Indo-American News May 24, 2019

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Friday, June 21, 2019 | Vol. 38, No. 20

Indo American News Published weekly from Houston, TX


Special Reports Community Briefs Local Politics South Asians in the News

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IACCGH 20th Gala

IMAGH’s Eid Milan: How Ideas Shape the World

US Ambassador to India Ken Juster (center) is presented with a “Texas” plaque by IACCGH President Swapan Dhairyawan (left), Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and IACCGH Executive Director Jagdip Ahluwalia.


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In a continuation from past years’ on its focus on religious tolerance and inclusion, this year, the IMAGH reached out to both Christian and Hindu Nationalists to show how people can co-exist and thrive.

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June 21, 2019


US Ambassador to India Keynote at IACCGH 20th Anniversary Gala By Manu Shah Houston: “Diplomacy, it is said, has no eternal friends, only eternal issues. That may be the case for other countries but in my 20 years of experience, the US and India share common interests and a genuine friendship,” said US Ambassador to India Kenneth Juster. Ambassador Juster was the Keynote Speaker at the IACCGH 20th anniversary gala held at the Hilton Americas on June 15th. In a brilliant address to about 850 attendees, he put a lens on the existing strong US-India ties as well as candidly acknowledged the “challenges and issues to confront” between the two nations. Ambassador Juster pointed out four future challenges India will have to face: managing the rise of China, countering terrorism, promoting economic growth and modernizing its military. He spoke of protecting a free and open Indo Pacific and “limiting the scourge of terrorism.” The US, he stated, wants to be a major partner in India’s economic growth and has given India STA 1 status– a license given “only to our closest allies” for the sale of high technology products. India, he noted, is projected to spend $150 billion on military modernization in the next decade. The US is keen to assist India’s efforts in building up its indigenous defense base and capabilities and major U.S. defense companies are in India producing components for complex defense systems. LyondellBasell CEO Bob Patel, who did the honors of introducing the Ambassador, described him as “eminently qualified and the right man at the right time.” He pointed out that Ambassador Juster’s appointment was unanimously confirmed in two months which is “lighting speed in Washington DC.” Prior to the introduction, Bob Patel emphasized Lyondell-

IACCGH leadership gathered on stage to cut a cake in celebration of the 20th anniversary.

IACCGH President Swapan Dhairyawan (left) and Executive Direction Jagdip Ahluwalia (right) presented a plaque to Ambassador Juster with Mayor Sylvester Turner (left) and posed with some of award winners.

Basell’s commitment to protecting the environment. Master of ceremonies and Chamber Past President Sanjay Ramabhadran welcomed the gathering which included several elected officials from the Federal, State and Local level. He drew attention to the “visionary leadership of the Chamber founders” and offered interesting figures about US-India trade ties. In 1999, when the Chamber was founded, trade between the US and India was pegged at 12 and a half billion dollars and unflatteringly described as “flat as a chappati.” Today, it’s a whopping 140 billion and growing exponentially. Texas accounts for about 15% of the trade while the Houston-India trade stands at $6.6

billion. An Executive Director who “lives and breathes” the Chamber” Jagdip Ahluwalia spoke of the Chamber’s efforts in helping Houston and India discover business opportunities but added that the Chamber is also about local job creation, investment in the local economy, connecting small & medium enterprises; professionals, and businesses to global corporations. As a member of the trade delegation led by Mayor Turner to India in 2018, Chamber President Swapan Dhairyawan highlighted the considerable bilateral trade contacts derived from this visit and the “durable friendships and strong economic impact” the mis-

sion would have in the Mayor’s Office, Greater Houston Partnership, Houston First, NASA, Houston Airport System and Station Houston. Consul General Dr. Anupam Ray, whose “accessibility has endeared him to the community,” appreciated the friendship between India and the US and said it was not “a transactional one but one based on trust.” Twenty years from now, India, he remarked, will be known as “a rich and powerful country, but should also be known as a kind, gentle and tolerant nation.” Spotlighting the outstanding contributions of community members, the Chamber presented Former Harris County Judge Ed Emmett and Dr. Durga Agrawal with

