratri a grand success. A special thanks to the families who co-sponsored the event. Hindus in The Woodlands and nearby are looking forward to celebrating Maha Shivaratri at their own temple next year! Please see www.woodlandshindutemple.org for more information on the temple and upcoming events. Email info@woodlandshindutemple.org to be put on the temple’s email list for event and activity information.

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Indo American News • Friday, March 18, 2011

society

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Community Felicitation for Anjali School’s Dr. Rathna Kumar

By Kalyani Giri HOUSTON: The community came together in a rousing and affectionate tribute to the doyen of dance in this city, Dr. Rathna Kumar, who was recently named as a recipient of the Government of India’s prestigious Sangeet Natak Akademi (SNA) Award 2010 for Kuchipudi. The honor, unprecedented in the history of SNA for an artiste living outside of India, was in recognition of Dr. Kumar’s commitment to the propagation of the Indian art form of Kuchipudi. About two hundred community leaders, fans, family, friends, students and well-wishers gathered at the Anjali Center in Sugar Land on March 13 to felicitate a cultural icon who has enriched the lives of many through dance. The stellar line-up of guest speakers for the evening included the Consul General of India, Sanjiv Arora, Chancellor of the University of Houston, Dr. Renu Khator, Spiritual Head of the Chinmaya Mission, Shri Gaurang Nanavati, City of Sugar Land Councilman Thomas Abraham, Fort Bend Independent School District Trustee, Sonal Bhuchar, Director of Education Programs at the Museum of Fine Arts Education, Margaret Mims, and representatives from several mainstream arts organizations that Dr. Kumar closely liaises with. Gatherees got to meet and mingle at a wine and hors d’ oeuvres reception that preceded the event.

Prabha Bala and Thara Narasimhan whose friendship with Dr. Kumar spans nearly forty years described her as having the qualities of nine gems. They told of her strong intellect, compassion, loyalty, creativity, and caring. And they lauded her for gracefully fulfilling her roles as teacher, mother, daughter, wife and friend. Dr. Kumar, visibly overwhelmed by the outpouring of devotion, thanked the gathering for their support over the years. She On March 13, the community came together in a rousing and affectionate tribute to Dr. Rathna Kumar, who was also acknowledged her recently named as a recipient of the Government of India’s prestigious Sangeet Natak Akademi (SNA) Award husband Anil for being 2010 for Kuchipudi. her steadfast champion and her family for encouraging Sonal Bhuchar’s daughter Sun- nale to her speech. Speakers shared personal Anuradha Subramanian, who is her vision. glimpses into their relationships aina studied dance with Dr. Kumar “I always knew that I was meant with Dr. Kumar, each unique and and graduated several years ago. named in the Guinness Book of The ties between the two families World Records as the oldest stu- to be a teacher. And to teach dance heartwarming. dent to graduate in the Kuchipudi gives my life more meaning be“When I first moved here 3 runs deep. “Rathna Aunty does more than style of dance, took tutelage in that cause it is what I love doing best,” years ago, Rathna ji took my hand said Dr. Kumar. in both of hers’, and asked if she teach dance. She has such deep art form from Dr. Kumar. Host committee for the event “Rathna and I are both Scorpios, could be of any help to me. In her knowledge of our cultural heribeautiful saree and jewelry she tage that it shines through in every I’m one day older than her. And were Thara Narasimhan, Vatsa Kustood out in my mind,” reminisced class and our children get to learn we’re both stubborn, determined, mar, Ramesh Anand, Prabha Bala, Dr. Khator. “She is such an amaz- so much from her,” said Bhuchar. persistent, and fiercely loyal,” said Sesh Bala, Mallick Putcha, Deepti ing person, very warm. Congratu- “Rathna Aunty, you’re the best; Subramanian. “She’s a remarkable Raju, and Colonel Raj Bhalla. For information about Dr. Kulations, on your award, Rathna ji, everyone else is just the rest!” teacher and my close friend. RathI’m so happy to actually be able to Drawing laughter, she confided na, I love you with my heart, my mar and the Anjali Center for Pertell everyone here and in India that that her husband Subhodh had soul and my sombrero!” she added forming Arts, visit www.anjalicenter.org. suggested that line as a fitting fi- whimsically. I know you!” she joked.

Indo American News • Friday, MARCH 18 , 2011 • Online Edition: www.indoamerican-news.com


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Indo American News • Friday, March 18, 2011

Question on Tradition: Why Do People Apply the Holy Ash?

