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Indo American News • Friday, December 17 , 2010

Online Edition: www.indoamerican-news.com

Friday, December 17 2010 | Vol. 29, No. 51

Indo American News

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Jawaani Deewani

READ US ONLINE at www.indoamerican-news.com Published weekly from Houston, TX

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This Week inside

Pg 5

An Inspirational Dance Performance at Sri Meenakshi Temple A Hilarious Parsi Comedy in Gujarati Pg 6

Pg 8

Pradeep Anand: A Book Launching and a Condolence Meeting

Pg 17

At Risk, At School: Still Wielding the Cane

Pg 23

Sheila Ki Jawani is Topping Charts

Pg 25

For Better Returns, He Checks Out All the Investment Angles

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Munni Badnaam and all item number songs are now passe. Katrina Kaif’s item number “Sheila Ki Jawaani” is drawing praises for big shots of Bollywood. Having worked day and night to give those perfect moves, “Sheila Ki Jaawani” is hailed as Bollywood’s most daring song, putting the BarbieDoll Katrina in a completely different spotlight, even vulgar.

As row simmers, A Fast Protests Poor Indian Visa service By Jawahar Malhotra HOUSTON: As the row over the delays in receiving Indian visas and discourteous service entered its second week, more angry words filled the air, even on radio, and more people have come forward to share their visa stories, mostly unpleasant. Emails, phone calls and third-hand news has been filtering in constantly to Indo American News, and most of it has been running negative against the Indian visa service. Many have confused the issue by sending emails in support of the Consul General Sanjiv Arora and turning it into a show of loyalty and patriotism. See Letters to the Editor on Page 7. Meanwhile, the Indian Consulate sought to downplay the magnitude of the issue with Arora going on the Ghunghroo radio show on Sunday morning as host Meena Datt fielded questions. GOPIO, a group some believe is aligned with the Indian Government, held a meeting last Thursday to assuage the complaints from about 25 people who attended. The CG, who had rebuffed a request for a meeting with community leaders last Tuesday, Dec. 7, insisting on meeting with the heads of a select few, has agreed to one of those groups, the GOPIO’s request for a meeting with the public to be held at Rice University on Saturday, Dec. 18. Amidst this outpouring, Ramesh Shah, the head of the local Ekal Vidyalaya chapter, kept to his promise of holding a Gandhian style one-day fast and day of silence at the Vallabh Priti Seva Samaj on the southwest side. In spite of a chilly and windy day, Shah sat bundled up at a table in the parking lot under cloudless, sunny skies and was accompanied by about 30 people and nearly 400 came throughout the day (for a video of the fast, log on to www. indoamerican-news.com). Some people have taken exception to Shah’s fast, claiming it is a disservice to India, while many others came to voice their own experience with bad visa services. Those who came also spoke of shoddy treatment by visa staffers and bureaucratic delays before receiving their stamped passports as continued on page

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Ramesh Shah (hands folded) the head of the local Ekal Vidyalaya Chapter kept to his promise of holding a Gandhian style one-day fast and day of silence at the VPSS on the southwest side on Sunday, Dec. 12.

Indian consulate organizes Visa Information event on saturday, dec. 18 at rice University Consulate General of India, Houston, in response to a suggestion made to the Consul General by GOPIO’s Houston Chapter and its partner organizations, will be organizing an Information Event on its Consular Services on Saturday, 18th December, 2010 at 5:30 pm, at McMurtry Auditorium on the first floor of Duncan Hall at the School of Engineering at Rice University. All Indian nationals and persons of Indian origin are welcome. The attendees are requested to show their ID cards at the entrance. After a briefing by Mr. Sanjiv Arora, Consul General of India, written questions would be answered.

texan crowned miss india Usa

Filefoto: Miss India Texas, Natasha Arora (center); with Aradhana Thawani (left) and Aishwariya Raju, 1st and 2nd runners up. Photo: Krishna Giri

Natasha Arora, the talented beauty who won so many hearts - even as she broke some - last July to become Miss India Texas here in Houston has been crowned Miss India USA in a colorful pag-

eant in New Jersey last weekend. Natasha will now represent USA at the Miss India Worldwide to be held in Dubai in April 2011. Please read Indo American News next week for the complete story.

Indo AmerIcAn news • FrIdAy, A decemBer 17 , 2010 • Online editiOn: Ay, On: www.indOamerican-news.cOm O


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Indo American News • Friday, December 17 , 2010

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As row simmers, A Fast Protests Poor Indian Visa service continued from page

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volunteers took down their stories. Dipi Patel of Florida called IAN to tell of the over five-week delay she experienced in picking up her daughter’s visa. Others tell of being turned away even as they reach the office by closing time, with an obvious lack of empathy from staffers. Gautam Patel, a native of Bowie, Texas, a few miles south of Wichita Falls and 375 miles away from Houston was on hand to talk about his visa ordeal. “Five of us needed visas for a family wedding in India in December, so we applied in October,” he recalled as he stood surround-

ed by eager listeners. “On November 23, we drove down and went to the window at the Consulate but a rude woman told us to go to Travisa to check. When we got there, they told us to go back to the Consulate.” By the end of the day, they had not received their passports and returned to Bowie. A week later they came back and after waiting all day, received only the groom’s passport, but not the four others. Since October 2007, Travisa Outsourcing Inc has been processing the visa applications for the Indian Consulates nationwide, and has its Houston office on 4100 Wes-

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theimer near Highland Village, about a mile from the Indian Consulate on South Post Oak. Travisa made a major upgrade to their computer systems in February 2008 to handle more volume and increase efficiency. The passports, stamped with the visas and issuance date are then sent back to the Consulate for signatures and eventual return to the petitioners. But judging from the reported backlog of applications, Travisa and the Consulate both are inundated by the demand and unable to cope. Some travel agents who routinely of offer visa service to their clients talk about the rude treatment meted out at the Consulate and angry words that are exchanged between staffers who claim the applicants are being uncivil and travelers who become desperate for their documents for impending flights and demand better customer service. Some seek out “inside” connections to get their visas processed. After a Monday article in the Houston Chronicle on the protests, there have been reports of travelers, both business and tourists, canceling their trips, at considerable expense. In early November, Hollywood actor Bruce Willis had to also cancel his trip to India to promote his movie, Reds, as his visa took over three weeks to process. Nor is this problem limited to short-term visas. The delays have continued with the issuance of OCI cards, with delivery dates now stretching to six months from the originally promised two months. Those traveling before they receive their OCI cards have been advised by the Consulate to pay for a short term visa ($73) after already paying $275 for the OCI fees and another $20 for the Certificate of Surrender (of Indian passport) document, which is also another source of friction and community displeasure. For many, these fees are tantamount to a money grab in return for very poor service. After being rebuffed last week, Shah had sent a letter to the Indian Ambassador Meera Shanker seeking some intervention and redress, and copied the media and other parties. Inquiries to the private assistant to the Ambassador regarding any comments were matter of factly dismissed and then directed to the Special Advisor G. Balasubramanian, whose response to an email follow-up for what, if any, remedial steps would be taken was to direct the questions to Varinder Paul, Minister (Press) at the Embassy. As of press time, Paul had still not responded. Some have suggested that the Consulate take a les-

son from American style customer service, comparing what they are receiving now to the typical bureaucratic bungling endemic to India . With emotions running high, the community has become polarized as several high-profile community people representing organizations like the ICC, IACCGH and India House have expressed confidence, through emails and letters to the media, in the Consulate’s handling of visas even in the face of mounting public dissatisfaction. The rift was exposed again when anger erupted on the Open Forum call-in radio show last Saturday, Dec. 11 and about 26 people called in to express their views, most of which were critical of the visa service. Some question the fairness of the system in providing fast and prompt visas to the common man on the street if special favors or connections within the Consulate have to be used to get the same. “That would be like being back in India,” said one well-known community person, “but we have become accustomed to better American style service.” Yet others fear that they would be “blacklisted” in future transactions with the Consulate. Even Arora’s explanations on the radio fell on disbelieving ears, as people gathered around the radio in the cold of the VPSS parking lot this past Sunday. “He is talking in circles,” said one person, as others nodded in agreement. “Why isn’t he explaining the rude treatment, the broken delivery promises, the delays?” “We’re fed up with this,” chimed in another. “How come the GOI doesn’t spend more money fixing this situation?” It has been a common refrain voiced by many. Reports suggest that a similar backlog in processing and delivering Indian visas and OCI cards exists in other Consulate locations in the US. With such a huge expatriate demand, and more presumably driven by a rise in tourist and business travelers, an increase in the resources to handle the load would be the right thing to do rather than to justify a system that is straining under the load. If you receive your paper more than four days after the dateline, please file a complaint with your post office or call the USPS Consumer Affairs Office at 713-226-3442

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.

