Indo-American News June 06, 2019

Page 1

Friday, June 06, 2019 | Vol. 38, No. 18

Indo American News Published weekly from Houston, TX


Special Reports Community Briefs Local Politics South Asians in the News

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Ekal’s “Ek Surili Shaam ...”: A Roaring Success

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Approximately 850 people were witness to a magical musical evening hosted by Ekal Vidyalaya at the U of H Cullen Performance Hall on June 1st, 2019.

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June 06, 2019

Ekal’s “Ek Surili Shaam Ekal Ke Naam” Was a Roaring Success Houston: Approximately 850 people were witness to a magical musical evening hosted by Ekal Vidyalaya at the U of H Cullen Performance Hall on June 1st, 2019. The event kicked off with a mouth-watering dinner catered by Dawat Catering, wherein Houstonians found a perfect venue to meet and greet with other patrons. One could sense their enthusiasm and zeal to support and stand by Ekal’s phenomenal grassroot level work. Ekal Houston had raised about $1.5 million at the Oct 2018 Ekal Gala with a large presence of young professionals. Last night, an additional $400,000 were pledged/contributed by our Bollywood loving, musically inclined patrons. Vishwanath Batunge along with his team had the audience in ecstasy - clapping their hands, swaying and even dancing to the beats! Vishwanath’s antics coupled with Nayana Sarma’s mellifluous voice and the brilliant percussionist/ tabla/ keyboard team had Houstonians in their grip. The evening melted away into the night with people crying out for more. True to what people had heard from other Ekal chapter events, Vishwanath and team were sheer brilliance. The Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation, USA is a nonprofit service organization. It dedicates itself to bringing education and village development to rural India. With ongoing work in the remote and tribal villages of India, the Ekal movement is the largest grassroot NGO in India. The Ekal magnitude, reaching close to 87,000 villages, is unprecedented. Education reaches over 2.5 million children annually, more than half this number, being girls. Ekal is marching fast towards its

goal to establish 100,000 schools by the end of this year. To sustain a village as an independent social and economic unit, Ekal has piloted several projects. Ekal on wheels is one of them, wherein, a mobile van equipped with laptops and trained instructors travel to the remote hinterland and impart basic computer skills to the youth. Similarly, Ekal’s Tailoring Centers train women not only to sew their own clothes but create an opportunity for them to earn a living. One woman can earn 7000 to10,000 rupees per month, bringing economic independence for their families. Gramotthan Resource Centers (GRC) are units which aim to make a village community economically self-reliant by educating and motivating villagers to adopt Eco-friendly life, train farmers on organic farming and promote agro based local entrepreneurship.

Ekal has proposed cohesive development of 30 village clusters under the project called Integrated Village Development (IVD) where Ekal Vidyalayas (One Teacher Schools), Digital Literacy, Health Hygiene, E Shiksha, Skill Training are combined under one comprehensive project. The night saw a huge support from the local crowd. The Ekal core team was on its feet ensuring people to see for themselves the work done by Ekal. The core volunteers, along with young professionals and youth volunteers worked their heart out showing us that engagement and commitment go a long way indeed. As evident by Ramanbhai Das and his son Divyesh Das’ (of Palace Inn) continued commitment to Integrated village development (IVD) and the support of Mr. and Mrs. Mrugesh Parikh for Ekal on Wheels & Computer Lab, the fundraising event saw significant interest

by patrons in sponsoring various projects, taking Ekal efforts to the next new heights while continuing their commitment to schools. This event was graced by Consul General of India (CGI) Dr. Anupam Ray and his wife Dr. Amit Goldberg. In his thoughtprovoking speech, CGI mentioned that Ekal is “close to his heart”, as he has visited several Ekal locations close to where he spent his formative years and witnessed village transformations, first hand. He described India as “on the move”- a country that is one of the fastest growing and most dynamic economies of the world, yet also a country which is a “tough” place to live in and which faces many problems. He rightly expressed “Every child reached by Ekal is a plus for progressive India and minus for the counterproductive extremist organisations”. The CGI further commented that though he gets invited to many

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charities, the Ekal fundraiser has a tradition of attracting donors for the work being done on ground in India.He admired that what sets Ekal apart is its focus on its work rather than about mega celebrities or sports stars being present at their events. He also stated that his term in Houston is ending soon and took the opportunity to bid farewell to the wonderful Indian diaspora. He concluded with his best wishes to Ekal Houston team and best regards for Rameshji and Kokilaji, Ekal’s mainstays. Ekal Houston Chapter President Yogi Patel addressed the crowd mentioning Ekal’s work and its unique position in being “truly a people’s movement”. He cited an example of stopping an exodus of people from small villages to cities for jobs, who at times in dire situations end up in the city slums. Houston Event Director Dharmendra Shah kept the audience glued to their seats. One of Ekal’s mainstays, Kokila Ji’s speech was very inspiring. Addressing the audience in our national language Hindi, she thanked the crowd as well as invited them to come to the villages and gain a firsthand insight into the work done. As all good things come to an end, the musical night too drew a close with Vishwanath Batunge getting the core Ekal volunteers to the stage holding hands and singing to the tune of a popular Hindi number. The lines went “Phoolon mein khushboo hain, Is dil mein ik Ekal tu hain, Janmon ke saathi, Hum saath saath hain, Hum saath saath hain”. Such a fitting tune for Ekal’s philosophy of displaying unity in commitment. Thank you, Houston, for making Ekal’s fundraising event a roaring success, once again!

June 06, 2019

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June 06, 2019

Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh Celebrates 14th Annual Hindu Unity Day HOUSTON: The Houston chapter of Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh USA (HSS) held its 14th annual Hindu Sangathan Divas conference on Saturday, June 1st, at Shri Krishna Vrundavan Temple in Houston. Representatives of over 40 Hindu organizations from the Houston area attended the event. Hindu Sangathan Divas offered representatives of Houston Hindu organizations the opportunity to network with each other with the goal of synergizing the work of different Hindu organizations. Because these organizations serve the Hindu and mainstream community with a common purpose, they could exchange ideas, share material and resources, and learn from each other’s experiences and mistakes, while at the same time maintaining their autonomy. The event began with the meaningful Sangh Geet “ Anekta me Aikya Mantra ko ” followed by Ekatmata Mantra which set the perfect tone and aligned all minds with the agenda. After an introduction session, representatives attended one of three parallel breakout sessions, covering “How to create awareness about Hindu Dharma among mainstream community,” “Taking up the Sewa Activities in Houston Hindu Organizations from local to global level,” and “Use of social media among youth to create awareness about Hindu dharma”

HSS President Subhash Gupta delivered the vote of thanks. Participants at the HSS 14th Annual Unity Day event gathered for a group photograph.