The ash of any burnt object is not regarded as holy ash. Bhasma (the holy ash) is the ash from the homa (sacrificial fire) where special wood along with ghee and other herbs is offered as worship of the Lord. Or the deity is worshipped by pouring ash as abhisheka and is then distributed as bhasma. Bhasma is generally applied on the forehead. Some apply it on certain parts of the body like the upper arms, chest etc. Some ascetics rub it all over the body. Many consume a pinch of it each time they receive it. The word bhasma means, “that by which our sins are destroyed and the Lord is remembered.” Bha implied bhartsanam (“to destroy”) and sma implies smaranam (“to remember”).

The application of bhasma therefore signifies destruction of the evil and remembrance of the divine. Bhasma is

called vibhuti (which means “glory”) as it gives glory to one who applies it and raksha (which means a source

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of protection) as it protects the wearer from ill health and evil, by purifying him or her. Homa (offering of oblations into the fire with sacred chants) signifies the offering or surrender of the ego and egocentric desires into the flame of knowledge or a noble and selfless cause. The consequent ash signifies the purity of the mind, which results from such actions. Also the fire of knowledge burns the oblation and wood signifying ignorance and inertia respectively. The ash we apply indicates that we should burn false identification with the body and become free of the limitations of birth and death. This is not to be misconstrued as a morose reminder of death but as a powerful

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pointer towards the fact that time and tide wait for none. Bhasma is specially associated with Lord Shiva who applies it all over His body. Shiva devotes apply bhasma as a tripundra. When applied with a red spot at the center, the mark symbolizes Shiva-Shakti (the unity of energy and matter that creates the entire seen and unseen universe). Tryambakam yajaamahe Sugandhim pushtivardhanam Urvaa rukamiva bhandhanaan Mrytyor muksheeyamaa amrutaat “We worship the three-eyed Lord Shiva who nourishes and spread fragrance in our lives. May He free us from the shackles of sorrow, change and death – effortlessly, like the fall of a rip brinjal from its stem.”

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Indo American News • Friday, February 25, 2011

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Friday, February 25 2011 | Vol. 30, No. 8

Indo American News

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This Week Inside:

Book Reading by Award Winning Fiction Writers

Students Display Proficiency in Shlokathon 2011

“No More Tears”Somi Ali’s NGO to help the Abused

iFest Brings on The Silk Road to Houston

To beat Shah Rukh Khan’s stunt on a desi cycle-rickshaw, Salman Khan decided to perform his stunts on tuk-tuk, the Thai auto-rickshaw, on Pattaya’s narrow lanes for Anees Bazmee’s “Ready” Two tuk-tuk’s blow up and Salman jumps into a new tuk-tuk.

Stellar Premiere Lineup Set for WorldFest 2011

Indians burn photographs of Ajmal Kasab, only surviving gunman of Mumbai terror attacks in Ahmadabad. An Indian appeals court Monday confirmed the conviction and death sentence for the only surviving gunman from the 2008 attacks on Mumbai, which killed 166 people and derailed peace talks with neighboring Pakistan.

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MUMBAI (TOI): The Bombay high court today upheld the death sentence to Pakistani terrorist Ajmal Amir Kasab for his involve involveA Site Finds Love in India

’s Khan n a Salm tunt S ! Y SCAR

High Court Upholds Kasab’s Death Verdict

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captured alive, was sentenced to death by a special anti-terror court on May 6 last year. (Read: Cop, who fired at Kasab, happy after death penalty confirmation ) Ansari and Ahmed had been, however, let off for want of adequate evidence by the trial court. Kasab appeared briefly in the court through a video link wearing

Italy’s Avati brothers, Pupi and Antonio - recipients of the 2010 Career Achievement Awards - flank WorldFest Houston’s Founder and Chairman Hunter Todd at the Opening Night festivities last year at the AMC Studio 30. Photo by Krishna Giri

BY KALYANI GIRI HOUSTON: It is the festival that first recognized and feted the

student endeavors. This year, there are several creative opuses that shall debut at

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Shah Rukh Khan

Filming on the movie will commence in

2012

Published weekly from Houston, TX

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ICC Recognizes Four Physicians for Exemplary Service through Healing BY KALYANI GIRI HOUSTON: Dr. Sudha Rajan has advocated holistic medicine almost as long as she received her medical degree. Born in Madurai in south India, she was exposed to Ayurveda from a very young age while sharing many an educative hour in her grandmother’s kitchen avidly listening and learning about the curative and palliative powers of age-old herbs and roots. This year Dr. Rajan, along with Drs. Jay Chavda, K.T. Shah, and Rakesh Mangal, were the four medical professionals honored by the India Culture Center of Houston (ICC – H) in recognition of their outstanding contribution toward the betterment of this city by giving back to the community. The doctors were special guests at the 62nd Repub Republic Day of India celebration hosted by ICC-H on January 29, 2011 at the Stafford Center, where they Exemplary Community Service Through Several weeks prior to the event, ICC-H placed notices in local media exhorting the public to tender nominations; through an exhaustive process that drew sixteen contenders, the four doctors, all distinguished in their vocations, were hand-selected by