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Indo American News • Friday, December 17 , 2010

Fashioning the Future for Literacy in India

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Pratham Houston Raises Over $80,000 at Holiday Luncheon By Kalyani Giri HOUSTON: Models in slender heels showed off the latest in haute couture from Donna Karan, Dolce and Gabbana, and Mui Mui. But they were outmatched in chic star power by the local fashionistas in their trendy togs who gathered at the Junior League of Houston on December 3, 2010, to lunch and raise funds for Pratham, a philanthropic non-profit grass-roots organization helping educate underprivileged children in India. The event, chaired by Pratham Board Member Omana Abraham, garnered over $80, 000 that will further Pratham’s vision of Every Child in School and Learning Well. Joanne King Herring served as Chief Guest to the luncheon. Marie Goradia, longtime Board Member of Pratham, eloquently welcomed guests and lauded founder of Pratham Madhav Chauhan whose inspiration to start the organization stemmed from his parents’ activism. “Madhav and his parents have fought for people who had no voices,” said Goradia. She conveyed updates of the organiza-

Pratham Houston President, Sonu Anand, Pratham Board members and Chairs Marie Goradia and Omana Abraham

tion’s achievements and its activities in reaching its goals. “India has a gigantic problem. About 50% of the kids are illiterate even though many are in school. But Pratham sixteen years down the line, has spread like wildfire to all states in India and is empowering children in the slums

of Mumbai to nurture dreams of becoming doctors and engineers,” Goradia said. “By educating girls, Pratham is changing the lives of two generations. And 94% of every dollar is going to the program. It takes just $25 to educate a child per year. Already the organization has changed the lives of 34 million

children in India,” added Goradia. President of Pratham Houston Chapter, Sonu Anand, reiterated the urgent need to help reduce the education crisis in India. “Out of 200 million kids in India, 100 million have no opportunity for education. In 2008-2009, Pratham reached 33 million chil-

dren through the Read India program,” said Anand. Established in 1999, Pratham has become a veritable movement piquing the collective conscience of people everywhere and galvanizing constructive action. This year alone, over 400 volunteers signed up to aid the organization. Pratham USA has won Charity Navigator’s four-star rating for the fourth year in a row, joining a select group of non-profits who have achieved this rare distinction. Pratham was also selected as the winner of the prestigious CNNIBN Indian of the Year award in the public service category for its contributions in the field of literacy and education. The organization was awarded the fifth annual Henry R. Kravis Prize in Leadership. The Kravis Prize, which carries a $250,000 award designated to the recipient organization, recognizes extraordinary leadership in the nonprofit sector. For more information about Pratham, visit www.prathamusa. org.

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Indo American News • Friday, December 17 , 2010

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Indo American News • Friday, DECEMBER 17 , 2010 • Online Edition: www.indoamerican-news.com


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Indo American News • Friday, December 17 , 2010

An Inspirational Dance Performance at Sri Meenakshi Temple

The blind and inspirational teenagers, from the Shree Ramana Maharishi Academy for the Blind in Bangalore, performed at Sri Meenakshi Temple on November 28

By Sangeeta Ramachandran PEARLAND: On November 28, a team of seven classical dancers, all visually impaired, gave a scintillating performance of Bharatanatyam and folk dances which embraced the traditional margam of the Kalyana Mandapam of the Meenakshi temple in Pearland, Texas. These blind and inspirational teenagers, from the Shree Ramana Maharishi Academy for the Blind in Bangalore, India, travel world-over to perform classical and folk dances. Not only are they showcasing their immense talents, they are also bringing much greater awareness to blindness. Blindness they feel is a different ability and not a disability. The Nrityasiri Center for Performing Arts, directed by Guru Yamuna Srinidhi, prepared well in advance to host this event. With the guidance of Guru Yamuna, her students and their parents had catered to the meticulous details of making the arrangements, right from decorating the stage, welcoming guests and inviting and honoring the artists. The program began with a soulful prayer rendition by Dr. Sudha Hariharan and group from the Kerala Hindu Society of Houston. The dancers were clad in richly colored Bharatanatyam dance costumes, jewelry and makeup. They first were led around the stage by two instructors so that they could gain an internal sense of the shape and size of the stage. They danced without help, often coming within inches from other dancers and just a foot from the edge of the

stage. These talented dancers wowed the gathering of 150 people with their intricate footwork movements, line formations and facial expressions while performing items like Deepanjali, Taranga, Shakthi, and folk dances in Telugu and Kannada. Their performance ended with a Bhangra dance. The Mohini Attam that was performed by their teacher was also an impressive item. The manager for these visually impaired artists, Mr. Swaminathan, explained that “Steps are choreographed by the teacher using the touch and feel method. Slowly through this method, they grasp the movements within themselves and through their inner vision, perseverance and hard work they learn the whole dance.” The Chief Guest for this event, Honorable Council Member of Sugar Land, Mr. Thomas Abraham, graced the occasion and was touched that theses dancers were able to perform dances despite the fact that they have never seen them. Many thanks are extended to Guru Yamuna Srinidhi, an exponent of Indian classical dance and a teacher of high caliber of Bharatanatyam in the Houston area, for providing her students this wonderful opportunity. All took home a lesson on how anything can be accomplished when we do our best and make the most of what we have been given by the Lord Almighty. May Goddess Meenakshi and Lord Sundareshwara’s blessings be showered on this lovely team of visually-impressive dancers.

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The eavesdropping m mishap - A Hilarious Parsi comedy in Gujarati to be Presented Here

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By JacoB david HOUSTON: Nozer Buchia has been writing, directing and acting in plays for over 25 years under the banner of Nozer Buchia Productions. The latest play to release on stage is “Vari Baanna Paachhal Thi” (loosely translated, “Oh, you’ve been standing behind the door and listening to gossip once again.”) is sure to please anyone with a humorous vein. The play is being presented by the 15th North American Zoroastrian Congress. “The play is filled with fun, laughter and excitement, revealing everyday humor.” Nozer tells me. The plot centers around a nosy, busybody, a housewife who is played by Persis (Nozer Buchia’s wife). She also helps in the production of the play by taking care of the makeup and costume design. Nozer’s 13 year old son Kyrus has his own part in the family play helping the plot move forward. The homely, but can’t sit still busy body of a wife decides to stir up confusion on purpose by revealing only part of the gossip conversation she has just heard to her husband. The confusion that follows after promise rollicking laughter. Writing a play is difficult, more so a comedy that is based on everyday life. “The audience will easily relate the characters on stage to an aunt they know or a grandmother or a housewife.” Nozer says. In life, Nozer has noticed that people always put their own spin on a story heard because as humans they want to feel important, that they have to make a personal input to make the story sound spicy and juicy. This is what causes confusion in the family. Everything is based on gossip, which is not true. People always add or subtract to real stories they hear for added effect. This adds to the modern day faux pas in narration. Nozer has been writing, acting and producing plays for well over two decades. “Play acting on stage and oration has been my passion ever since I was six years old.” he says. He has produced many humorous and a few serious plays in both Gujarati and English. “I have been fortunate to be observant about daily life events. They motivate me to pen interesting, funny lines for my plays.” With the tremendous success of the play “Kako Atakyo Bathri Jo Latakyo” (Uncle came Nephew got Strong) in Houston, Nozer decide to spend more time in depicting life humor in his plays. His plays hold up a mirror to life lived in fami-

Nozer Buchia and his Gujarati play productions has successfully seen 30 years

lies in society, with all its flaws and shortcomings. All of Nozer Buchia productions come with a full set with accompanying background imagery. The characters in the play are portrayed by actors from the local Zoroastrian community. Following the play will be a musical with Dr. Adi Tamboli on the keyboard and Nozer playing the Harmonica, feasting on nostalgic Parsi-Gujarati songs. Nozer Buchia says that his main inspiration is the late playwright Adi Marzban, “son of Pherozeshah Jehangir Marzban, a Parsi journalist and playwright who often employed the nom de plume “Pijam”, an anagram formed from his initials, he trained in theatre at the US-based Pasadena Playhouse. The play “Vari Baanna Paachhal Thi” is on December 30, 2010 from 7 pm - midnight, at the Intercontinental Hotel - 2222 West Loop South, Houston, TX 77027. For tickets contact Hoshang Sethna at 281499-1832.