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the Lifetime Achievement Award. Council member Himesh Gandhi was honored with the Rising Star Award while the Business of the Year Award went to Hilton Americas, Houston. In a tribute to nurses, who form an integral part of the healthcare system, the Chamber presented the Trailblazers Award for Women in Nursing to Moani Thomas, a nurse who arrived on American shores 50 years ago and paved the way for many others and the twenty five year old IndoAmerican Nurses Association of Greater Houston whose President Accamma Kellel accepted on behalf of IANAGH. President Elect Tarush Anand, who described himself as a “second generation member,” – his father and uncle are longtime Chamber members, stated that his efforts as President would be directed at bringing in the next generation in meaningful ways to ensure the continuity of the Chamber’s relevance. The National Anthems were rendered by Serene Kaggal and Eesha Dhairyawan.An energetic dance by Infused Performing Arts and a Mashup sung effortlessly by Ishya Kachru formed the entertainment segment.

The audience appreciated Ishya Kachru’s Mashup performance as well as Bollywood dances from Infused Performing Arts.



June 21, 2019

IMAGH’s 10th Eid Milan Highlights How Ideas Can Shape the World By Jawahar Malhotra


OUSTON: Neither the heavy downpour nor the occasion of Father’s Day could dampen the spirits of the 500 invited guests who came to this year’s Eid Milan gala organized by the Indian Muslim Association of Greater Houston and held last Sunday, June 16 once again at the Marriott Hotel in Westchase. And once again, in a continuation from past years’ on its focus on religious tolerance and inclusion, this year, the IMAGH reached out to both Christian and Hindu Nationalists to show how people can co-exist and thrive. In an echo of last year’s presentation by Dr. Gary Branfman, the rabbi of the synagogue of Victoria, Texas; this year, the featured speaker was a former Marine, Richard McKinney, a veteran who had made several tour of duty in the Middle East. After he had returned to his hometown, Muncie, Indiana, McKinney explained how he was filled with rage against Muslims. “I had a hatred that was so deep and embedded in me,” McKinney said, “and planned to blow up the local mosque and kill 200 people.” He went to scout out the place and got into a discussion with the imam there, which was the beginning of his conversion to Islam. In two short years, he went from hatred toward Islam to become the head of the mosque. Now he goes around the

Top Left: Donors to the IMAGH Scholarship fund with Houston Community College Trustee Neeta Sane (second from right). Top right: 6-yearold Omar Patel who read the tiawat Quran, with emcee Shazia Khan

country to speak and said “people of faith should put your hands out together.” He story was featured on CBS’s Sunday Morning program in March by producer Josh Seftel. On the other side of the spectrum

was the chief guest Ramesh Bhutada, a staunch supporter of many Hindu causes and the national Vice President of the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh and advisor to the Board Hindus of Greater Houston. After the landslide





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gala was an effort to show the more moderate side of the BJP and assuage these fears. Continued on Page 5.

For a collage of the Gala, see pages 8-9.


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victory of the Bharatiya Janata Party in India and the rise of Hindu Nationalism, which has made many minorities – especially Muslims – uncomfortable and concerned for their rights, Bhutada’s presence at the




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June 21, 2019

Rajasthan’s Suman Rao Crowned Miss India


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Suman Rao (second from left) from Rajasthan has won the Femina Miss India World 2019 beauty pageant. (Source: Miss India/Twitter)

Mumbai: Suman Rao from Rajasthan has won the Femina Miss India World 2019 beauty pageant during a star-studded ceremony at Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Indoor Stadium in Mumbai. Miss India 2018, Anukreethy Vas from Tamil Nadu crowned her successor Rao as the Miss India 2019 in an emotional moment. Shivani Jadhav from Chhattisgarh clinched Femina Miss Grand India 2019 title and Shreya Shanker from Bihar won Miss India United Continents 2019 title during the grand finale of the beauty pageant on Saturday. Last year’s first runner up or Miss Grand India Meenakshi Chaudhary of Haryana also crowned her successor and so did Andhra Pradesh’s Shreya Rao Kamavarapu who was adjudged the second runner-up in 2018. She crowned Sanjana Vij from Telangana.