HOUSTON (Houston Chron Chronicle: The Texas Medical Board this month disciplined 15 doctors — including three of Indian origin — for improperly dispensing dan dangerous drugs, part of an ongoing crackdown of a burgeoning illicit industry of doctors and pharma pharmacists illegally dispensing prescrip prescrip-

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vision commercials, music videos, screenplays, new media, television production, business films, experimental media, documentaries and

soring the regatta. For more information about the film festival and the calendar of events, visit www.worldfest.org.

INDO AMERICAN NEWS • FRIDAY, IDAY, FEBRUARY 25 , 2011 • ONLINE EDITION: IDA ON: WWW.INDOAMERICAN-NEWS.COM O

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has reportedly signed Leonardo DiCaprio for his upcoming crossover project.

This Week Inside:

Bollywood at the Oscars

Harmony School of Pg 5 Science : Ground Breaking

Dr. Sudha Rajan

a commissioned board. Renowned for being indefatigably committed to their professions and working long hours to fulfill the demands of their covenant, they juggle many roles yet manage to strike the perfect balance that brings them spiritual clarity through vol volunteerism. “The awardees have strong ties to the community through the self selfless work they do. The community responded by strongly urging ICCH to give them the cognizance they so richly deserve,” said Swa Swapan Dhairyawan, Past President of ICC-H, during whose tenure the awardees were selected. CONTINUED ON PAGE

Sri Somesvara Temple Consecration

Mallika Sherawat shows off on the Academy Awards red carpet.

Among the Indo-American doc doctors disciplined include Dr. Kiran and Arun Sharma of Kemah. The husband-wife doctor team were sentenced to prison and ordered to forfeit more than $43 million

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Dandi March in US Against Corruption in India

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Gunmen Kill Pakistan’s Cabinet Minister

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Baba Ramdev Huge Conspiracies in Delhi Rally

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Texas exas Board Penalizes T Three Doctors ispensing of Prescriptions for Illegal Dispensing

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Houston in particular has be become a national hub for the illegal sale of prescription drugs, espe especially a narcotic known by such brand names as Vicodin, anti-anx anti-anx-

Dr. Kalam to Visit Chicago in April

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gained from conspiring to improp improperly dispense addictive drugs and bill Medicare and Medicaid. Dr. Kiran Sharma, 56, was sentenced to eight years in federal prison on Friday, while her husband, Dr. Arun Sharma, was sentenced to 15 years on Feb. 1. As the government begins re recouping the $43 million, the Shar Sharmas already have been forced to relinquish their $700,000 home in Kemah, other real estate and $800,000 in cash. Dr. Malini Kumar agreed to re receive training in diagnosing and treating chronic pain as well as record keeping. A Houston phy physician, Dr. Kasturirangan Sarana Saranathan, paid a $2,000 fine and agreed to record-keeping and risk man management training.

Abhishek Bachchan and Aishwarya Rai arrive at the 83rd Academy Awards as special guests.

Music maestro AR Rahman and his wife Saira Banu arrive at the 83rd Academy Awards. Rahman also performed his song from the Oscar nominated film, 127 Hours.

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Jigar Mehta to make Film on Egyptian Pg 17 Revolution


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Indo American News • Friday, March 18, 2011

Better and Worse

India is truly a nation of extremes. A recent visit confirms the obvious. At one end, you have the extreme poverty. One example was a trip through one of Mumbai’s suburbs where I saw people continuing to live in houses that were half demolished to widen the street. Further down, there were people living in makeshift tents that were built on top of a dusty ground. There was thick dust covering the roof, the bedding and even the people living there. And these were the fortunate, who had a roof over their their heads. At the other extreme, you have the seven-star hotels with gleaming marble floors, airconditioning and beautiful people in shining silks. With the world population approaching 7 billion and every sixth person expected to be an Indian, the gulf between the rich and the poor will continue to widen. A truly unfortunate situation. Pramod Kulkarni