Each breakout session had moderated group discussion. The first group developed the ideas to create the awareness about the Hindu Dharama among the mainstream community in general and educators, public officials, law enforcement officials and schools in particular. The second group concurred that one should put service above self and more community involvement with sewa related activities. Also, if different organizations collaborated and coordinated sewa related activities, it would have a greater impact. They also discussed sewa activities to address the needs and challenges of Hindu senior citizens. The participants also

pledged to use the biodegradable disposable items at their organizational event to support the “Go Green” initiative of Sri Sathya Sai organization. The third group for the youth track discussed the challenges and successes that difference organizations have in getting youth involvement within the organization and the community. The group discussed the use of social media to involve other youth, spread awareness of their Hindu Identity, and get connected to others who are involved in various Hindu organizations. Following the breakout sessions, attendees listened to the keynote address delivered by Arun Kank-


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ani, National A Executive Director for Sewa International. Kankani emphasized that Hindu organizations coming together , staying together and working together is the good beginning and it provides an opportunity to go beyond once individual organization and see “virat swroop of Hindu samaj”. He encouraged each participant to take pledge to serve the community at family level , organization level and global level. The keynote speech was followed by Sangh Prarthana. Subhash Gupta , President of the HSS Houston chapter expressed vote of thanks The hall was filled to capacity with very excited, enthusiastic

members from all participating organizations, youth volunteers, priests of the Shri Krishna Vrundavan Temple, and all left fulfilled with big smiles on their faces enjoying the day’s activities. Special efforts and warm hospitality by Shri Krushna Vrundavan Temple members made the event more enjoyable. The conference provided an excellent platform for the organizations to network, get to know and learn from each other. HSS conducts a structured values education program through its 150 chapters nationwide to develop strong character and teamwork and leadership skills and to organize a dynamic and flourishing Hindu-American community. For further information, visit




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June 06, 2019

An Inspiring Evening with Rajshree Patel On “The Power of Vital Force”

Houston: Rajshree Patel, a mind and meditation expert, visited Houston this weekend and delivered a talk titled ‘Defying your Limits’ at Unity of Houston. Over the last 30 years, Rajshree has traveled to more than 35 countries, taught hundreds of thousands of people the power of meditation, mindfulness, breath work and other ancient tools for accessing the innate source of energy, creativity and fulfillment within. She has established more than 600 meditation centers across the world and trained thousands of instructors with Art of Living. She has given talks and led programs at organizations like Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft, NBCUniversal, LinkedIn, Gap and more. In the session Rajshree talked about how our mind is our best friend and our biggest enemy and how changing our mindset can help us transform our lives. And the way to bring about this change is by increasing energy or vital force, also known as Prana in Vedanta or Chi in Chinese tradition – that field or force that is within us and around us and fuels everything including life itself. She also went on give the audience simple yet practical tips to invite Prana or vital force in their lives and also taught them some breathing techniques that can

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open the doors to living life on their own terms. The talk was attended by around 500 people, who erupted in applause at the end of the session. Rajshree discusses a lot more about the concept of energy and how it transforms our lives in her upcoming book “The Power of Vital Force” which is now available for pre-order on Amazon (release date 6 August 2019). Pre-orders will receive free, exclusive web content (including a 11 session online program “Mind your Energy” and a live webinar with Rajshree). You can learn more on her website

Dave Sharma Wins Seat in Aussie Parliament Melbourne: Dave Sharma, the Liberal candidate and former Australian ambassador to Israel, has scripted history by becoming the first Indianorigin lawmaker in the country’s Parliament after winning a seat in Sydney suburb in the federal election. Australian PM Scott Morrison is close to securing a majority government as the election’s final results are being counted. His conservative coalition has defied polls and is leading with 77 seats, the Australian Electoral Commission says. Only 76 seats are needed for a majority. Sharma, 43, defeated independent candidate Kerryn Phelps for the eastern suburb seat of Wentworthin district. Sharma, who had lost to Phelps in a by-election six months ago, claimed the seat of Wentworth with 51% of the vote. “Very humbled by the trust placed in me by the people of Wentworth.


Dave Sharma is the first South Asian in Australian parliament.

Look forward to being a voice for them in Parliament and the party room,” Sharma tweeted. He said the three main issues he wanted to focus on were national security, female workforce participation and making sure


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Australia remains at the high end of the value chain. Sharma, who was Australia’s ambassador to Israel from 2013 to 2017, brushed aside questions as to whether he will be given a position in Morrison’s new Cabinet

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Stillwater, Oklahoma: Counsel General Anupam Ray, along with Deputy Consul General Surendra Adhana, handed over the citation and medal to Prof. Kak, who couldn’t travel to India for investiture ceremony in March. Subhash Kak, Regents Professor Emeritus in electrical and computer engineering at the prestigious Oklahoma State University, received Padma Shri, India’s fourth highest civilian award, from India’s Consul General Dr Anupam Ray. Mr. Ray, along with Deputy Consul General Surendra Adhana, handed over the citation and medal to Prof. Kak, who couldn’t travel to India for investiture ceremony in March.

“I am very honoured to have been given the Padma Shri award. India is going through a renaissance and already the third largest world economy in PPP (purchasing parity power). It is great to be part of the astonishing transformation of India into a world power,” Prof. Subhash Kak (72), told PTI. Prof. Kak, originally from Srinagar, completed his BE from Regional Engineering College, Srinagar (Presently National Institute of Technology, Srinagar) and Ph.D. from Indian Institute of Technology Delhi in 1970. During 1975-1976, he was a visiting faculty at Imperial College, London, and a guest researcher at Bell Laboratories, Murray Hill. In 1977, he was a visiting researcher at Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Bombay.