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letterS to the editor careless and Inconsiderate I had visited the consulate on Friday, 5th November to collect the passports for my two daughters. I was there by 3:30 pm since the window opens at 4:00 pm. The line kept on growing. It was 4:10 pm and the window was not open. I angrily asked to ladies inside the blanked window what’s the problem, they said they are doing some important work (as if all of us in line do not have any work). I took a picture of the clock and the window closed and have it with me. Secondly, there was a mainstream US citizen, who had come from some office in same building, he was talking on top of his voice since 3:30 pm and these ladies were opening the window to serve him. I asked myself, what the heck is this? When my turn came at window, they asked to me go to reception area. When I went there, the lady there asked me to go

back to main window, so I played this pingpong until it was 5 pm and still they could not trace my passports. I saw all the ladies packing their bags at dot 5 pm and leaving (who says these staff members are overloaded with work?). I kept my hand inside the window so that they could not close it and demanded the passport. Finally, a nice lady gave me the USPS tracking number stating that the passports had been mailed two days ago. Phew, what an ordeal! I met so many others who were annoyed. I know the Consulate cannot keep everyone happy but the people working there are careless. May good senses prevail soon. Nikhil Jain Houston

exemplary Leader I have had the pleasure of interacting with Consul General Arora on many occassions.

Not only has he been an exemplary leader, he has also been very approachable and supportive of the Indian community and its needs. It would have been a lot more effective had the protesters chosen to work with the office of the CGI to find solutions. Prabhu Murugan President, IIT Alumni of Greater Houston

malicious campaign

I am offended by this malicious campaign against the Consul General and the Consulate. Mr. Arora has been a dynamic leader representing the interests of India and the Indian American community. He has been very approachable and has gone out of the way to help the community in times of need. I concur with the sentiments of all the people who have spoken in his favor. It is time to set the record straight and

move ahead. Let us allow Mr. Arora and his Consulate staff to continue the good work. Ravi Mani

rich People Get Visas Didn’t we all hear recently that Indian Govt. officials have huge accounts in Swiss banks? By enforcing this rule, the top officials are trying to extract money from Indians living in US. They are not satisfied with the salary and they think that by charging $250 per person just to put the “cancelled” stamp on old passports they can accumulate a few million dollars. The Consul General attends weekend parties with the rich people of Houston and they can get their visas on time because they are his friends while average Indians have to remain at the mercy of the rude Consulate staff. Sonia Vijay, Houston

PUBLIC NOTICE Westchase District

Disadvantage Business Enterprise (DBE) Goals Fiscal Years 2011 - 2013 Westchase District has set its Disadvantage Business Enterprise (“DBE”) goal for programs utilizing Federal Department of Transportation’s (DOTs)/Federal Transit Administration (FTA) funds for fiscal years 2010 - 2012. Westchase District is seeking comments on its DBE annual goal for FY 2011 – 2013, which is being set as follows: • Professional Services - 24% (17% Race Neutral; 7% Race Conscious) • Construction Services - 22% (8% Race Neutral; 14% Race Conscious) • Purchasing Services 11% (5.5% Race Neutral; 5.5% Race Conscious) The DBE policy and goals are to be developed in accordance with the processes described in CFR 49 Part 26. The public is encouraged to review the current DBE goal document and provide comments. Copies of the DBE policy and the annual goal calculation are available for review during regular business hours for a 45-day period commencing Thursday, December 16, 2010 and ending January 21, 2011 at Westchase District offices located at 10375 Richmond Ave., Suite 1175. Please mail or email comments to the attention of Irma H. Sanchez, at the following address: Irma H. Sanchez, VP of Projects Westchase District 10375 Richmond Avenue, Suite 1175 Houston, Texas 77042-4163 e-mail: isanchez@westchasedistrict.com Telephone (713) 780-9434 Facsimile (713) 780-8025 Written comments on this FY 2010 - 2012 Annual DBE Goal will also be accepted until January 21, 2011 by the FTA Civil Rights Officer and can be addressed to FTA Civil Rights Officer, Office of Civil Rights, FTA Region VI, 819 Taylor St. Box 8A36, Ft. Worth, TX 76102 In accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, persons with disabilities needing special accommodation to participate in the review should contact Westchase District at least 48 hours prior to the close of the review period at (713) 780-9434 for assistance. Indo AmerIcAn news • FrIdAy, A decemBer 17 , 2010 • Online editiOn: Ay, On: www.indOamerican-news.cOm O


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Indo American News • Friday, December 17 , 2010

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Pradeep Anand: A Book Launching and A condolence m meeting in mumbai m

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Author Pradeep Anand (center) flanked by editor Kirat Patel and Nandan Nilekani, Chairman of the new Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), after a successful career at Infosys Technologies Ltd.

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By PradeeP anand MUMBAI: At 2:30 am, on the day of the book launch of An Indian in Cowboy Country, my mother passed away. Her health had been declining since July and she simply stopped breathing that morning. Like every mother, mine was special to my siblings and me, and we were intensely saddened by the loss of this great woman, mother, grandmother and great-grandmother, whose entire life was built on three pillars–love, duty and integrity. My siblings and I did not take long to determine our mother’s wishes regarding the book launch– she would have told us to honor our commitment. Too many people had worked too hard and traveled from different parts of India and the globe to be disappointed by her absence. At the book launch, it was obvious that she was special to many, many, many more than just the children she had borne. The book launch turned into a tribute to her with Kirat Patel leading the way, recalling his memories of her and her large heart. Nandan Nile-

kani, who was also a recipient of her kindness, followed with his thoughts, before we moved into the program for the evening. It was a unique condolence meeting that had signs of my mother’s divine intervention-she brought together my closest friends in India and abroad (including many from Don Bosco School and IIT Bombay), my in-laws, and strangers, who shared my sorrow. Under media glare, my audience, Nandan and I had a warm, casual and familial conversation about the book. Then I read two excerpts–one from The Interview where the hero is called an ‘Indian in Cowboy Country” and one from “The Touch”. Later, we had a few questions from the audience and the host/MC (who was terrific) and a few humorous jabs by my friends in the audience. My friend Rajan Raman said in a text message, “The function was exactly how Amma (my mother) would have liked it to be–to see her son applauded again and again for the wonderful work he keeps doing all the time, again and again…Kirat spoke exactly what

your mom did for all of us each time (we visited your home).” My brother’s brother-in-law, Raju Sunny, summarized it in an email to me, “The launch was more a tribute to your mom, which was endearing and heart warming and also, rather than serious launch… a gathering of old friends, with friendly banter and ribbing which gave the whole evening a pleasant feel. Good show!” The day could have been an emotional roller coaster but it wasn’t. Ever since my mother’s health began to decline in July, a sense of equanimity had begun to settle on me. When she breathed her last, I discovered myself in a unique spot where peace reigns. I know Amma is in a better place and from there she gave me and the book launch an extra maternal fillip. As many good books say, ours is to do without expectations of enjoying the fruits of our actions. An Indian in Cowboy Country has been launched and is in orbit. I hope people read it and discover my mother’s influence in it. It’s all there in black and white. I was just an instrument, her pen.