Lessons to Learn

Given the rapidity with which events are unfolding, it’s impossible to predict how the situation at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant will play out. To a watching world, the situation serves as a sobering reminder of the possible hazards of the use of nuclear power. The crisis has caused soulsearching among governments and the public at large about the safety of nuclear installations. This is understandable. But any such debate must be carried out with a clear head, and that requires us to guard against knee-jerk reactions such as denouncing nuclear power in toto and demanding that plants be shut down. If anything, there’s much we should learn from Japan’s nuclear crisis regarding the need to frame far more stringent guidelines for the operation of nuclear power plants worldwide. There are raised voices against nuclear power both in civil society and among politicians around the world. In India, existing frictions over the proposed Jaitapur nuclear plant have been exacerbated with opposition becoming more strident. But, as the prime minister points out, India’s safety record should be kept in mind as also the fact that the Kakrapar atomic power station withstood the Bhuj earthquake of 2002 while the Madras station came through the 2004 tsunami safely. Nor can we deny the economic necessity of nuclear power as part of a diversified energy basket - including renewable and conventional energy - for sustaining India’s growth. The right lesson to be drawn from events unfolding there is that even the freakish must be planned for where nuclear energy is concerned. The wrong lesson would be to impose an indefinite moratorium on nuclear power. Times of India

editorial

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Send ‘em All to Tihar

By Sudheendra Kulkarni If Dr. Singh as Finance Minister spoke with conviction about corruption, he, as Prime Minister of India, demonstrated the total lack of it when he interacted with a group of editors on Wednesday. Like most Indians who watched him on that day, I was not only saddened but also shocked to see that he saw nothing wrong in the actions of his previous telecom minister A Raja, whose address has changed from a Lutyen’s bungalow to Tihar Jail, thanks to his role in the 2G corruption scandal. He did not summon the courage to admit that Raja was wrong. Worse still, he almost reiterated the ludicrous “zero-loss” claim made by Kapil Sibal, the incumbent telecom minister, by drawing a bizarre comparison between the pro-poor subsidies on food and kerosene, and the auction-less gifting away of pricey spectrum, worth tens of thousands of crores of rupees, to a few favourite telcos. His unpersuasive answers on coalition governance—including the threat of elections taking place “every six months”—sounded as if he was telling his countrymen to learn to live with corruption scandals in high places. All this was clearly proof of the Prime Minister’s own weakened moral fibre. However, I believe that he is still capable of making amends, and, using the enormous power vested in the high office he occupies, he can still, if he wants to, deliver on his promise of bringing to book “all wrongdoers however high and mighty they are”. For this, he needs to act firmly, and act fast. He and his colleagues—and also Opposition leaders who think that the next government will be theirs—are probably unaware of the angry mood of the nation. Ordinary people are losing faith in political parties, knowing that most elected representatives have amassed illicit wealth by misusing their power.

Irrespective of which party is in power at the Centre, the common man has to pay bribes to get anything done in the governmental system. And they know all too well that the disease of micro-level corruption is spreading because mega-size corruption is tolerated at the top. Therefore, they want to see all high-level scamsters —not only in the 2G scam but also in all other big scandals in which public resources worth billions of rupees have been looted—sent to Tihar jail. For their faith in the system

corruption scandals in Karnataka is indeed shameful. L KAdvani as party president had launched a scheme called the ‘Aajivan Sahyogi Yojana’ in the 1990s as a clean way of collecting party funds. However, even he will admit that it has not stopped the BJP, like all other political parties, from collecting black money for fighting elections and also for routine party activities. Unless thoroughgoing reforms are introduced to eliminate black money from the political system, and unless transpar-

to be restored, people must see that guilty ministers, chief ministers, big businessmen, senior bureaucrats, former justices and chief justices of high courts and the Supreme Court, and also close relatives of the chiefs of political parties are put behind bars. Dr Singh may lose his office in a sincere attempt to make good his promise of bringing “all wrongdoers” to justice, but he will have rendered greater service to the nation as Prime Minister than he did as Finance Minister. Another thought. Let not Opposition leaders, especially those in the BJP, gloat over Dr Singh’s mounting worries. So far, they have not come out with a single major political or governance reform aimed at reducing systemic corruption. What the BJP has done to cover up its government’s

ency, accountability, elimination of corruption-breeding processes and procedures, and citizens’ empowerment are ensured at every level of government, neither the PM’s assurance to punish the scamsters nor the opposition’s anti-corruption campaign will have any meaning. Hence the question: Will India’s Parliament debate and decide upon these larger political, governance and electoral reforms to cure our democracy of the spreading cancer of corruption? Or will we see more of the same—boycotts, walkouts, slogan-shouting, endless adjournments and more assaults on people’s faith in the system? If this continues, the Supreme Court must hit the political system on its head much harder than it has done so far. - Indian Express