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June 06, 2019

Indian Student Missing from New Jersey Have you planned for your future?

People don’t plan to fail, they fail to plan


Vadodara: A 24-year-old girl from Baroda living in New Jersey city has reportedly been missing for a month. Mayushi Bhagat had moved to the USA in 2015 to pursue post-graduation in electrical and electronics engineering. Bhagat, whose family lives at Ajwa Road in Vadodara, went missing sometime between April 29 and May 1. Reports suggest that Bhagat went missing from her home in Jersey city. Bhagat’s father Vikas approached the Jersey city police department on the morning of May 1. According to Vikas’s statement to police, he last spoke with his daughter through What-


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sApp on May 1 at 12.30 am. Bhagat told him that she was fine and was not returning home till May 3 and does not want to be bothered. The Jersey city police department has been looking for Bhagat since then but they have been unsuccessful. Police have asked citizens there to inform them if anyone has contact with her. After finishing her under-graduation in electronics and communication engineering from Vadodara Institute of Engineering, Bhagat took up admission in the University of New Hampshire and transferred her admission New York Institute of Technology for the same course. -- ToI


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June 06, 2019

‘Bharat’ Movie Review: More Miss than Hit Katrina: Superstardom, Romance

in Life and Fighting Depression By Jitesh Pillaai

By Shubhra Gupta Cast: Salman Khan, Katrina Kaif, Sunil Grover, Jackie Shroff, Sonali Kulkarni, Disha Patani, Satish Kaushik Director: Ali Abbas Zafar Rating: Two and a half stars For a superstar who has only lately allowed himself to be seen on screen with a middle-aged paunch-and-grizzled-jowls, to admit to being seventy plus is an act of bravery. Yes, that’s how old Bharat No Surname is when the film opens. He has no last name because that’s a way to belong to the whole country, he is told: ‘tujhme poora desh hai, Bharat’. And in the arc he draws of his life, which we see mostly in flashback, it is evident that we are seeing the story of Bharat, the nation. This parallel unfurls in the first half with verve and strong dollops of emotion. Post interval, though, the film sags. From the tumultuous scenes of bloodshed of the Partition, and the sundering of Bharat’s family in Lahore, to their arrival in a Delhi refugee camp, in search of a future, Bharat is sure-footed. After

the half-way point, it meanders. Zafar, who works well with Khan, their last outing Tiger Zinda Hai was a big hit, strikes the right notes initially when he shapes his hero as an unlettered but determined-to-do-the-right-thing-byhis-family youth, accompanied by his best friend Vilayati (Grover). There’s a stint in a circus, with Bharat risking his life as a stunt artist, and a coveted trip to the Middle East to help dig oil. There’s enough conviction in these portions which carries Bharat and us through, even though Khan is given enough hero-giri moments to keep him foregrounded at all times. You get a sense of time past, of faded history in the recreation of those grand-but-tawdry circuses, and the ‘maut ka kuans’, which are now relegated to smalltown fairs, and job-hungry Indians chasing the oil boom in the Gulf, as hard-working labour. It’s a pity that the director-star duo don’t take this as far as they could. They had a story which had the potential to become a solid reckoner of post-Independence nation-building, and how things rolled from then on, and a free

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hand to craft it. But the opportunity is squandered in unnecessary songs and dances, an aiming-forcheap-laughs comic thread which involves making a stutterer the butt of jokes, and improbable situations: want to meet Hindi-filmsong-loving-sea-pirates? Kaif makes the most of her role, as the feisty ‘Madam-Sir’ who comes into Bharat’s life, and who stays on, without, gulp, either ‘mandap’ or ‘mangalsutra’. The way it’s done is clunky, but, Bharat now needs to hear about ‘live-in’ relationships. And who better to endorse these than a popular star? The good thing about the film, despite its eye-roll moments, is the underlining it does of a nation which belongs to us all. Vilayati, played excellently by Grover, is a Muslim. The dialogue may be over-the-top but it takes us back to the time when pan-Indian films would speak fearlessly about ‘dosti’ and ‘bhaichara’ amongst sworn enemies, about how people are the same everywhere, and that the Partition hasn’t divided ‘dils’ which still beat for each other. Treacle it may be, but the tears are real. And moving: my eyes were moist, even when I knew I was being played. Yes, it’s hard to believe that a 70-year-old can beat off four menacing young men bent upon making mincemeat of him. But then this IS a Bhai movie. He staggers, but is the last man standing. But of course. He may have fixed a grey beard to his chin, but his chest still ripples. What else? In a Salman Khan movie, anything is possible, even tall tales that can transcend borders. -- Indian Express

While an afternoon sun slants through the roof of her well-appointed house, Katrina Kaif is in a tizzy. There’s an Instagram live to be done, several outfits to be tried. She also has me to contend with and then a meal of salad and cutlets to polish off. Her business manager Prarthana hovers around protectively. Besides the much-touted Bharat opposite Salman Khan, Katrina is also slated to do Sooryanvanshi with Akshay Kumar. There’s talk that she will sign up with a topnotch Indian cosmetic brand soon. She also plans to do something with Indiaís unsung athletes. But right now all focus is on Bharat, which will have her show her acting chops after she wowed the critics in Aanand L Raiís Zero. For the longest time, her beautiful movie-star looks made her the favourite whipping girl of critics, even as she starred in one big hit after another. Last year was a lull when Thugs of Hindostan and Zero came unstuck. But she’s like the proverbial boxer in the ring waiting to feint and parry and strike yet another knockout punch. You seemed to have eased out a lot. Earlier you seemed on the edge Maybe. A lot of things have changed for me personally and professionally. After my last relationship ended, I was forced to analyse many things about myself and my life and the way I was living it. Whatever was supposed to happen, happened. Everything happens for a reason. I remember I was getting on a plane to shoot Baar Baar Dekho in Thailand. It was January. There was a repetitive thought going on in my head. When you get stuck on something, it’s deeply disturbing. It doesn’t leave you alone. It was bad. It was sad. I wondered how could something trouble you to this level? That phase made me read a lot. I wanted to understand how we human beings function. On one particular night, my attitude and approach to the world opened up again. How?