maryland Governor’s Award for dr. dronamraju Under the Business initiative started by the Governor of Maryland, MIBRT, Maryland - India Business Roundtable, Inc, Dr. Krishna R. Dronamraju has been recognized for receiving the “MIBRT Global Emerging Genetic Technology of the Year Award for 2010”. Writing on behalf of the Governor of Maryland, Dr. Elisha Pulivarti, Executive Director of the Maryland-India Business Roundtable Inc., informed Dr. Dronamraju that “This recognition is an honor shared by only the most accomplished, outstanding and innovative professionals who have demonstrated excellence within their careers and communities.” The award ceremony took place in Greenbelt, Maryland, on December 14. The MIBRT initia-

Dr. Dronamraju with Dr. M.S. Swaminathan, “Father” of India’s Green Revolution” and Member of the Parliament (Rajya Sabha).

tive was started by the Maryland Governor to promote business and trade relations between Maryland and India. Dr. Dronamraju is President of the Foundation for Genetic Research in Houston, and is the recipient of many awards in recogni-

tion of his achievements in genetic technology. He is a recipient of the prestigious Y. Nayudamma Award, an honor he shares with the Telecom guru Sam Pitroda, former ISRO chairman K. Kasturirangan, and Missile scientist & Director-General of DRDO Vijay Kumar Saraswat. Dr. Dronamraju is a Visiting Professor of the University of Paris and an Honorary Research Fellow of the University of London. He was a member of the National Institutes of Health’s DNA Advisory Committee, U.S. Department of Heath & Human Services in Washington D.C. He was a member of President Bill Clinton’s delegation to India, and the author of eighteen books in Genetics and Biotechnology. He has been nominated for the Nobel Prize.

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Indo American News • Friday, December 17 , 2010

Ts Ts sA A Irritating Indian o officials with Pat- owns, Isolation HoldPat-d Hold-downs

HOUSTON (HT): Another highranking Indian diplomat has been insulted at yet another airport in the United States. If Indian ambassador to the US Meera Shankar had to undergo a pat down search at Michigan airport on December 4, it has now emerged that a few days earlier, Hardeep Puri, India’s permanent representative at the United Nations, was asked to remove his turban by airport security staff at Houston. When Puri refused to do so he was pulled out of the queue and made to wait for half an hour in a separate ‘holding room’. India has lodged an official protest through its Consulate General in Houston with the US authorities, sources said. Talking to reporters in New Delhi, external affairs minister SM Krishna said he hoped the issue would be sorted out soon. The TSA, which handles security at airports, has said its rules allow it to search diplomats too. But Krishna said US secretary of state Hillary Clinton had hinted that Washington could revise its policy. On Dec. 4, India’s sari-clad ambassador was pulled from an airport security line and patted down by a TSA agent in Mississippi af after attending a conference, an act one state agency official called “unfortunate.” Meera Shankar, India’s ambassador to the United States, was subjected to the search on Saturday after speaking to an international studies program at Mississippi State University. Witnesses said Shankar was told she was pulled from a security line because of her dress. A Transportation Security Administration spokesman said diplomats are not exempt from pat-down searches and that bulky clothing is one reason for additional screening.

Officials at the Indian embassy in Washington declined to discuss what happened. The US State Department has said it is in communication with Homeland Security officials to work out ways to avoid such inconveniences to diplomats. “We are in touch with the Department of Homeland Security. There may be ways in which we can improve communications so that officials at airports know when diplomats are coming and help to better facilitate their movement through security,” State Department spokesman P J Crowley said at his daily news conference on Friday.

everyone from diplomats to ordinary citizens are screened prior to boarding airplanes. That happens here. It happens around the world. But certainly, there may be ways in which we can improve coordination so that this kind of situation will not happen again,” he said. Responding to questions, Crowley said diplomats like any other passengers are subject to screening. “But to the extent that ambassadors may, in some cases, wear traditional dress, if that can help TSA (Transportation) Security Administration) with its assessment of the risk that any passenger might pose to the airplane, that may be helpful information for them to know,” he said. “As the Secretary (Clinton) said yesterday if there’s a way in which we can prevent misunderstandings or help TSA anticipate whatever screening requirements might be required, we’re happy to help facilitate that. We’re just looking to see if there’s any way that we can improve this process,” he said

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Crowley said he has been told that a formal complaint from Indian embassy is coming, but has not been received yet. The Indian government has said that it is registering a formal complaint with the US on the last week incident during which Shankar, who was wearing a sari, was patted down at Mississippi airport. External Affairs Minister S M Krishna has termed it as unacceptable while Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also expressed her concern over the incident. Shankar, so far, has not made any comment on the December 4 incident, which was first reported by a local Mississippi newspaper only this week. “We have been told that a formal complaint is coming. I just don’t think it’s arrived yet,” Crowley said when asked if the State Department has received a complaint. “As we’ve said, and properly so,

The US is behaving like a mad dog these days. They are out of money and out of ideas and they have forgotton their basic manners. It will take time but if they continue their current ways of having other countries pay for their lifestyle without showing due respect, they will be at the bottom of the heap. -Chimra It is a shame that since we have a VIP class who can walk in and out of security, we behave same way with arrogance and try to prove our status. We must learn to obey Laws of our own and other nations. USA is a land built on respect of Law and neither a Senator. Congressman or even VP of USA is exempted. We make mountain of mole hill and show our own inferiority. -Shadi Katyal The Indians should do the same at their airports too and include foreign diplomats like the US envoy To India. The skies will be safer and inflated egos busted. - Anish Awasti

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Indo American News • Friday, December 17 , 2010

Hardeep Puri Downplays Houston Airport Incident

HOUSTON (PTI): India’s top diplomat to the UN Hardeep Puri sought to downplay the incident involving him at the Houston Airport in Texas, saying he did not allow removal of his turban nor was

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ask to check his turban. Puri then told the guards that he was aware of the new rules, which allowed him to check his own turban and the guards could then swipe his hands to check for any metal traces. “I said I would comply with the procedures but did not allow them to touch my turban,” he said. “The guard there was unaware of the new procedures so I told him to go check with his superior officer,” he said. The security officials then proceeded to go and check with his senior, which took about 20 to 25 minutes Hardeep Puri was asked to remove his turban and Puri kept waitduring a security check at Houston, and was also ing. kept in a ‘holding room’ for over half an hour, de- When the official returned, he spite showing his diplomatic credentials. acknowledged that he patted down. indeed there was such a provision “No pat down took place,” Puri and Puri was able to check his own told Press Trust of India reacting turban. to reports that he was humiliated “The important thing here is and that he was asked to remove that I did not let them touch my his turban during a security check turban,” he said, adding that the a month ago. guards were doing their job. Describing the incident, he said When Puri went through the the security officials did indeed scanner, there was no beep.

Kamlesh Agarwal Gets 25 Years For Murdering His 11-Year-Old Cousin ORLANDO, FL (WFTV): An 11-year-old homicide investigation came to a close on Friday. Kamlesh Agarwal guilty to the 1999 slaying of his cousin, Deepa Agarwal, who was a student at the University of Central Florida. He was the prime suspect in the investigation, but he fled to India, where he was later arrested. He was a classmate and roommate of the victim. Kamlesh Agarwal pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and provided a statement that was read by On Friday morning, Kamlesh Agarwal told the his attorney that explained the kill- judge he wanted to enter the guilty plea and the ing. judge accepted his plea.

Deepa Agarwal was a brilliant student, and at the time of her death, she was the youngest doctoral student in the university’s history.

Kamlesh Agarwal said he was a mentor-like figure to his cousin, and when she had taken an interest in some other friends, it led to an argument. He said he first began stabbing himself, and when she intervened, there was a struggle and she was cut, and when she was thrown on a bed, her head hit the headboard and she died.He then fled to India to notify his family and attempted suicide, but his family saved him. While Kamlesh Agarwal was sentenced to 25 years, he gets 10 years of credit for time already served.