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society

Indo American News • Friday, March 18, 2011

Join Team SEWA and Ride with Us

By Arushi Garg HOUSTON: It is that time of the year when you see cyclists training in full swing, from the roads to parks and biking trails. Passion, dedication and enthusiasm oozes from each one of them as they prepare themselves for North America’s largest fundraising cycling event , BP MS150. Last year over 13000 cyclists helped raise more then $16 million for research and cure of Multiple Sclerosis (MS). Amidst these thousands of cyclists are also many of our Desi community friends who repre- Team Sewa International from left :Vasudev Singh, Dhiraj Rathi, Vijay sent their companies as a part Pallod,Rohit Shankran and Suryansh Purwar of a team, to raise more funds and have fun while working towards like clicking pictures together near so important in cycling, I also enjoy a common goal. And amongst them, a bed of flowers, to sleeping in tents, the sense of achievement that comes there is one team representing the waiting for hot showers and early from crossing the finish line together Only Indian Charity in a mainstream breakfasts become lifetime experi- after many hours of painful miles on the bike”. affair of this magnitude ‘Team Sewa ences” adds Pallod. Suryansh has also been riding since International’. Team Sewa InternaDhiraj Rathi, who is involved with tional has been riding selflessly and Team Sewa and has been riding since three years. He said “It was really have been active advocates of find- five years said “ nothing has been touching to see people unite for one ing a cure for MS since past three more inspirational for me than this common cause. The encouragement years. With “SEWA bhaav” in their event”. He was touched by a random and support from the people during heart, not just to raise funds but to incident, which he narrated “ I was at the ride was overwhelming. It is an also spread awareness amongst the a lunch stop in 2010 and one of the experience you will cherish for a people, Team Sewa International riders received a phone call from a lifetime.” This Team was formed to have rode with six members last year . friend in Houston and I overheard him We invite cyclists with basic skills say, that he was riding to Austin with a great time but more importantly of bike handling and safety knowl- 13,000 of his friends”. Dhiraj asserted they ride to make a difference, and to edge to be a part of our dedicated that “We see 12 year old kids, people help the National MS Society fund team. Not only would you be spread- in their late 50’s, 60’s riding and if you research, advocate for change, and ing awareness and fundraising for a think you have some extra time, that help people with MS and their famiworthy cause, but it would also be an you may not be putting to good use lies lead powerful lives. Team Sewa experience of a lifetime. It inspires, over the weekend, please come join believes in the work they do and will encourages, and motivates one to re- our team.” He guarantees a 101% that continue to be a part of it. The funds raised by Sewa Internaalize their inner strength. Your reason you will take a lot of fond memories tional goes toward research aimed at to participate could range from the back home. sheer love of riding, fitness or just Young professionals from the oil treating and eventually curing MS, fun to supporting the cause and even industry and executive committee as well as services for those living challenging yourself. members of Sewa Houston, Vasudev with MS. We are helping the Society, Or, riding in the memory of your Singh, Rohit Shankran and Suryansh so please join us! There are so many friend as was in the case of Vijay Purwar also joined in to make a dif- ways you can help: join our team, Pallod, our esteemed team supporter. ference. They are extremely excited volunteer, donate online, send a check He picked up his late friend’s biking about MS150 and even more about or talk to your employer about sponhelmet and got involved with MS 150 meeting new riders and expanding soring the ride. However you join, three years ago. He said “ initially the team. “I never thought that I you are making a difference in the I thought I was doing it in Akhil’s could ride a bicycle for 150 miles” lives of thousands of families facing memory, but later I was also inspired smiles Vasudev. He first volunteered the daily challenge of this unpredictby the smiling faces of dedicated with Sewa team to help the riders and able disease. The ride will begin in Houston on riders” The very next year, pallod ended up joining the team. also enjoyed the company of his wife Rohit has been riding for team Saturday, April 16 and finish in downriding besides him, who learnt to bike Sewa International since three years. town Austin near the State Capitol specially for MS 150. He said “Riding the MS 150 is a re- on Sunday, April 17, following an The best part of riding as a team ally good experience for me, I enjoy overnight celebration at the Fayette is that not only do you enjoy the all the miles we put in together as a County Fairgrounds in La Grange. For more information contact Vaentire experience but you also stay team”. He emphasized that “There as a family supporting, cheering and is very good camaraderie between sudev Singh at vasudev_singh@yamotivating each other. “Moments all the members of the team which is hoo.com