Twenty-year-old Rao, a college student, will represent India at Miss World 2019 in Thailand in December this year. “When you get yourself determined towards a particular goal in life, every single nerve and fibre of your body starts working into that direction for a victorious journey,” she said in an interview. The event was adjudged by Bollywood choreographer Remo D’Souza alongside actors Huma Qureshi, Chitrangada Singh, fashion designer Falguni Shane Peacock and Indian footballer Sunil Chhetri among others. The 20-year-old model was born on November 23, 1999. Suman also has the title of Miss India Rajasthan 2019 under her belt. And the gorgeous model is all set to represent India in the coveted Miss World 2019 that is going to take place in Pattaya, Bangkok in

the month of December 2019. Among the other titles announced at the ceremony, Maharashtra’s Vaishnavi Andhale was awarded the Miss Beautiful Hair title, Karnataka’s Aashna Bisht was awarded the Miss Beautiful Smile title. But the Miss India winner also won the title of Miss Best Ramp. One thing we absolutely agree with Rao is her Bollywood choices, in her profile for Femina Miss India 2019, Rao answered Ranveer Singh to be the sexiest man alive. Her favourite Bollywood actor is Shahid Kapoor. Rao has strong opinions when it comes to women empowerment and had earlier told TOI in her interactions, her advice to women was, “Self Believe, Never give up attitude and Being humble and supportive to help other women grow together.”

IMAGH’s 10th Eid Milan Highlights Continued from page 4 Bhutada explained that the HSS was primarily involved in character building of youth. “We wish to have an open dialogue contracry to what is projected in the media and foreign interests who want to keep communities separate,” he went on, adding, “The RSS and HSS want communal harmony among all religions.” “We cannot look backwards. India’s development cannot be complete without the development of minorities,” Bhutada said. He

then described how, four years ago, he was introduced to a young poor Muslim man, Arshad Shaikh, in the old part of Hyderabad and had agreed to help him financially. The young man went on to establish Kalam Center, a vocational training center for boys and girls and now has several branches and many enrolled students. When it was his turn to speak, the guest of honor Indian Consul General Anupam Ray called Bhutada’s inclusion in the gala and his acceptance to attend “most extraordinary”. He then expanded on


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the idea of India’s cultural heritage through stories that resonate in the Indian psyche like that of Kabir’s death or legend of Guru Nanak’s death. “Poverty, disease, internet, technology has no religion,” he declared. “Religion should unite all of us.” He then recited by heart the Preamble to the Indian Constitution, which prominently uses the word “secular” in the opening line. He used the occasion to bid goodbye as he is expected to leave for his next posting

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June 21, 2019


IMAGH’s 10th Eid Milan Highlights Continued from page 5 as soon as the Government decides what that will be. The IMAGH hosts presented him with a black Stetson as a farewell present. This year’s theme for the gala was “Strength, They Name is Woman” and a video presentation produced by Fateh Ali Chatur showed clips from speeches by Malala Yousafzal, the youngest Nobel Peace Prize winner speaking after receiving the award; Mother Teresa and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern speaking in Parliament after the recent massacre in a mosque there. Breaking the speeches up was a segment of entertainment by Indian flutist Pravin Godkhindi who was on the last leg of his 18-city US tour. He performed onstage accompanied by his son Sharaj and older brother Kiran on the tabla and the three had the audience in raptures and mesmerized with their mastery of the flute, adding to their repertoire some Bollywood numbers that they encouraged the audience to either sing along to or clap in beat. The IMAGH recognized an individual and organization for their community service: Tasnim Vada, a tireless volunteer who headed last year’s Milan and fashion show, was awarded the 2019 Latafath Hussain Award