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It may sound far-fetched and crazy but I realised we have just one life and one day we’re going to die. These two things are certain. So, we can’t be doing this to ourselves. There’s anyway a lot of struggle and pain around us. There are many, who’re in turmoil. I wanted to understand what one could do about it. If I wanna look slim, I can’t sit here and eat a pizza. I’ll have to go to the gym, work out for two hours and pay attention to my diet. It’s the same with our emotions. Reading and certain things like yoga helped me. That doesn’t mean that I’ve achieved a state, where nothing affects me. I still get upset. I still get emotional. People can still play with my feelings. I still hurt. But it doesn’t keep me down for long. So, before something pulls me down in a black hole for weeks or months, I can reset my mind in 24 or 48 hours. What has given you the strength to do that? A sense of trust has come in. It’s not from some spiritual, hokeypokey stuff that I cooked up. It’s logical and explanatory. The bottom line is that you shouldn’t believe every thought that comes to your mind. That’s fundamental to yoga as well. It’s about observing your emotions and thoughts. And then getting out of the grip of those thoughts that trouble you. So you’ve made your peace? Some things can still upset you. But that’s fine. I face it. I stare at the ghost in the room until it just fades away. When something triggers an emotion, I let it happen. -- Filmfare


June 06, 2019

Trump, Trade & Trust

PM Modi’s New Council

His self-assurance boosted by a massive popular mandate, Prime Minister Narendra Modi constituted a 58-member Council of Ministers, with more than 20 fresh faces, on Thursday. In a group far outshone by its leader, analysing individual talent is not easy, and may be irrelevant too. Mr. Modi, characteristically, sees to it that his imprimatur on all executive decisions is unmistakable. Still, the composition of the council throws light on Mr. Modi’s thinking. The induction of his long-time lieutenant and BJP president Amit Shah as Home Minister not only fortifies the Prime Minister’s authority, it might be the precursor to further changes in the party organisation and the national security architecture. While Mr. Shah’s entry into the Cabinet was expected, the surprise induction of former Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar as the External Affairs Minister is evidently meant to deal with the choppy international waters that rock India’s sailing. Mr. Jaishankar has been a close confidant of Mr. Modi. He has his task cut out, as India faces challenges with its most important international partner, the U.S. The spillover effects impact the country’s interests in multiple ways, including its objectives of economic and technological advancement. By placing the two confidants in critical Ministries, Mr. Modi appears to loosen the grip of his own office on the government; the effects will be felt by National Security Adviser Ajit Doval if he

continues into a second term, as is widely expected. The triumvirate of Mr. Modi, Mr. Shah and Mr. Jaishankar will form the centre of power. Rajnath Singh as Defence Minister and Nirmala Sitharaman as Finance Minister are next in the pecking order. While the top layer of the Council is infused with fresh talent and is expected to generate new momentum, its representative character is skewed. It has only six women, one less than the previous one; the majority community and the Hindi heartland States have disproportionate representation. While Mr. Modi rewarded the upper caste groups that supported him wholeheartedly, the OBCs and Dalits who shifted to his party significantly in 2019 have had to be content with lower representation, at least for now. There is an argument that it is healthy that Mr. Modi does not bargain with caste, linguistic and region-oriented interests groups. Apna Dal leader Anupriya Patel from Uttar Pradesh was dropped; the Janata Dal (United) from Bihar was offered only one berth, which it refused to accept; and the Shiv Sena wanted at least three but has had to be content with one. As equations change, Mr. Modi might have to rethink these positions and there is scope to expand. A Council more representative in nature, in terms of gender, social and linguistic backgrounds and religion, will better reflect the mosaic that is India. -- The Hindu

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By Sanjaya Baru United States President Donald Trump’s trade policy action against India suggests the narrative of a Rising India may well have met its comeuppance. The action has been explained away by some as collateral damage with the main targets being China and the trade-surplus enjoying OECD economies, especially Germany and Japan. The Federation of Indian Export Organisations has estimated that only $6.35 billion worth of trade, out of a total bilateral trade of $51.4 billion, benefits from US trade preferences. India can absorb that shock. The point is not that. How is it “fair” for the world’s richest nation to target a poor one in the name of “fair trade”? India is a lower middle income developing economy and will remain so for the foreseeable future. According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the per capita national income (gross domestic product, GDP) of the US, in purchasing power parity (PPP) terms was US$62,606 in 2018, compared to $7,874 for India. Most European Union countries have a per capita income in the range of $40,000 to $50,000 and China’s PPP-adjusted per capita income is $18,110. Despite her low income, India remains an open economy. The share of external trade (exports plus imports) in national income is 40.7 per cent for India but only 26.6 per cent for the US. India does not hide behind high tariff walls, as charged by President Trump, since it has consistently run a trade deficit with the rest of the world. The US, too, has long run a trade deficit with the rest of the world, but for very different reasons and at a very different level of development. At any rate, the US conducts all its trade in its own currency that it prints at will. China, Japan and Germany are the ones that enjoy a trade surplus with the rest of the world. India has a trade surplus with the US, but Trump’s complaint on that count is like a rich man complaining that he always gives gifts to his poorer friends, and they never give him a return gift. India has, in fact, been a bearer of gifts of an-

other kind. It has exported several generations of highly talented professionals who have contributed to ensuring that the US remains a world leader in technology and knowledge-based businesses. A report prepared by the late K Subrahmanyam, as chairman of the Task Force on US Global Strategy: Emerging Trends and Long Term Implications (June 2006) made the telling point that the US has been able to sustain its global competitiveness in the knowledge-based sectors of the economy by accessing, among other things, the talent of successive generations of bright young Indians. Indian Americans are actively helping “Make America Great Again.” Part of the reason why India is at the receiving end of Trump’s trade tantrums is because he may have fallen into the trap we created of projecting India as a “Rising Power” and the “World’s Fastest Growing Economy”. In his rush to stop China in its tracks and get European and Asian allies to stand by him, Trump has mistakenly identified India as a target for corrective action. Apart from a couple of sectors, like pharmaceuticals, Indian industry does not pose a significant competitive challenge to US business. India’s trade surplus visà-vis the US, at a time when India has long grappled with a trade deficit vis-à-vis China, is more a comment on the challenge posed by China to the US in the Indian market, rather than one posed by Indian exporters to US producers. Till recently, it used to be suggested by international relations scholars that China is India’s most difficult foreign policy challenge. President Trump may well have