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Gutter Press at Work There is now more clarity about the delays in processing visas and OCI cards at the Consulate. As suggested in the editorial last week, these problems are not specific to the Houston Consulate, but are common to all the Consulates due to additional processing required as part of the renunciation of passports rules introduced a few months back. The meeting last week at India House and the 24-hour fast and dharna at VPSS have provided an outlet to the anger and frustration felt by the local Indo-Americans. Reports of these events have now been published locally as well as disseminated back in India. Houston Consul General Sanjiv Arora has characterized the newspapers reporting on the protests as the “gutter press” and is choosing to work with unquestioning media outlets and friendly organizations to promote his point of view. Since this is a free country, that is his choice. Indo-American News considers it our duty to report on the genuine frustrations experienced by the applicants and give voice to the unpriviledged. Nevertheless, we’re pleased that the Consulate has joined with GOPIO and its partnering organizations to host an information sharing meeting on Dec. 19. The problem for the protesters is that the new processes have been implemented by the Ministry of External Affairs and local CGs will not have the authority to circumvent the set policies. The protestors will either have to have the patience for the process to take its due course over the next few years for most Indo-Americans to renunciate their Indian citizenship and return their passports. Or they should apply pressure at the MEA, Prime Minister’s Office and Congress Party President Sonia Gandhi to renunciate these delay-inducing processes. It is interesting to see that the protests are being led by local supporters of organizations such as Ekal Vidyalaya and Gujarati Samaj. These are among the most law abiding, mild mannered individuals. Some of the Consulate supporters are criticizing the protestors as being anti-Indian. That is a mischaracterization. It is the right of a people to protest unjust rules. They have a precedence in the Boston tea party conducted the American colonists against their British oppressors, Mahatma Gandhi’s nonviolent protests against British rule and Martin Luther King’s marches against racial discrimination. The cause of the protestors led by Ramesh Shah is not as lofty, but it is, nonetheless, justified. Pramod Kulkarni

Quotable Quotes

“Government is not reason, it is not eloquence, it is force; like fire, a troublesome servant and a fearful master. Never for a moment should it be left to irresponsible action.” George Washington

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Jaya Ho! Amma Knows Best By ShoBha De Let`s hand it to Amma — she is nothing if not a force of nature. Jayalalithaa, with her calm, Buddhalike expression and slow, measured speech, is a phenomenon in the murky world of desi politics. And... trumpets! Bugles! The Caped Wonder from Tamil Nadu is back in the game once more. With her entree, the stakes have suddenly gotten sexier. Written off, diminished and lying low for a while, she made a dramatic reappearance in the political arena by offering an exclusive interview to Arnab Goswami on Times Now. If her calibrated quotes were designed to cause major ripples in Delhi, they scored big, with partners in the UPA`s assorted breadbasket scrambling for cover. Ostensibly, Amma was after scam meister 2G Raja`s head. But was that her main and only objective? Analysts think not. The 2G scam has been around for a while. Amma had refused to get drawn into it at that stage. Raja brazened it out and laughed all the way to various banks, even as his critics thought the nation had been diddled out of close to two lakh crore rupees. It is a number most people would find next to impossible to fathom. How much those 122 licences issued during the auction could have fetched, or should have fetched, remains in the domain of conjecture. By demanding his sacking at this critical point (when the Congress party is sweeping its stables clean of notably corrupt netas), Amma caused a mini quake. Her serene and controlled demeanour as she outlined her plan to save the UPA and India from a possible mid-term poll, was perhaps this ex-actor`s most convincing performance to date. Not a muscle moved on her face as she went through her game plan without emotion, listing out her reasons for going public with her outrage. She spoke impassively while expertly crunching numbers and assur assuring everybody she could produce the 18 MPs needed to fill the gap if the DMK withdrew support to the UPA. She refused to reveal the identity of the `friendly parties` on stand-by, but

Jayalalithaa, with her calm, Buddha-like expression and slow, measured speech, is a phenomenon in the murky world of desi politics. And...trum And...trumpets! Bugles! The Caped Wonder from Tamil Nadu is back in the game once more.

it was abundantly clearAmma was on a roll! And there are very few politicians left who can match Jayalalithaa in full flow. She speaks eloquently and with complete authority that does not tolerate a single interruption (for once, the garrulous Goswami was rendered speechless). She refused to be cornered on any issue, including the prickly one involving her far from cordial relationship with Sonia Gandhi (Amma`s response was mild and philosophical). Jayalalithaa stayed resolutely focused on corruption — mega corruption -- and didn`t shy away from naming names (Ashok Chavan, Suresh Kalmadi). The message got through -- when Amma means business, watch out! What was remarkable about

Jayalalithaa`s scintillating interview (monologue is more like it) was the politically incorrect content she opted for. Blunt. To the point. Refreshingly outspoken, she delivered punches that were perfectly on target. Her bombshells had very little to do with Raja per se. This was Amma telling her admirers and opponents she`s done with sulking in the shadows and licking her wounds. She`s done with being pushed around and mar marginalized in her own state. And most importantly, she`s done with being petulant vis a vis the Madam in Delhi. Jayalalithaa is ready to rock! Andpeoplewhoknowtheladyinsist she is one tough customer. Known to be ruthless and unsentimental when it comes to decimating those who stand in her way (loyal friends included), this is Jayalalithaa`s moment to recover lost ground and reposition her herself at the state and national level. She candidly admitted she`d taken a few hits in the past, but asserted she was ready to go into battle with renewed ferocity. She spoke about `weak leadership` (Oh Manmohanji!), and our soft stand while dealing with Pakistan and China (hear! hear!). She also mentioned her desire to pump up defence budgets since our army was nowhere close to China`s in terms of strength and sophistication (too true). When was the last time we heard a politician state something as explosive on a national channel? Jayalalithaa`s decision to go public with her politics is a staggeringly bold one. In a single shot, she conveyed several messages that will be hard for the Centre to ignore. She also issued veiled threats in the bargain — suggesting the rise of people power that could trigger off an unstoppable protest movement. Amma grandly offered to lead it if Raja`s head was not delivered on a platter soon. While DMK bosses go into a huddle, and others wait and watch, Amma has already achieved her objective. “I am back!” is Jayalalithaa`s war cry. Weak-hearted ninnies are busy ducking and looking for places to hide. Oh, about Raja and the multizulti crore scam - all lines are busy on this route. Aap qatar main ho. TOI

IndoAmerican News Founder: dr. K.L. Sindwani editor: Pramod KuLKarni LK BuSineSS manager: Jawahar maLhotra marKeting manager: KriShna giri Community rePorter: KaLyani L giri Community editor: manaSi goKhaLe adminiStrative manager: vanShiKa K viPin Ka marKeting & Food rePorter: JaCoB david ProduCtion manager: huSSain mandviwaLa correspondents chicago: nand Kapoor ®All rights reserved. No material herein or portions thereof may be published without the written consent of the publisher. The deadline for advertising and articles is 5 pm on Monday of each week. Please include self-addressed, stamped envelope for return of all unsolicited material. Published at 7457 Harwin Drive, Suite 262, Houston, Texas 77036. Tel: 713-789-NEWS or 6397 Fax: 713-789-6399, email: indoamericannews@yahoo.com, website: indoamerican-news.com