for Exemplary Community Service and the Houston Chapter of Seva International, a volunteer group that helps people in distress through relief and rehabilitation. Accepting the award was Gitesh Desai, who earlier this year was awarded the Parvasi Bharatiya Award in India, the country’s highest civilian award. Shazia Khan, a RJ at Radio Dabang, was the evening’s emcee. Opening the program was 90 year-old Tyebji Shipchandler, affectionately known as “kaka” (Uncle); Sarah Shekhani on the US national anthem and Ismet Warsi the Indian and 6-year-old Omar Patel reciting the tilawat Quran. IMAGH President Munir Ibrahim made some welcome remarks and co-founder and past President Latafath Hussain added his special notes of welcome and thanks. One of the winners of last year’s IMAGH scholarships to three deserving students: Masooma Batool, spoke briefly of what she had been able to do with the award and her future goals. There were video messages from Paru McGuire, the enduring President of IMAGH’s sister organization for seniors, Club 65 who gave a quick rundown of its monthly activities and Mohammed Khan, President of SAYA geared to young people who spoke about that group’s work. This year’s dinner was catered by Nirvana restaurant, whose owner and master chef Salim Ahmed was at hand to supervise

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June 21, 2019

10th Annual G

Indian Muslim Association of Greater Houston

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June 21, 2019



Sunday, June 16, 2019 • Marriott Westchase, Houston

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June 21, 2019

‘Life After” Seminar Presents Strategies for Sustainable Income in Retirement By Pramod Kulkarni Houston: Among the major milestones in one’s life is retirement. Most retirees and soon-to-be Retiree’s desire to live a healthy and comfortable retired life, travel to exotic places on their bucket list, and spend quality time with family and friends. However, it is natural to feel anxious of whether their life savings will outlast theirs and their spouse’s lives and whether they are able to leave some legacy. This anxiety is exacerbated by the increasing turbulence in the geopolitical environment and the information overload from the internet economy. Share Our Secrets (SOS), in partnership with India House, organized a free educational program, which provided suggestions on how retirees and soon-to-be retirees may achieve some of their retirement goals. About 200 people attended the fifth in the series of “Life After” seminars: “Sustainable Income Stream for Retirement” on Sunday, June 9, 2019 from 4 to 6:30 pm at India House. Share Our Secrets (SOS) coordinator Atma Ram welcomed the gathering and provided a background on SOS. Ram described how SOS is an educational organization, which conducts a gamut of programs for educated young people to teach them skills that are not

Participants in the India House/SOS “Life After” seminar were Vipin Kumar (left), Mani Subramanian, Jaya Mittakanti, A.J. John, Anasuya Kabad, Mohan Kuruvilla, Randhir Sahni and Atma Ram.

taught in college curriculums and enabling them to succeed in their careers. SOS also conducts various community outreach events, on topics of interest to Houstonians, and specifically for seniors that could benefit them in their retired lives. Following Atma Ram, Col. Vipin Kumar (retired), Executive India House, explained how India House is a community center, which provides a myriad of services and activities, either free or at a highly discounted price, including Charity Clinic, Sareen Clinic, Yoga, Meditation, After School, Technology Classes for Seniors, Vedanta Study, Hindi Language, Sanskrit Language, Legal Consultations, Dance Classes, Cricket and informative/ educational seminars. India House, in partnership with Food Bank of Houston, has recently started a pro-