Indo-American News • Friday, JUNE 06, 2019 • Online Edition:

changed that to make the US India’s biggest foreign policy challenge. So what does one do? There are, to be sure, many areas where the US and India are still on the same page. But, India has her own national security and developmental concerns that sometimes require it to stand apart from the US. Trump has to be sensitised to this. To begin with, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar has to support a new dialogue process similar to what was undertaken in the run-up to the US-India nuclear deal and the subsequent cooperation in the fields of defence and intelligence-sharing. Much of the US-India Track Two dialogue over the past decade has remained stuck within a familiar groove in both capitals even as the focus of domestic politics has shifted in both countries. The dialogues of the past created a new relationship of trust in the post-Cold War era that seems to have since been damaged, and perhaps not just by Trump’s hasty actions. Renewed dialogue is necessary to regain trust. Trump needs to be convinced that helping India’s economic rise will be in the US’s interests in the long run. A more prosperous India will not only offer a bigger market for US exports but will also balance Chinese power in Asia. India’s policy of “multi-alignment”, as it has been put, should be welcomed by a US that is finding it difficult to manage its reduced clout in world affairs. Trump’s aggressive tactics can at best yield short-term dividends without offering long-term benefits for the US. A mutually beneficial relationship with India will, on the other hand, yield long-term strategic gains for the US. President George W Bush understood and accepted this view. It took President Barack Obama a full four years to arrive at this conclusion. Having wasted his first term neglecting India, Obama came up to speed in his second term. Hopefully, that will not happen with President Trump, who has an entire year of his first term waiting to be made better use of in re-building a difficultly created relationship of trust. Baru is Distinguished Fellow, Institute for Defence Studies & Analysis, New Delhi



June 06, 2019

How Indian Americans Came to Dominate the US Spelling Bee By Rithupar Pathy Washington DC: The 92nd Scripps National Spell bee yet again saw Indian-Americans dominate the stage. Between 2008 and 2018, no non-Indian had been crowned champions of the event. This year, with the exception of Erin Howard, seven of the eight champions crowned were of Indian Origin. And at the end of that round, all eight were still in contention, thus sharing the win. They are: Rishik Gandhasri, 13, of San Jose, Calif.; Erin Howard, 14, of Huntsville, Ala.; Saketh Sundar, 13, of Clarksville, Md.; Shruthika Padhy, 13, of Cherry Hill, N.J.; Sohum Sukhatankar, 13, of Dallas, Texas; Abhijay Kodali, 12, of Flower Mound, Texas; Christopher Serrao, 12, of Whitehouse Station, N.J.; Rohan Raja, 13, of Irving, Texas. The Spelling Bee is an annual event held by Scripps which tests middle schoolers of their spellings. The event was founded in 1925 and has since 1994 been nationally televised by the ESPN. Participants are expected to spell a given word in a stipulated period of time. They can also access hints such as the definition of the word to aid them to spell the word. How did an immigrant community forming barely one percent of the entire population come to

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The 2019 Spelling Bee had an unprecedented eight winners, sieven of which are South Asians.

dominate a nationally televised competitive event? The Spelling Bee has come to be seen as an essential part of the Indian-American experience. Preparation for the Bee becomes a family activity with parents and

siblings acting as coaches and assistant coaches. Success in the competition is seen to be a matter of prestige as many families spend thousands of dollars in registration and coaching to increase odds of success. Documentaries such as

Spellbound which documents the 1999 edition of the competition (which was won by Nupur Lala, an Indian American) too have played a part in raising the profile of spelling bees. Multiple feeder competitions

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and coaching services have arisen. The North South Foundation is an educational organisation which organises spelling bees solely for students of Indian Origin. It is also an unmissable fixture for those who wish to succeed in the National Bees. Similarly, the South Asian Spelling Bee organises its own Bee restricted to those with a south-Asian lineage and like the former is a must attend for those who wish to compete in the National Bees. Of the seven Indian winners in the 92nd edition, six had attended the South Asian Bee. Spellers who no longer eligible to compete due to age restrictions too remain a part of the ecosystem as mentors and coaches. The Sibling duo of Shourav and Sobha Dashari who were finalists of the Spelling Bee founded SpellPundit, a website focussed on training spellers for the Bee. The modules provided had 472,000 words and covered all but three words used by Scripps in the Spell Bee finals. Six of the Eight winners were also users of the SpellPundit website. Winners of the Spell Bee have gone on to have successful careers. Nupur Lala, went on to be a Neurologist as have many other spellers who have gone on to be admitted in Ivy Leagues and contributed in various fields from medicine to competitive poker. -Indian Express


June 06, 2019


World Cup 2019: Bumrah, Rohit and Chahal Give India Winning Start By Alagappan Muthu Southhampton (ESPN Cricinfo): India 230 for 4 (Rohit 122*, Dhoni 34, Rabada 2-39) beat South Africa 227 for 9 (Morris 42, du Plessis 38, Chahal 4-51, Bumrah 2-35) by six wickets Whoooooooosh. That’s the sound of ball beating bat. South Africa were not in control of nine of the first 12 balls that Jasprit Bumrah bowled. Crrrraaaccckkkkkk. That’s the sound of ball hitting bat. And breaking it. Kagiso Rabada made sure the entire world could hear it. But outside of that match-up, South Africa really had nothing to offer India. They’d lost Dale Steyn. They don’t know when Lungi Ngidi will be fit again. And they can’t ask AB de Villiers to come back. Meanwhile, the other team had the world’s best batsman, one of the bowlers of this generation, and two highly-skilled wristspinners. Essentially, this game was like an Angry Bird fighting Thanos. The impression hit home even further when Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav worked in tandem. From 78 for 2, it was quickly 89 for 5 as the revolutions those two put on the ball produced dip, drift and sheer magic. Rassie van der Dussen tried