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human rights

Indo American News • Friday, December 17 , 2010

At Risk, At School: Still Wielding the Cane

Despite the law and various rulings prohibiting it, corporal punishment continues to be practiced widely. And it is left to victims themselves to take up the challenge of ending it. By Shoma Chatterji project as part of his assignment. The is a subjective assessment, whose (IT) On 21 August this year, Pra- wall behind is filled with two words determination differs from teacher to sun Kumar Panda, a 12-year-old scribbled in large letters - I QUIT. teacher and from school to school. schoolboy in Std. VIII in Contai High This was a film. Reality is brutal, The legal moorings for eliminating School, West Bengal lost his power of merciless and irreversible. It comes corporal punishment are strong and speech after being struck on the head in various shapes and sizes of chil- deep. Article 19 of the Convention on with a cane by his life science teacher dren, schools and teachers, unfold- the Rights of the Child requires States Anupam Mudi, for failing to answer a ing stories cruel enough to sign the to protect children from “all forms of question correctly in class. A diagno- death warrant of a vulnerable child physical or mental violence” while in sis by doctors of Bangur Institute of in the prime of his/her life. But it the care of parents, teachers, and othNeurology revealed “sudden onset of needs a high-profile, elitist school ers. In India, The Right of Children aphasia following (corporal) punish- like La Martiniere for Boys, Kolkata, to Free and Compulsory Education ment by the teacher.” Aphasia is an established in 1836 in memory of Act 2009 under Clause 17 speciacquired speech or language disorder Claude Martin, a soldier who fought fies that no child shall be subjected that can be triggered by physical or to impose imperialism in India. It to physical punishment or mental psychological trauma. harassment. Whoever conDr. Apurba Ghosh, Director travenes this should be liable of the Institute of Child Health, to disciplinary action under where Prasun underwent an MRI the service rules applicable scan, confirmed that there was to such persons. The Nationno nerve damage. Neurologist al Education Policy, 1992 Trishit Kumar Roy who examclearly states that corporal ined the boy on 31 August, said punishment should be firmly “extreme phobia” was as potent excluded from the education as physical injury. “That is why system. he is suffering from a functional The Supreme Court has loss of speech,” he said. also, by ruling, banned corA teacher of St.Helen’s School poral punishment for chilin Kalighat, Kolkata was arrestdren, but only six states ed last month after Mohammad have undertaken efforts to Sajjir Khan, a class XII student, follow the order. Three have tried to commit suicide in school completely banned corporal accusing his teacher Nabanita punishment [Delhi (2000), Nag, a Hindi teacher of mental Andhra Pradesh (2002), and torture. Another teacher found Goa (2003)], while three him in one of the school’s toilets Does corporate punishment leave a child other states have sought proin a semi-conscious state. Sajjid’s disciplined or scarred? hibition on corporal punishmother was informed of the inment: Chandigarh (1990), cident and rushed to the school West Bengal (2000), and to fetch her son. When he confessed needs a suicide by a young teenager Tamilnadu (2003). to have taken four sleeping pills, she Rouwanjit Rawla, belonging to an Despite all this, there continues to took him to CMRI hospital where he affluent, influential and elite family be a steady stream of reports about was saved after a stomach wash. to make it to newspaper headlines corporal punishment. And even these His parents found a note in his and television news flashes round the are an under-report, with many inschool diary where he had noted that clock. Similar and sometimes worse stances of milder impacts not being Nag would pull him up regularly in cases of brutality in schools fail to reported or uncovered at all. All of class and insult him in front of the make headlines because the victims this, says Enakshi Ganguly Thukral, girls, which Sajjir found humiliating. are anonymous and the schools are who works with HAQ: Centre for Though the said teacher was arrested not high profile, or both, even when Child Rights, reflects a broader probfollowing a complaint lodged by his some of these incidents lead to the lem. “Despite Constitutional guaranparents with Kalighat police station, tragic death of the victims. tees of opportunity and civil rights, she was later granted bail. The Khans Corporal punishment of children is millions of children face wide-spread have also accused the school of neg- a worldwide phenomenon. Children deprivation and discrimination. A ligence for not having shifted Sajjir are physically punished in almost large part of this stems from being to a hospital. all societies. The two key features seen through the lens of adults who In 3 Idiots, a scathing indictment on that define corporal punishment are make decisions for them, and who the numbers-chasing, grades-grab- - physical violence against children, prefer to address their welfare rather bing rigid education system, a talent- and the notion of punishment in than their rights,” says Thukral. ed young man, Joy, hangs himself in response to wrong-doing. Other than Many justice systems have banned his room because the Principal of the clear cases of antisocial behaviour beatings as punishment. But beatings hi-fi engineering college refuses to that goes against the simple moral are still administered for breaches of accept his invention of an innovative rules of childhood, ‘wrong-doing’ continued on page 19

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society

Indo American News • Friday, December 17 , 2010

Still Wielding the Cane to Punish Students continued from page

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rules at school and home. There are behaviour theorists who question the validity of any punishment as a tool for learning, recommending instead systems of reward for positive behaviour. When parents and teachers equate “discipline” with “punishment” and couple this with violence, the consequences for children can be catastrophic. Sometimes, children who are brought up in an environment of violence in the form of cor corporal punishment learn to accept it as normal in the process of growing up. When they become parents and/or teachers themselves, they see nothing wrong in using corporal punishment on their children and students. The Impact of Corporal Punishment in Schools In May 2006, Saath Charitable Trust released a research study, The Impact of Corporal Punishment in Schools supported by Plan International India, New Delhi. The report looked at the incidence and the extent

American Indian Foundation Honors Shekhar Kapur

of corporal punishment on school children and the impact it inflicts on them. The study was carried out in one district each in four states: Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh. Using participatory research tools and methods, the study covered 41 schools. The research team interacted with 1591 children, and also members of various children’s organisations. Among its main findings, the report outlined the following: * Corporal punishment is an accepted way of life in schools and at homes. In all the 41 schools and surrounding communities the team visited, corporal punishment stood out as a common theme. * Almost all teachers and parents had no hesitation in accepting that they punish children physically. Many argued the children cannot be disciplined without punishment. * In more than 20 schools the team visited, the students actually showed or pointed out the stick with which they are beaten. * The team intermittently came across more severe forms of punishment meted out to children, such as: kicking them severely, making them starve (at home), tying them (with rope) to chairs/poles followed by beatings, assigning physically strenuous work both at home and outside

(usually in the fields) etc. * A child often faces a series of punishment for the same/single “of “offence”. The sequence of punishments starts with the teacher; the same child is then punished by the head teacher for having “invited” the punishment; another punishment - generally, beating - awaits the same child at home if the parents learn about the punishment at school. * Teachers across the four states, especially UP, Bihar, and Andhra Pradesh, revealed that there were just too many students for them to handle. This report, like several others, shows there is a long way to go, before children become free of physical punishment in schools. As a result, it is quite often the victims themselves who take it upon themselves to sustain the demand for change. At the Junior 8 Summit that ran alongside the G8 Meet in Italy in 2009, Samuel Viswanathan, a teenager, screened a ten-minute film on corporal punishment. Mercilessly beaten in school, this boy from Shoolagiri, a small village in Tamilnadu, wanted his film to sensitise teachers and parents. “I have gone through it, and do not want my fellow students to face the ordeal,” said the boy who now studies visual communication at Loyola College, Chennai.

CALIFORNIA (SI): American India Foundation’s Seventh Annual Southern California Gala, which was witnessed by over 500 people who filled the main ballroom in the glamorous Ritz-Carlton Hotel, honored filmmaker and director Shekhar Kapur and raised funds for needy rickshaw drivers in India, reports Parimal Rohit of India West. Entitled ‘Wheel Power,’ the AIF annual gala raised an estimated $500,000 for its Rickshaw Sangh project, a microfinance initiative empowering cycle rickshaw drivers in India to rise from poverty by helping them own their own vehicles and rid themselves of debt. Almost 10,000 rickshaw drivers were reportedly assisted by the AIF program and hopes to reach out to 90,000 more.

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opinion

Will our own salespersons show the same interest and enthusiasm?

By D.B.N. murthy NEW YORK (Hindu): It was too tempting. The glittering shop pulled us inside like a magnet. The famous ‘perfumemania’ shop in New York’s Time Square was irresistible. The smile on the sales girl beckoned us. We were soon into the exotic dream world of perfumes. She became an instant hit and chatted with us like old friends. She had all the time in the world for us, as if we were her VIP customers. That she was an expert in the per perfumes was clear. My wife got a free education about the nuances of per perfume choice, the difference between American and French perfumes, how to check quality and so on. She put a drop of perfume on the wrist and advised my wife, “Please don’t rub it hard.” The talk was enlightening at the end of which she sold us two perfume bottles with a small gift thrown in. I watched helplessly as that salesper salesperson turned up her charm and sold the ware when we had no idea when we walked in that we would do any shopping in New York, except window-shopping. That is sales talk for you! “How about you, Sir?” she turned her attention to me. I didn’t show any interest. “No, I don’t buy any perfume, you know,” I told her. “But, Sir, please have a look at the offer, you cannot afford to miss it. It comes with a small gift too.” Despite my protestations, she showed us a few brands.