gram to distribute food to disadvantaged members of the community. Retirement planning experts, who participated in the seminar, included A. J. John, an insurance executive with Wheatstone LLC, who served as the emcee. The keynote speaker was Dr. Mohan Kuruvilla, Senior Professor of Practice at the University of Houston Bauer College of Business and current President of the Houston CPA Society. Participants in the Q&A portion with Dr. Kuruvilla were Anasuya Kabad, CFP® from Jaykay Wealth Advisors Inc, and Randhir Sanhi, a well known architect as well as a financial planner. Representing the financial planning consumer was Jaya Mittakanti, a retired business owner. Emcee A.J. John urged the audience not to depend on social secu-

rity as their main source of income. “There is no magic formula. You have to look at your sources of income and build savings and investments for retirement and look upon social security as an income supplement.” Dr. Kuruvilla presented a series of topics that prepped the audience for the panel discussion. “Retirement is expensive,” Dr. Kuruvilla explained at the outset. “We have to preserve our investments and make them grow. We also have to keep in mind how to maintain that income stream for our spouse. And don’t forget Uncle Sam. Taxes are going to be with you right to the grave.” Financial Planner Randhir Sahni, said “You need to know your assets -- what you have, where you have them and what return each asset is earning. The key is compounding

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your assets over time and getting a better growth rate.” Mrs. Mittakanti said, “While we were working and raising our children, it was difficult to focus on retirement planning. In my 40s, we decided to invest in instruments such as IRAs and REITS through the advice of a financial advisor.” Ms. Kabad said that in her firm’s financial practice we make sure to find out from our clients what is important to them regarding money. “It is not just sufficient money for comfortable day-to-day living, but it is about crossing items off your bucket list such as travel, spending time with family and friends, and even donating funds to a charity.” Over a period of 20 minutes, the panelists answered many specific questions relating to various financial instruments such as annuities and IRAs, particularly conversion of conventional IRAs to Roth IRAs which are not subject to minimum required distribution after age 70.5. In conclusion, Atma Ram urged the audience to provide feedback on the seminar so that the organizers could design future “Life After” seminars to suit the needs of the attendees. A feedback survey link was sent out to all seminar participants. Any other feedback, suggestions, and offers to support the outreach educational programs can also be sent to


June 21, 2019


Beauty Meets Perfection at Odissi Konark Festival in Houston Dr Sangeeta Saikia, MD Houston: The 3rd International Konark Festival concluded in Houston on Saturday, June 8 2019 at Wisdom High School. Dance, music and food of Eastern and Northeastern of India under one roof. This show was the first of its kind, a perfect showcase. More than 300 attendees thoroughly enjoyed this show which lasted over two and half hours. A short loss of time due to audio system malfunction did not deter the enthusiasm of the astute audience. Hindustani Flute by Pandit Parshuram Das, Sitar by Pandit Srinivas Koumunduri supported in Tabla by Shri Govind Shetty played Alap, Jod, Dhalla, Vandish with Tri-taal on Raag Yaman, for over twenty minutes set the tone and brought harmony to the environment. Dance program started with an Odissi repertoire called Surya Strutee. A perfect mangalacharan/ introduction worshipping Sun God, audience, and mother earth. Five artists from Odissi Academy performed this item with Yoga in Odissi theme. Batu was a group performance lead by world renowned Odissi dancer Mrs. Meera Das who came specifically for this show from India. Beautiful Manipuri classical

dance was performed by Dr Sohini Roy from Los Angeles, Dr. Rafia Rasu and Mrs. Rinku Bhatacharya. Superb costume and dance sequences based on Gita Govinda mesmerized the audience. Assam Folk dance Bihu – was a show stealer from Northeast of India. Houston ladies presented a well coordinated item within few days

of practice. Ms. Liga Vildare and Pandit Parshuram Das through violin and flute paid a tribute to Bharat Ratna Bhupen Hazarika and played a western number as well. Solo performance by Mrs. Veda Chowdury enchanted the audience with her Sattriya Classical dance from Assam, and the item was Dasa

Avatar of lord Vishnu. Dansuse Mrs Meera Das performed a solo item called Shree Rama Preyashi, This beautiful piece from Ramayana takes us to the time when Ravana in the disguised of a Sadhu abducts Devi Sita to his kingdom in Lanka and keeps her captive in the AshokaBana amidst heavy security, and