Rohit Sharma hits a six, India v South Africa, Southampton, World Cup 2019, June 5, 2019

to reverse sweep his way out of trouble and was bowled. JP Duminy tried to play off the back foot, hoping to read the turn off the pitch. Out lbw. Even their captain, Faf du Plessis, couldn’t keep a slider from crashing into his stumps. South Africa were on a recovery missing from that point on and

though Chris Morris did rather well in the final overs, walloping 42 off 34 balls, the early damage was just too much. That is why Bumrah was the biggest influence in this game and watching him was a pleasure. The fast bowler’s glare tends to go down in history. But it’s even cooler when they smirk. It’s almost as if they’re telling the batsmen, “heh, is

it that easy to beat you?” Bumrah’s upper lip curled several times in his first over on World Cup debut. He had Quinton de Kock looking like a cardboard cut-out. Everything zipped past the edge and each time, the bowler just smirked. A wicket looked around the corner, except it was Hashim Amla

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who fell, caught at first slip, off the first ball he faced from Bumrah. Du Plessis walked in with four catchers behind him. The level of cricket at this World Cup is also a function of the pitches being rolled out (and maybe the 10.30am starts as well). Groundsmen all across England have been good enough to leave a little grass on the pitches - it was uneven in Southampton, resulting in several balls kicking up off a length - and that’s made the contest between bat and ball all the more compelling. So making runs here mattered. It signalled that you had the bottle to succeed. And Rohit Sharma showed plenty. A few of his 122 runs came off mis-hits. He was even dropped on 1 when Rabada was in the middle of a scary spell. But then, in the eighth over, he hit a glorious pull shot and never looked back. Braving through very difficult spells of fast bowling is a part of his game. “Couldn’t play my natural game,” Rohit said. “You have to play out and see what the ball was doing and take your time to play those shots. Certain shots that I love to play, I had to cut it down and make sure I play close to the body and make sure I leave as many balls as possible in the initial spell. Those are the basics that you had to do on a pitch like that.”



June 06, 2019

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Modifications to a Divorce Decree By Mala Sharma Either party in a divorce decree may seek to change child support or custody in a prior decree. The requirement to modify a decree is to show a material, substantial, and continuing change of circumstances. The burden to prove this test is upon the person who desires to change the decree. Circumstances that would necessitate a modification include moving to another state, significant changes in income, and problems relating to the care of the children. Modifications of final decrees of divorce are not simple and may become very difficult challenges to accomplish. It is best to have child support and custody confirmed in the final decree from the beginning. However, although more difficult to change after, it is a challenge to pursue. It is highly recommended to hire a qualified attorney to handle the modification of the decree. Custody terms are binding, yes, but it is still possible to petition for a change of the final decree of divorce. In many states and in Texas, this is considered a “modification” of the final decree of divorce. The determining factor that must be proven by the challenging party or the “movant” is a ‘material and substantial change’ in circumstances since the date of the prior order. Even if there is a change in income or other circumstance which is grounds for modifying a petition, a Court will


not order the change unless there is a showing of a substantial or significant change in circumstances. Usually, this is to not allow a repetition of the first trial or to subject all parties to the Court system once again. States generally require six months after the decree is signed by the judge before a party may petition for a modification of the decree. Even more so, some Courts make the burden of proof on the movant much higher if the petition is filed within only one year of the prior decree. Once the petition is filed, the movant’s behavior as a parent is extremely crucial to winning this fight and is under scrutiny. The movant must strive to be the best parent which includes: taking much interest and being active in the child(ren’s) school activities, school projects, after-school activities, sports, family and friend activities, supportive and thoughtful of college goals and other future goals, being on time with any child support payments, not missing any designated custody and visitation periods, getting the child(ren) to school and other activities on time, etc. All such efforts should be heavily documented through pictures, written records, and witnesses. This model behavior is critical in order to increase the possibility of achieving the modification. A Court will use this behavior to make a determination of the modification. Additionally, if the movant does not use this model behavior as solid proof for

the Court, the other parent will use any other behavior to prove their argument against you. Thus, if the movant does not strive to carry this model behavior, it will damage the efforts. It is critical to continue to have model behavior and document every step. It is best to seek a qualified attorney to handle modifications of divorce decrees. About the Author: Mala Sharma has been practicing family law and personal injury with her family at the Law Offices of Sharma & Associates, founded in 1997. Mala is Board member of the Houston Trial Lawyers Association, chair of the American Bar Association GP Solo and GP Solo YLD division, President Emeritus of the Houston Northwest Bar Association, and prior board member of the South Asian Bar Association. She is also a member of the Houston Bar Association. Mala has also been selected as 10 Best Attorneys by the American Institute of Personal Injury Attorneys, Top 40 Under 40 by the National Trial Lawyers, and also selected Texas Rising Star by Super Lawyers. This material is available for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. You should contact an attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular issue or problem. If you require advice or assistance, you may contact her at office number 281-893-8644 or by email at to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case.

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June 06, 2019


“Swami Vivekananda“ Play Was a True Intellectual 5-Hour Treat

Houston: “Swami Vivakananda”, a play about this most inspirational personality was staged at Stafford Civic Center, Stafford on Friday, May 31. It was a real intellectual treat presented by Nisha Mirani and Ajit Patel, the organizers of Manoranjan Inc. This five-hour presentation kept the audience fully involved, and glued to their seats, as the play was staged so beautifully that the time from 8:00 pm to past midnight to 12:45 am flew like minutes. Dr. Vikram Panchal & Saunik Vyak, the writer and director of the play, has woven the story of Swami Vivekanada (1863-1902), Hindu monk from India, a follower of the Indian mystic Ramakrishna, who played significant role in the growing Indian nationalism of the 19th and 20th century, reinterpreting and harmonizing certain aspects of Hinduism. The play highlights his views on religious integration and humanity Saunak Vyas, also the dialogue writer and lead performer with the group of ten artists, all from India, are creating a history in USA with their excellent performance, with

The cast and organizers of the “Swami Vivekananda” play gathered for a group photo.