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“Now, this is almost free, buy one and you get the other free!” she smiled. I still hesitated. She played her trump card, “Sir, if you find any other shop selling it for less, I shall give it to you free.” That clinched it. My wife nudged me, “Why don’t you buy it, it’s a bargain.” I had no choice but to buy it, sandwiched between two persuasive women who made me feel so important. It was time to take leave of that charming person. “You are a great

salesgirl,” I complimented her. She accepted my compliment with a smile and a ‘thank you’. The thought came to us about our own salespersons and how they would have reacted on seeing casual visitors. Would they have shown the same interest and enthusiasm to sell, I wondered. At least a few of them think a customer is a pain in the neck and so has to be sent out soon out of the shop so that they can relax and carry on their own activities.

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india

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Diu: Not Just a Watering Hole for Gujarat, But Island of Plenty

By Leslie Esteves DIU (Outlook): Flying into Diu is a great way to size up your island destination. The plane passes over the eastern end of the island, just left of the Fort of Diu at the edge of Diu city. From this height, the unique ship-shaped Portuguese Fortim do Mar—the Pani Kotha, or water fort— is easily spotted in the creek between the Diu citadel and the Ghoghla peninsula. As the plane circles around the island, the great creek that cuts Diu off from Gujarat comes into view before you are out over the ocean again, turning around to land within a few metres of waves crashing against cliffs. As the plane taxies into the tiny airport, I spot palm trees whose trunks keep branching skyward. The Portuguese, who did a lot of gardening in their colonies, brought Diu’s hoka palms here from Mozambique. The tree remains a unique icon of Diu, apparently found nowhere else in the world outside Mozambique and this little spit of earth at the base of the inverted triangle which is Kathiawar. Diu holds a few more impressive remnants of its time under Portuguese rule. I’ll briefly throw a little light on the colonial presence in Diu, only because, like me, you won’t find this history adequately explained anywhere on the island. In the very early 16th century, Diu island was ruled by Mahmud Begada, Sultan of Gujarat. At that time the Portuguese, moving northward from their base in Kerala, were searching for little footholds along India’s western coast from which they could control the spice trade in the Arabian Sea. They wrested Salsette, Bassein, Daman and Diu from Mahmud Begada. Diu sat on the Arabian Sea at a point where entry to the Gulf of Khambhat, and on to the great spice markets of Gujarat, could be patrolled and controlled. The small island then became a pivotal Portuguese tool in the spice wars. From here, they broke the monopoly of seafaring Arab traders over the lucrative Gujarat spice trade. For this, they invited the wrath of the Ottoman Empire in Turkey, the Sultan of Egypt who supplied the European market with spices through the merchants of Venice and Ragusa, and Mahmud Begada, of course. All of them sent a great fleet to Diu in 1509 and a battle broke out, which

the Portuguese won. Another attempted siege by the Ottomans in 1538 failed and the Portuguese stayed on, building fine churches, controlling trade and planting hoka palms. Independent India took Diu back in 1961, along with Daman and Goa. Driving out of the airport onto Bunder Road—Diu’s sole highway, which cuts across the island from east to west— towards my resort in Nagoa barely five minutes away, I was treated to a gorgeous The rocky Jalandhar beach, attached to Diu City. welcome. The road moves along an empty stretch of sand, run- Aditya gave me some all-important ning as close as 50m to the road at one Diu tips. Briefly: it’s a small place, point. In the near distance, speedboats with much to be discovered beyond raced out into the sea. The lovely the obvious sightseeing points, is perBunder Road is a pointer that, grand fectly safe if you don’t enter deserted welcome to the air traveller notwith- places after dark in the vicinity of standing, arguably the best way to get inebriated people, has excellent roads to Diu is by road. Save for the last hun- and hence is best discovered by bike. dred kilometres before Diu, the road Riding on empty roads, birds on evsurfaces in Gujarat are excellent and, ery wire and tree running alongside, among my fellow guests at the resort, gives real meaning to Hero Honda’s was a family that had driven down Pleasure, the vehicle of choice in Diu. here all the way from Gurgaon. Since a fair majority of holidayThat’s hardly unusual for Aditya Dogra, who runs the Resort Hoka at ers are looking for little more than Nagoa, where I stayed. He has been partaking of the water of life without in Diu for several decades and in that fear of having to share it with the time has biked, driven and cycled his police, the island is largely left to the way to Delhi numerous times. Just as intrepid explorer. It is home to distinct I reached his resort, a tracker drove ecosystems—the tidal creek and salt past. Gujarat’s much-loved vehicle— marshes, a tiny freshwater lake, the a motorcycle with a gaily painted coast, a hoka forest, a reserved forcart fixed on—is a frequent sight in est with nilgai and sambar—all of Diu. This one held about two dozen which offer a highwomen in saris as colourful as the ly visible variety of cart. Even before checking in, I was bird-life. I set out to explore Nagoa, folalready well charmed by Diu. Over a delicious crab curry lunch, lowing a lane lead-

ing down from Bunder Road to Diu’s touristy beach, with a very calm sea full of families in the water on weekends, with dhabas serving Gujarati thalis, sandwiches, tea and hoka fruit, beach vendors selling coconut water, I heart Goa T-shirts and beachwear. A lot of hyperactivity surrounds Pappu, who operates watersports both here and at Ghoghla Beach. I tried the hoka fruit at a dhaba. It’s about the size and shape of breadfruit but with a smooth, beautiful rust red coat. The orange pulp has a lovely fruity flavour which you want more of, but is very dry and hard to chew. Nagoa has a few other interesting attractions. The lesser of these are two spots hidden between the beach and Bunder Road. Tiny Nagoa lake is a peaceful spot accessed from the Krishna temple, a short way down the road towards Vanakbara. The second is a gigantic ‘Rukhda’ tree, behind the Krishna temple. Watch out for the sign, then turn into the coconut plantation and you’ll see it—a giant baobab. It has an enormous girth. If you wanted to make a garland of arms to go around it, you’d need at least four companions to succeed. The two prize sights of Nagoa lie further west down the Bunder Road. Continue riding and you’ll come to a thick forest on your right. A sign in Gujarati tells you that nilgai have been spotted in this forest. I parked and ventured in, walking along a

thin trail on a soft forest floor, my ears filled with birdcalls, barely able to see the sky through the treetops. I must have walked about 500m when I came to an empty hut and stopped to wonder at the generosity of this island, which offers a first-class forest walk like this within a few kilometres of the speedboats on Nagoa Beach. As I turned to continue, I found myself looking at a huge sambar deer. It was sitting in the grass about 200m away, ears up and staring back. I took a photo and a few seconds later it got up and ambled off. I left then, for it’s unsafe to be deep in a forest alone. Back at the resort, I boasted to Aditya about my prized sighting and he was impressed both that I ventured in and that I had the sense to come out. A few years ago, a leopard made its way here from Sasan Gir and caused havoc among the dogs and cattle till it was caught. Near the forest entrance is a Saudwadi Panchayat signboard. A path shaded by casuarinas leads from here to the eastern entry to Gomtimata Beach, a large and inviting swathe of sand on Diu’s southwest coast.As you emerge from the trees, the massive sea is dead ahead, framed by a cliff and the beach. Park here and make your way down to Gomtimata, which offers the best swimming on the island. There is no stall or hotel here and you’ll have the beach entirely to yourself. From your parking spot, a curious sight appears on the cliff to your left—a tiny and apparently uninhabited village, with dozens of huts painted in all colours. Clustered together on this windy cliff, the quiet village looked like a painting. Aditya told me later that these are memorials for nearly a hundred fishermen who were lost at sea in a terrible cyclone. The locals built these for the fishermen who could not be cremated, for their bodies were never found. The last place I visited was the Ghoghla Peninsula, accessed by the Ghoghla bridge across the astonishingly wide mouth of the creek. I will unhesitatingly declare Ghoghla to be among the finest beaches in India; just the spot for a dreamy holiday.