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Hanuman’s role in discovering Sita. Mrs Das was outstanding with portraying multiple characters. A fast paced duet full of vibrant energy was a Odissi Pallavi performed by students of Odissi Academy, Aarushi and Nishita. Grand finale was another spell binding duet by Guru Madhusmita Mohanty and Guru Ramesh Jena with Naba Rasa (Nine different expressions human emotions) from Ramayana. It was a feat where Beauty Meets Perfection in Odissi Classical Dance, perhaps the best show in Houston. Entire audience appreciated with a standing ovation. Finishing touch was Festival of Food from East and Northeast of India. Families in Houston cooked 19 varieties of food from Assam, Bengal, Manipur, and Odisha. This program was organized by Odissi Academy, a 501.c.3 organization dedicated to promote Indian Classical Dance and Music in Houston, with supported by City of Houston through Houston Arts Alliance. The City of Houston has continuously provided an opportunity to artists all over the world to perform in Houston to create a cultural diversity in the region. Please visit for further information, and also stay tuned for next years performances. Photographs courtesy Johnathan Ross.



June 21, 2019

Justice Hegde Lauds Narendra Modi’s Win at FIS Distinguished Lecture Houston: India’s former Supreme Court Justice Santosh Hegde praised the reelection of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the recent general elections, saying it was perhaps more due to the personal popularity of Mr. Modi than necessarily the appeal of his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Justice Hegde spoke at the Foundation for India Studies (FIS) Distinguished Lecture Series on Saturday, June 8 at Madras Pavilion. Disillusioned by corruption in India, Justice Hegde said he had voted NOTA (None of the Above) in previous elections, but he did cast his vote in this general election. Hegde gained his reputation as a fighter against corruption when he exposed a mining scam in the state of Karnataka, implicating three chief ministers, in his role

FIS Director, Harshit Krishna Marepalli (left), Mrs. Sharada Hegde, former Justice of Supreme Court of India, Santosh Hegde (speaker), FIS Chair, Krishna Vavilala, Event Chair, Hiren Sarma and Directors Nish Bhan and Dr. Ritu Patel.

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role as the Lok Yukta (People’s Defender). FIS Founder Krishna Vavilala introduced Justice Hegde and described various FIS activities, including the launching of India Studies at the University of Houston, and the oral history project in association with the Houston Public Library. Vavilala said the library has archived more than 60 interviews with first-generation Indo-Americans in the Houston area. In his remarks, Justice Hegde cites the last five years of the Modi government as being essentially corruption free as opposed to the series of scams that had plagued the previous Congress governments. Hegde also praised the strong military actions India has taken recently against terrorism.

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June 21, 2019


A 6-year-old Girl from India Dies after Crossing the US-Mexico Border

Houston: On the day she died, the little girl was thousands of miles away from the country where she was born. US Border Patrol agents found her remains this week in an area officials describe as “rugged desert wilderness,” 17 miles west of Lukeville, Arizona. In a statement Thursday, US Customs and Border Protection said the deceased child was believed to be a citizen of India, and that she had been traveling in a group reportedly dropped off near the border “by human smugglers who ordered the group to cross in the dangerous and austere location.” An Arizona medical examiner said Friday that 6-year-old Gurupreet Kaur had died of hyperthermia. Temperatures in the area where agents found her remains Wednes-

of a larger trend. “There has been a pretty significant increase in general in migrants coming from other continents. It’s not just Indians, says Jessica Bolter, a research assistant at the Migration Policy Institute who tracks migration patterns at the border.

An increase in Indian nationals and other migrants from outside the Western Hemisphere illegally crossing the US-Mexico border has been “an emerging trend for the past few years,” a Department of Homeland Security official told CNN.