such a dedication which reminds us about our culture, our heritage, our patriotism, importance of Veda and Bhagvad Gita, about greatness of Hinduism and our great Hindu country, and our traditions. Vivekananda is best known in

the United States for his groundbreaking speech delivered on 11th September 1893 in the World’s

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and called for religious tolerance and an end to fanaticism. He opened the floodgates of interest in Eastern thought. Today, Vivekananda is the modern face of Hinduism, that acknowledges and honors all traditions and world religions, encourages scientific inquiry, and stands for the unity of all existence. The play begin with a cene when Vivekananda arrived Chicago, and was planning to join the conference. Each subsequent scene helped in developing the story very beautifully, realistically. Each artist played his or her role perfectly. The excellent stage setting, light and music were also organized by these great performers. The word spoken by Vivekananda go deep into our hearts: “When the real history of India will be unearthed, it will be proved that, as in matter of religion, so in fine arts, India is the primal Guru of the whole world.”



June 06, 2019

Houston Durga Bari Drama Festival 2019 Outplays Previous Years

Scenes from two of the ten plays performed during the Houston Durga Bari drama festival during the weekend of May 25-26.

By Sanchali Basu Sugar Land: Houston Durga Bari Society (HDBS) takes pride in hosting the “Dipika Dasgupta Memorial” Bengali drama festival for the past 18 years. The festival attracts drama groups from all over the country. This year was no exception. Literature, dance, drama, music, art runs in the veins of Bengalis and in comparison with other Indian communities, drama particularly ranks high in Bengalis. This year’s festival boasted 10 plays over 2 days May 25-26 at the Sur Auditorium in the Durgabari complex. Odissi dance presentation by the Kalaangan School, and the ceremonial lamp lighting were part of the inauguration. The first day featured 5 plays. The first play, a production of the local Tagore Society of Houston, was predictably Tagore’s “TotaKahini.” It brought forward the harmful effects of the ever burdening system of “caged,” formalized

education, which holds relevance to date. “Ranaangan,” staged by the Detroit, Millits group, very effectively dealt with the inner battles of a woman photo journalist who has been covering war torn areas over the world and the conflicts with her partner who is also a journalist but cannot seem to understand her passion for being out in the field. She finds a new perspective when the fiancée of their editor, through her simplistic outlook encourages her to follow a more peaceful, compassionate lifestyle. “Mahua,” my personal favorite, was a unique musical ballad-like presentation by the DFW group. Based on ancient folklore, it was a very high energy dramatization of the predicament of a young gypsy girl who stole the heart of many a lover, affecting the livelihood of the gypsy tribe, ruled by her father. Grim circumstances ensued due to betrayal, respect and loyalty, leading to a very gripping ending. “Love Story #5” was a short and

sweet enactment of how life’s responsibilities and duties change the dynamics of a love affair from the exciting to the mundane, but still carries its charm in an old fashioned way. The presentation by “Ebong Theatrix” of Greater Washington, DC pulled at the heart strings of the immigrant audience who make a continuous attempt to stay connected to their homeland roots. “Beshya,” by “Brishchik” of Seattle, Washington brought the painful, real life story of Suzette Jordan, an Anglo Indian based in Kolkata, brutally gang raped on the streets of Kolkata, to life. It showed how the detestable, vile mentality of some men can make women react. It provided a very heavy dose of how women are still viewed by society, even in this day and age of “Women’s Rights.” The next evening started with a very refreshing, “Aabaar Chollo Gupi Bagha,” by CTBA of Austin. The children’s drama was a take-off on the legendary char-

acters Gupi Gayen and Bagha Bayen made famous by Satyajit and Upendra Kishore Ray. Every Bengali grows up with these magical powers possessing characters, solving every world problem. They have been assigned this time to deal with modern day environmental, political and war related issues and it is interesting to see how they came through with their amazingly scripted lines in rhyme. It was impressive to see second generation Bengalis memorize and render their lines in rhyme so impeccably. “Mukur,” audio drama by Friends of Boston included some local talent and cast a spell of suspense over the goings on surrounding the suicide of a woman. Interestingly, every family member at a get together celebrating the engagement of a couple seems to be mysteriously tied to this woman. What follows leaves the audience wondering. “Aamaar Hiyaar Majhe,” by Kathalay, Dallas played around the

fect reflection on humanity. Right from our childhood, we have been following the mantra of “Basudhybo Kutumbakam” i.e. the world is one family, “Atithi Devo Bhava” i.e. The guest is equivalent to God & we certainly believe kindness is a great virtue.” The success of this four-hour utsav was due to all the volunteers and members: Sujata & Jagat Sinha, Riya Sinha, Yagna Bhimavarapu, Basab & Tora Roy, Kusumita & Avik Sinha Roy, Sonali Khole, Anindita, Sachin bhai,

Sweta Jayaswal, Debasish & family, Suchona & Sayan Das, Roy Woo, Nilesh Thakkar and Vinni & Arun Verma, President of the Sita Ram Foundation. Dr. Sarita Mehta in her brief message, said, ‘Sow the seeds of Love’, expressing the need of Universal brotherhood, and the main essence of brotherhood is Love, which conquers everything.” Umajee recited devotional Bhajans and did the wonderful Geeta Path. Joy Baba Lokenath Foundation has a vision to create Divine tem-

guilty emotions of a radio jockey, who may have been involved in the mysterious death of a singer girl friend, who comes to haunt him through the radio waves. “Banarer Thaba,” by Swagata, Houston left the entire audience guessing when a family is provided with an ape paw which can grant 3 wishes. They did not realize at what cost those wishes will be fulfilled, and was very well enacted by the 4 cast members. “Mamonir Chhobi,” the concluding play by Ebong Theatrix, Washington DC was a nice interplay between an elderly lady and a younger maidservant, both forced to stay away from their children, and how the bond of loneliness connects the 2 characters. The festival was well organized with food stalls serving delicious snacks and dinner prepared by the HDBS kitchen crew. Stalls with saris, jewelry and free tea samples were very popular.