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Tata’s Nano, the Car That Few in India Want to Buy

By Vikas Bajaj MUMBAI: When it was introduced in early 2009, the egg-shaped Tata Nano was billed as a modern-day people’s car, an ultracheap vehicle that would bring greater mobility to the masses of India and, eventually, the world. But those ambitions have stalled — for now, at least. Though car sales have shot up across India, because of an economy that is growing at nearly 9 percent annually, sales of the Nano have been falling for the last four months. Its maker, Tata Motors, sold only 509 Nanos to its dealers in November — a stark contrast to the 9,000 it delivered in July. Last year, when media coverage and auto writers’ praise were stoking demand, Tata had orders for more than 200,000 Nanos, which has a list price starting at about $2,900. But as Tata has struggled with problems like production delays and fires in some of the cars, rival cars like the Maruti Suzuki Alto have overtaken the Nano. The Alto, which starts at $6,200 here, had sales of more than 30,000 in November, making it India’s best-selling car last month. On Thursday the Tata company announced that it would extend the warranty on the Nano, including those that have already been sold, to four years, from 18 months. The Nano’s celebrated rollout had helped prompt other big automakers, like General Motors and Renault-Nissan, to announce plans for ultracheap people’s cars of their own for sale in India and other developing countries. Those would-be competitors are still expected to appear in the next two years. But the Nano’s poor showing could give pause to corporate executives and policy makers, eager to see goods and services sold to people of modest means. Analysts say the Nano situation demonstrates it may not be sufficient to make cheaper, smaller

A Tata Nano LX in a suburb of Mumbai. Only 509 were shipped to dealers in November, down from 9,000 in July.

versions of existing products to win over that broad base of customers. Companies, they say, must also make sure the products are widely available and are seen as safe, useful and alluring. “The bottom of the pyramid continues to be where the action is,” said Hormazd Sorabjee, editor of Autocar India, a magazine. “But the aspirations of people are moving up. People want to jump into something more substantial.” That seems evident from the booming car market in India, where total sales climbed more than 22 percent, to nearly 203,000 in November. The most popular cars here are small, fuel-efficient hatchbacks that sell for $10,000 or less. Maruti Suzuki, a division of the Japanese auto maker Suzuki, now sells nearly half of all cars here.

Tata Motors, which is part of India’s biggest business conglomerate, the Tata Group, ranks third behind Hyundai of South Korea, whose top seller is the i10, a small car that starts at $7,800. Tata, which started as a locomotive and truck maker, has gradually built market share in the car business over the last 20 years on the strength of modestly priced cars and sport utility vehicles. The Nano was Tata’s big bid to shake up the car market in India and then go global — first in other developing countries and then, if all went as planned, Europe and possibly even the United States. The idea had been to sell the same Indian version of the Nano in other developing markets, but offer a more powerful and costlier version in developed countries. The Indian model is a fourdoor car that can seat up to five people; its air-cooled engine is in the back, like the original Volkswagen Beetle. The Nano was the brainchild of Ratan Tata, the chairman of the Tata Group, who told his engineers to build a car that would sell for 100,000 rupees ($2,200) to people who would otherwise be making do with motorcycles and scooters. It is common to see Indian families of four riding on motorcycles with the father upfront, the mother sitting sidesaddle with a baby in her arms and a child sandwiched between them. But the Nano has been troubled almost from its inception. The company’s production plans were thrown off kilter in 2008 when farmers, led by regional politicians, protested that the state of West Bengal had forcibly acquired land at low prices for a factory where the Nano and its parts would be made. Tata had to relocate the factory to another state, Gujarat — causing it to take more than a year and a half to fill orders for the first 100,000 cars. More recently, the Nano has been hurt by reports of fires in a handful of cars. In one widely publicized instance, a family was taking

its new Nano home from a dealership in Mumbai when smoke started billowing from the back of the car. Soon, the entire car was engulfed in flames. There were no injuries — other than to the Nano’s image. Tata Motors has steadfastly denied that there was anything wrong with the car’s design or its parts. It has said that fires were caused by “foreign electrical equipment” found on top of the exhaust system. It has offered to retrofit Nanos with extra safety features and has taken pains to say that its offer does not amount to a recall. But analysts, customers and others have found those explanations and the company’s offer wanting. What were these foreign objects? What is the function of the new safety features, and why weren’t they part of the car in the first place? “The company has just mishandled the whole thing,” said Darius Lam, an analyst at J.D. Power & Associates. “First, the company said it was no big deal. Then, it was just some foreign objects.” Mr. Lam added that it was still not clear what had caused the fires and whether the problem had been fully addressed. In a written response to questions, the company said that it had thoroughly investigated the fires and found that the car was safe, but that it had decided to improve the exhaust and electrical systems to reassure customers. A spokesman says sales of the Nano are now back on the rise, as the company makes cars available for immediate purchase in more sites around the country, rather than taking only orders. The company has also started displaying the car and offering test drives through new small showrooms in smaller cities to reach people who may not be comfortable walking into conventional car dealerships. “As we began open sales, our learning was that, even though the Tata Nano is affordable for thousands of customers who do not own a car, it is still a significant decision to enter the four-wheeler category,” Debasis Ray, a company spokesman said in a written statement for this article. Recently, the company began running advertisements for the car that stress its power and durability. One newspaper ad, for instance, features an owner who says he took his car to the Himalayas, climbing steep slopes with ease. Some Nano owners — there are now more than 71,000 — praise the car’s performance, its fuel efficiency (41 miles or more to the gallon) and its surprisingly spacious interior. “I have really enjoyed driving the car,” said Deeksha Dhawan, a 21-year-old architecture student whose father bought the top-end Nano, which she has decorated with stickers of Mickey Mouse, for about $5,500. The family’s primary car is a WagonR, a bigger hatchback made by Maruti Suzuki, which starts at $7,400. But many small-car buyers said that they preferred the Alto, which has a bigger engine, more storage space and a longer track record than the Nano. Jatin Layazawala, a Mumbai businessman, recently bought an Alto after considering a fully equipped Nano, which he said would have cost only $800 less. Mr. Layazawala said he had driven a friend’s Nano. “I was happy, but then I said I was looking for a car that would be sturdy for long drives,” he said. “I think it’s a dinky car.” Despite the Nano’s rough road so far, analysts say that Tata Motors, which also owns Jaguar and Land Rover, has the financial and technical resources to turn the situation around. But first, they say, Tata has to more clearly answer questions about the car’s safety. And then it has to come up with a better marketing and sales strategy. “The sales numbers don’t really reflect what will be the long term potential for it,” said Mr. Sorabjee of Autocar. “It’s early days.”

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Sheila Ki Jawani is Topping Charts, Taking Katrina Kaif to No. 1 Status

Sheila Ki Jawani, sung by Sunidhi Chauhan, and performed in the firm by Katrina, is breaking all records.

MUMBAI (HT): Sheila Ki Jawani is showing no signs of waning as Bollywood beauty Katrina Kaif has been named the Sexiest Woman in the World for the third year in a row, beating off competition from her contemporaries like Freida Pinto and Priyanka Chopra. The actress whose moves in the hit dance number earned her plenty of fans, topped London based newspaper Eastern Eye’s list of the hottest women in the world. The star of one of the year’s biggest hits Raajneeti and hotly anticipated Christmas release Tees Maar Khan is excited about the hat-trick. “I’m very happy that I have made it to the top of Eastern Eye’s list again. England is of course a very special place to me and I think it’s very sweet to be voted the sexiest by them. I just want to thank everyone for the support,” said the 26-year-old actress. The actress who reportedly split from on-off boyfriend Salman Khan this year, came out on top of the survey conducted by the newspaper, Britain’s only national English language weekly serving the whole Asian community in the UK.

Sheila Ki Jawani sung by Sunidhi Chauhan is breaking all records. It is ahead of Munni in the item race. Aware of this comparison, Sunidhi stated “Let people compare. Munni… is a smash hit which is still doing well.” She said further, “But Sheila… is an instant hit. It came and conquered. I want to share the credit with composers Vishal and Shekar, who always come up with something special. The lyrics by Vishal are cute and sensual.” She added “I knew the song would do well, but I had no clue it would become such a hit in a short time.” The singer said further, “Katrina Kaif deserves all the credit. She looks like a dream and dances like an international star. When Farah showed me the video, I was blown away.” Katrina’s chemistry with Akshay on-screen in undeniable and she attributes it to the fact that they share friendly vibes off-screen too. “Your comfort level with co-stars does translate onscreen. I do feel that comfort level with Imran (Khan) too,” revealed the actor who’s currently shooting with the young Khan for Mere Brother Ki Dulhan.

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