6pm, Tuesday, July 9

A US border security agent questions illegal immigrants at the southern border.

day hovered around 108 degrees. Her death highlights a rarely discussed reality that’s been playing out at the US-Mexico border in recent years: A growing number of migrants from

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India have been crossing there. The number of Indian nationals apprehended at the Southwest border has been steadily climbing, and sharply increased last year, according to Border Patrol statistics. In the 2018 fiscal year, 8,997 people from India were apprehended at the Southwest border -more than triple the number from the year before, when 2,943 Indian migrants were apprehended. That’s still a small percentage -- about 2% of the overall number of migrants apprehended at the Southwest border in fiscal year 2018. The clear majority of migrants apprehended at the border came from Latin American countries, largely from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. But the increase in Indians apprehended is notable. And it’s part

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The apprehensions of migrants from Bangladesh at the southwest border also increased significantly

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June 21, 2019

Chennai, India’s Sixth Biggest City, is Almost Entirely Out of Water Chennai (CNN): The floor of the Chembarambakkam reservoir is cracked open, dry and sun-baked. About 25 kilometers away, in Chennai, India’s sixth largest city, millions of people are running out of water. Chembarambakkam and the three other reservoirs that have traditionally supplied Chennai are nearly all dry, leaving the city suffering from an acute water shortage, said Jayaram Venkatesan, an activist in the city. Due to an inability to collect sufficient rain water combined with low groundwater levels, the Tamil Nadu state government has been struggling to provide water to resi-

Srini Swaminathan, who took this s photograph of Chembarambakkam reservoir from a plane, told CNN: “I have been living here since 1992 and have never seen anything like this before.”

dents. With the reservoirs dry, water is being brought directly into Chennai neighborhoods in trucks. Every day, hundreds of thousands of residents have no choice but to stand in line for hours in soaring summer temperatures, filling dozens of cans and plastic containers. Suresh Subburaman, a resident of Chennai and owner of the Nivis Kitchen hotel, has been struggling to keep his business afloat. “We are open and we are somehow functioning. But we are running at a no-loss, no-gain situation. This is our only business. We have no other option. We have to run it,” said Subburaman.

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“Earlier the water would come every day at home. Now, we get it every three to four days. We store the water in a small tank or 20-liter plastic pots at home,” said Subburaman whose home is in Egattur neighborhood on the southern outskirts of Chennai. Senthilsaravanan lives in the Navalur suburb of Chennai and pays about 6000 rupees ($86) every other day for a tanker to deliver water to his hotel, Quality and Taste. The private tankers come from the outer areas of Tamil Nadu state which is not suffering shortages. But the demand is so high they cannot supply on time, Senthilsaravanan said.


Gandhiji’s Story Thus Far…

Last week, we read about the birth and youth of the young boy Mohandas, who would grow up to be universally revered as the Mahatma. He had an ordinary childhood, went to school, made friends, and got a rude awakening into the dreaded social specter of the caste system. This week, we continue the story of Gandhi ji. Upon completion of high school, Mohandas enrolled at Samaldas College at Bhavnagar. He was discontent with the classes; they did not stimulate or engage him, so he returned home after the first ten days. At home, a huge surprise awaited him. His eldest brother and a family friend suggested that Mohandas should go to England to study and become a barrister. Mohandas was thrilled. His mother, however, disapproved. She did not like the idea of her son being so far away from her. There were also the financial implications. And she was fearful that he would lose his caste if he crossed the oceans, an age-old taboo against overseas travel among the high caste Hindus. The family friend assured her that there would be no such difficulty. She had reservations and talked to him about it. She worried that he would eat meat, imbibe alcohol, and fall victim to bad influences. Mohandas vowed to do none of those, and pled with her to be permitted to go. Putlibai at last gave in. Mohandas was sorrowful when he left Rajkot for Bombay, because he had to leave behind his mother, his wife, and son Harilal, who was only