Joy Baba Lokenath Foundation Organizes 129th Tirodhan Utsav By Sarita Mehta H ouston : Joy Baba Lokenath Foundation organized the 129th Annual Tirodhan Utsav of Baba Lokenath Bramhachari to celebrate the cause of humanity on Sunday, June2nd, 2019 at Sitaram Foundation Hall. Subashish Ghoshal, the president of JBL Foundation in his introduction explained, “The word Lokenath consists of two part - Loke & Nath. Loke means people & Nath means Master so the complete

meaning of Lokenath is Lokeder Nath, i.e. Master of People. Lord Lokenath taught the lessons of humanity in his every promise to this world. Being the divine incarnation of the synthesis of Jnana, Karma, Bhakti & Ashtanga Yoga, Mahayogi Lokenath is the living essence and full embodiment of the universal religion of love & humanity.” Ghoshal further explained, “His incredible life, mastery level, teachings, and the magnitude and depth of his compassion are per-

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June 06, 2019


One Last Iftar at Indian Consulate for CG Anupam Ray

By Jawahar Malhotra H o u s to n : No sooner had the excitement abated over the inauguration the day before in New Delhi (on Thursday, May 30) of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to his second term than a section of the local Indian crowd gathered once again the next day - almost 36 hours later accounting for the time difference – to celebrate another important event: the iftar dinner, by now an annual tradition, at the Indian Consulate where there was excited conversation about Modi’s victory. Part of that exhilaration came from the elevation of former foreign secretary (2015-2018) Dr. Subrahmanyam Jaishankar to the post of Minister of External Affairs. Jaishankar had previously been the Indian Ambassador to the US from 2014-2015 and has a close professional relationship with current Indian Consul General Anupam Ray. Ray is slated to return to India later this year after his posting in Houston is over and he is excited about the possibility of working with Jaishankar again.

Clockwise from top left: Deputy Consul General Surendra Adhana welcomed the gathering; Latafath Hussain, the former president of the Indian Muslim Association of Greater Houston; Sharad Amin, the Hindu Svayamsevak Sangh USA Representative; Indian Consul General Anupam Ray.

This backdrop formed an air of farewell to the much-admired Ray (in a year-long series of farewell appearances at events) who had helped to institute the iftar dinner at the Consulate as a tradition over the past four years. “We will miss our Consul General, but hope that the new one will keep this tradition alive,” said Latafath Hussain, the former president of the Indian Muslim Association of Greater Houston who had worked with Ray to start the event. Ray responded that he knew he had been in his post long enough (usually a 3 or 4 year term) as he recognized most of the faces in the room! He later expressed confidence that another Indian Consulate may open in Dallas to handle the multitude of Indian nationals there and business opportunities for India. The first iftar dinner in 2016 was held at Ray’s home off Woodway on the westside and moved the next year to the large reception hall in the Consulate. Over 100 people attended the iftar on Friday, May 31 at the Consulate, with many non-Muslim friends and community activists

mingling with those breaking their fast. In contrast to last year, the speeches were kept to a minimum – aside from Hussain and Ray, Deputy Consul General Surendra Adhana spoke to welcome the gathering – and the call to prayer took most people upstairs to another hall set up for the purpose. Sharad Amin, a retired engineer and Houstonian who has now become the Hindu Svayamsevak Sangh USA Representative also spoke briefly. The delicious iftar dinner dishes were once again prepared by the housekeeping staff under the direction of Lali, the Consul General’s own housekeeper for the past 18 years, and they outdid themselves, as they have in many events in the past.

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Sri Kulkarni Campaign Kicks into High Gear with Group Meets By Jawahar Malhotra Sugar Land: It was hurriedly put together but even then about 30 people came out to meet the announced second-time candidate for Texas’ 22nd Congressional District held since 2009 by Republican Pete Olson. Sri Preston Kulkarni had made himself amply known to the Indian community during his run for office last year, but many in the room were getting a chance to meet him faceto-face for the first time and pepper him with questions for his run again in this election cycle. They were aware that in the last election in November 2018, the Democratic challenger and political neophyte Sri Preston Kulkarni came within 5% points of unseating Olson and the campaign received national attention for its unique attempt to drive minorities to voting booths. The meeting at Witty and Lubeena Bindra’s house on Saturday, June 1 was designed to erase any misconceptions and brainstorm how best to help Kulkarni through the months before the primary election next March. Witty Bindra spoke about the candidate’s background and turned to his co-hosts for the evening, Rajesh and Shalu Arora to expand on their efforts to help. Rajesh, an IT professional who now runs a Montessori business with his wife, has devoted most of his spare time to work with the Kulkarni campaign and arranged for this dinner meeting. In the past two years since he stepped into the limelight, Kulkarni’s story has become wellknown, at least in the South Asian community. He has tapped into the

imagination of populace of the gerrymandered 22nd Congressional District which meanders around like a twisting intestine from Pearland to south of Katy, the diversity of residents – 20 percent Asians, 25 percent Hispanic, 14 percent black and 41 percent white – is the greatest of any district in Texas. Kulkarni, 40, himself is the product of a Marathi father and a white mother, as are his three other siblings. He is a former State Department diplomat who has served in Iraq, Israel, Russia, Taiwan and Jamaica and speaks Hindi, Spanish, Mandarin, Hebrew and Russian. This mixed background and his ability to relate to people of many cultures has endeared him in the minds of people of District 22 and Fort Bend, 25 percent of whom are foreign-born themselves. And it has also captivated the increasingly suave and cosmopolitan professionals of all races who live there. Kulkarni innately understands that need and points to data that exemplifies just that. In the last election Asian voter participation jumped to 28 percent from only 6 percent four years earlier. He is counting on the diverse community to support him again in the 2020 election and outlined a series of steps that his race has to meet in order to achieve that. As a measure of success, he has already converted one prominent diehard Republican who was among the guests, into his corner.

The group of supporters who met with Texas Congressional District 22 hopeful candidate Sri Preston Kulkarni.

The fundraiser was hosted by Witty (left) and Lubeena Bindra and Rajesh (right) and Shalu Arora this past Saturday, June 1 at the Bindra residence.

Indo-American News • Friday, JUNE 06, 2019 • Online Edition:


June 06, 2019

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