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Indo American News • Friday, March 18, 2011

Society

online edition: www.indoamerican-news.com

IACAN Focuses on South Asian Diet

By Ritu Raju HOUSTON: The Indian American Cancer Network (IACAN) presented a talk by eminent physician, author, and speaker Dr. Alok Kalia titled “The South Asian Diet, the Grandmother, and the Scientist- A Cautionary Tale.” The event, held on March 13th at India House, attracted a full auditorium; however, even the attendees standing in the rear of the hall would testify that it was worth it! Dr. Kalia is an engaging, entertaining speaker; he presented medical concepts and processes in jargonfree terms that are easy for everyone to understand. His analogies and metaphors, drawn from dayto-day life and combined with the use of easily understandable expressions and examples, made the talk accessible and informative. Dr. Kalia presented an excellent overview of the reasons for and manifestations of increased heart disease and diabetes among the South Asian community. Ethnic South Asians run greater risk of developing heart disease and diabetes at a younger age with greater severity on account of certain fac-

Dr. Alok Kalia speaking at the event tors in our genetic make-up; these resistance and “addictive hunger.” include higher insulin resistance, Dr. Kalia referred to this, tonguea higher ratio of fat to BMI (body in-cheek, as the idli syndrome! mass index), and a greater propenThe triple threat in the South sity to store fat around the abdo- Asian diet—atta/maida (highly men. He explained that, contrary processed wheat flour), rice, and to popular belief, saturated fat is potatoes—lead to a multitude of not the main culprit for these prob- problems including the deposit of lems; rather, the overwhelming excess fats in the liver (metabolic presence of starch (carbohydrates) syndrome), increased pressure on in the Indian diet creates insulin the pancreas culminating in severe diabetes (hyperinsulinemea), and elevated deposits of fat in the visceral area (which in turn lead to increased risk for heart disease). Dr. Kalia ended his presentation by offering practical, feasible dietary modifications to reduce this triple threat and reduce the risks of diabetes and heart disease. These modifications revolve around the

concept of Glycemic Index (GI) of foods; the Glycemic index determines the rate at which glucose is absorbed into the body. In brief, foods with low GI are highly beneficial because they slow down the release of glucose into the blood and prolong the feeling of “fullness” after a meal, thereby preventing overeating. Dr. Kalia’s specific suggestions included the use of brown rice or quinoa (pronounced “keen-wah) in place of rice, eating balanced meals with greater proportions of vegetables, salads, beans and legumes, and fruit, and choosing whole grain, sprouted grains and other fiber-rich foods in place of processed foods that are usually devoid of essential nutrients. In sum, Dr. Kalia’s presentation was extremely informative and enlightening; the lively Q-and-A ses-

sion at the end spoke volumes for the relevance and importance of the topic. Kudos to IACAN for a well-organized, instructive event! The Indian American Cancer Network (IACAN) is committed to providing proper health education and promoting cancer awareness and prevention through educational seminars in the community. It also provides various services to both patients and care givers through its network of liaisons. IACAN seeks to provide cancer information, assist in navigating available medical care, access and pool available resources, counsel on support services, address culture-specific grief, end of life/loss and bereavement issues. For more information visit www. iacannetwork.org or call 713-3703489.

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Indo American News • Friday, March 18, 2011

19

IACCGH Hosts Hillcroft-Harwin Initiative Networking Event with 40 Participants HOUSTON: On February 28, the Indo-American Chamber of Greater Houston hosted the second IACCGH Hillcroft-Harwin Initiative Networking event with over 40 area business owners participating. The initiative is the result of the hard work and dedication of IACCGH Past President Brij Kathuria. Focused on improving Drainage and Security the evening program featured Council Member Al Hoang, City Council District F, Council Member Stephen C. Costello, City Council At-Large Position and Assistant Police Chief John Chen, H.P.D. IACCGH President, Mona Parikh, in her welcoming remarks expressed that the Chamber recognizes the vitality of the city’s mercantile market and acknowledged the Hillcroft - Harwin Merchants’ Community as a significant Business Sector in the Greater Houston area and that she was proud to state that many of these Merchants are IACCGH Members. She also recognized that the evening’s program was developed based upon the previous interactive sessions with the Merchants who had shared their concerns with the IACCGH leader leadership, namely, the need for improving drainage in the Hillcroft - Harwin area and the absolute necessity for a safer environment for conducting business. The first speaker Council Member Costello serves as the At-Large Position 1. A civil engineer and drainage specialist, Mayor Parker appointed him as chair of City Council’s Flooding and Drainage Committee. This committee charged with exploring long-range planning for funding of drainage infrastructure. He explained how the passage of Proposition 1 had enabled the city to set up a dedicated source of funding for drainage and street repair. He was confident that over the next 20 years the city would be able to rebuild 75 percent of Houston’s streets and drains. He emphasized the need to report any issues that needed attention. He explained, “If we don’t know there is a problem, how can we fix it?” He suggested the business owners call in all their complaints to 311 and follow up with a call to their local councilmember’s office. He explained the city was undertaking a survey of nearly 16000 lane miles of Houston with almost 70 percent of the work done. The assessment will help the administration understand the kind of street improvement needed and the areas that need immediate attention. Through an initiative “Rebuild Houston” the city will have an online program where the public can report and track the progress of drainage and pavement problems and the information will soon be track able at the City of Houston website. He asked business owners experiencing flooding problems to fill out the Flooding and Drainage Survey at the link http:// www.houstontx.gov/council/1/ floodingsurvey.html . This survey will help guide the Flooding and Drainage Committee as it assesses the City’s drainage infrastructure and