June 21, 2019

The Extraordinary Life and Times of Mahatma Gandhi - Part 2

Gandhi in England

a few months old. On September 4, 1888, Mohandas left Bombay to set sail for England. Dressed in western style, he stood on the deck as the ship slowly steamed out of the harbor. Mohandas never forgot his first morning on board. He felt uncomfortable in his black suit and shirt and tie. He was quite sure that Indian attire was more suitable. A glance in the mirror made him feel proud of himself. He thought he looked very impressive. Mohandas was shy. He rarely left his cabin. He even ate by himself. He was not sure of all those unknown foods served on the ship. He thought they might contain meat and did not wish to break his vow to his mother never to eat meat. So he lived mainly on the snacks and sweets he had brought from home. On landing at Southampton, he looked around and saw that all the people were in dark clothes, wearing

bowler hats and carrying overcoats. Mohandas was embarrassed to find that he was the only one wearing white flannels. In London, he stayed at first at the Victoria Hotel. Dr. P. J. Mehta, a friend of the Gandhi family, was the first to meet him. Mohandas was impressed with Dr. Mehta’s silk top hat. Out of curiosity, he reached out and touched the pile of the silk. Dr. Mehta then gave him his first lesson in European manners cautioning him not to touch other peoples’ things. He advised Mohandas to never ask too many probing questions, and not to talk loudly. Young Gandhi found everything around him strange. He was homesick. He almost starved until he discovered a vegetarian restaurant. Struggling to learn western manners and customs, he rented a suite of rooms. He bought well-tailored clothes and a top hat. He spent a lot of time before the mirror, parting his straight hair and fixing his tie. He took lessons in dancing, but soon gave it up as he had no sense of rhythm. He tried his hand at playing the violin, but failed. He took lessons in French and elocution. His attempt to be an Englishman lasted about three months. Then he gave up and converted himself into a serious student. “I have changed my way of life,”

he told a friend. “All this foolishness is at an end. I am living in one room and cooking my own food. Hereafter I shall devote all my time to study,” he said. His meals were simple. He avoided expenditure on transport and went on foot everywhere. He kept an account of every penny he spent. Mohandas joined the London Vegetarian Society and soon found himself in its executive council. He wrote articles for the magazine, Vegetarian. The bar examination did not require much study and Gandhi had ample time to spare. Oxford or Cambridge was not possible as study at those institutions would entail long course work and much financial resources. He therefore decided to appear for the London matriculation examination. It meant hard work and sacrifice, but he enjoyed hard work. He passed in French, English, and chemistry but failed in Latin. He tried again, and this time passed in Latin too. Meanwhile, he progressed in his study of law and in November 1888 was admitted to the Inner Temple. It was the tradition of the Inns of Court for the students to dine together at least six times each year. The first time Gandhi dined with his fellow students, he was nervous. He was sure the boys would tease him for refusing meat and alcohol. When wine

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was offered, he refused to have any. He did not touch the meat either, quite content with his bread, boiled potatoes and cabbage. He was pleasantly surprised to find that his strange habits did not make him unpopular. The next time he went for the dinner, he had a pile of law books with him. He was taking the books to his room to study. The other students were amazed by his dedication to learning and very surprised to find him reading Roman law in Latin. Some friends suggested he read abbreviated versions of the law instead of bothering unduly over such tomes. Gandhi explained to his lighthearted friends that he worked so hard for sheer interest in the subject, and that he wanted to acquire knowledge for its own sake. After a short trip to France, he prepared for the final law examination. The results were soon declared. He had passed with high marks. On June 10, 1891, Gandhi was called to the bar. He was admitted as a barrister and the next day was formally enrolled in the High Court. The following day, June 12, he sailed for India. Gandhi’s three-year stay in England was eventful. Those were days of great intellectual activity, and there was tolerance for every school of thought. The country as a whole was a living university. As Gandhi sailed for home on the S.S. Assam, he felt that, next to India, he would rather live in England than any other place in the world. -To be continued next week...

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June 21, 2019

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