IACCGH President Mona Parikh

to rehabilitate them. He can be contacted at John.Chen@ cityofhouston.net or at his office, 713-308-1820. Council Member Al Hoang, who represents District F was the third speaker of the evening. He said security was a priority for him and encouraged area business owners to participate in the once a month meetings held by Chief Chen. He describes these meeting as an open conversation with the Council and police force about the concerns of the Asian community. Hoang is proud of the 13% reduction in crime and feels that this number can decrease even more with help from the general public.

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seeks to upgrade City’s storm water management capabilities. The area merchant’s opinions and experiences related to these issues will aid the Flooding and Drainage Committee in determining current and long term needs. He suggested, after contacting their district Council Member, the affected merchants also contact him directly by email atlarge1@houstontx.gov or by visiting his website. Area merchants can contact Chris Attar at his office by email Chris. attar@houstontx.gov or by calling (832) 393- 3014 The next speaker was a 28 year veteran of HPD, Assistant Chief of Police John Chen, who oversees the West Patrol Command, comprised of four Patrol divisions – Fondren, Midwest, Southwest and Westside. He remarked that traditionallyAsians tend to be unwilling to report crime or any issues to the police or government agencies. He urged the Indo-American community to come out and report any and all crimes or problems to the police to ensure that they are on record and are counted. He believes that keeping information about what happens in the neighbor neighborhood to themselves does not help the community. He addressed the problem of the homeless situation in front of neighborhood stores and suggested that the owners call police and fill out an alert slip. This slip will alert officers to come by every shift and check the property. He also suggested trying to contact non-profits like the Coalition for the Homeless and other non profit and interfaith organizations that try

Talking about the timetable for the Hillcroft-Harwin street renovation he said that a clearer picture would immerge in the next few months when an ongoing survey is completed. He can be contacted through his Chief of Staff Tony Topping at Tony.Topping@houstontx.gov Office (832) 393-3002 IACCGH Past President Brij Kathuria moderated the Q & A. Area merchants mentioned that sometimes the so called homeless people are actually informants for criminals who then follow merchants and customers home and rob them. This also showed lower crime rates in Hillcroft-Harwin where the crime originated, but it is recorded in Sugar Land, Katy or where the merchant or customer lives and after being followed home is then robbed. When asked about a Storefront office in the Hillcroft-Harwin area, Chief Chen suggested the business leaders prepare a formal proposal and send it to him and he would forward it the concerned authorities. He also advised that any suggestions should be written up and emailed to him. He will present these ideas or concerns to the Chief and the City Council Members. IACCGH Executive Director Jagdip Ahluwalia thanked Mr. Raman Das of Palace Inns for sponsoring the dinner catered by Udipi Café. He also thanked IACCGH Past President Brij Kathuria who with area merchants Aku Patel, Kapil Thakkar, Ramesh Lulla, Vinod Taneja and United Central Bank’s Rajiv Bhavsar for making the event a success.

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book review

online edition: www.indoamerican-news.com

What the Brook Saw: A Need for Pathetic Fallacy

This fluent first novel set in trouble-torn Kashmir impresses with its mature prose, but in its one-sided imagining of recent history and political reality comes close to being agitprop.

By Shashi Tharoor All book reviews are subjective, but it is the political novel that most acutely confronts the reviewer with the consciousness of his own subjectivity. Can a reviewer manage to separate his professional appreciation of the literary work before him from his reaction to its political viewpoint? As a writer myself, I found myself with much to admire and value in Mirza Waheed’s first novel, The Collaborator; but as an Indian politician, I found it impossible not to feel profound discomfort with the political sympathies the work seeks to evoke. Mirza Waheed is a Kashmiri, a product of Delhi University with four years in Indian journalism, who has spent a decade working for the BBC’s Urdu service in London. He writes, for the most part, beautifully; there is a lyricism to his prose and in his evocative descriptions of places and emotions, and only a few unnecessary exclamation marks mar his deft handling of the language. As an aesthetic experience, his is amongst the better first novels you are likely to read. The Collaborator flows well, and keeps the reader engaged; many of the book’s scenes and images, and its overwhelming theme of loss, will haunt the reader for a long time. The collaborator of the title is the book’s narrator, a Kashmiri boy in his late teens, living in a close-knit community of families in a Gujjar Muslim

village, Nowgam, near the Line of tional chords; if the novel were avail- with a sure touch, deeply immersed Control with Pakistan at the onset able in digital format it would be in the world he is evoking. of the 1990s. This was the time Is- instructive to count how many times But one does not have to wait for lamabad seriously began to infiltrate the word “tears” appears. But for the epilogue, with its contentious terrorists (many of them Pakistani, the most part he is moving without recounting of statistics of the conAfghan and even Arab) across the being mawkish. Here is the narrator flict’s Kashmiri victims, to gauge the border to wreak havoc in Kashmir, contemplating leaving home to join book’s politics. “There were people and many young Kashmiri dying everywhere,” the men were inveigled across to narrator declaims, “getting the Pakistani side to receive massacred in every town arms and training before and village, there were returning to wage war— people being picked up and all too often meet their and thrown into dark jails deaths—on Indian soil. in unknown parts, there Our protagonist, the son of were dungeons in the city the village sarpanch, watchwhere hundreds of young es in dismay as his friends men were kept in heavy disappear one by one from chains and from where the village to join the milimany never emerged alive, tancy, and eventually most there were thousands who of Nowgam’s residents flee had disappeared, leaving the ensuing conflict. After behind women with phocoming close to following tographs and perennial his friends, he is amongst “There were people dying everywhere...being waiting, there were multithe very few who remain, picked up and thrown into dark jails” tudes of dead bodies on the and soon finds himself roped Photo: AFP From Outlook, March 7, 2011 roads, in hospital beds, in in by Captain Kadian of the fresh martyrs’ graveyards Indian army to help keep track of the the militants, to “a world without the and scattered casually on the snow soldiers’ kills: his job is to comb the sanctuaries that Ma and Baba offered of mindless borders.” valley for bodies of gunned-down in their constant selves”: “I wanted to Elsewhere the novel speaks of a infiltrators and bring back their ID sit on the chowki one last time and village whose every single woman cards and other mementoes for his bask in the warmth of Ma’s hearth. has been raped by Indian soldiers, military bosses. His recounting of this I wanted to smell Ma’s presence and and depicts a gruesome beheading experience and the events leading up etch it somewhere, I wanted to look of a young Kashmiri as having been to it, leavened by the alcohol-fuelled at Baba’s grand face and keep it fresh done by the army. Not only are such rants of the Indian officer, make up with me. I wanted to wrap myself in preposterous claims made as if they the bulk of the novel. his chadar and soak in its smell....” reflect fact, but the author largely Waheed frequently strikes emo- Such intimate details speak of a writer absolves Pakistan of responsibility

for its cynical use of Kashmiri youth in a proxy war with India; does not create a single sympathetic Hindu character, or so much as mention the syncretic, non-sectarian “Kashmiriyat” that was such a defining feature of the state’s ethos before militancy destroyed it; makes only a glancing reference to the suffering of the Kashmiri Pandits exiled from their homes by Islamist terrorists; and recounts only one incident of the militants’ own notorious brutality, while painting a portrait of Indian resistance to terror as unrelievedly brutal and murderous. Of course Kashmiris have suffered terribly in the militancy, but the war was not imposed on them by India. The young men so sympathetically described in The Collaborator chose to pick up arms and use them, in unwitting pursuit of a neighbour’s strategic goals; India’s response, though hardly without flaws and failures of its own, was just that—a response to terror, and not the cause of it. The uninformed or prejudiced reader of this novel will come away moved by the writing and convinced by the righteousness of its political assumptions. That is what is so beguiling, and so dangerous, about a good political novel, and why this reviewer is impelled to both admire and reject it. Outlook

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