Indo-American News: June 23, 2023

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Indo-AmerIcAn news • FrIdAy, june 23, 2023 • Indo American News 2470 Dairy Ashford, Houston, TX 77077 • 713.789.NEWS (6397) • Special Reports Community Briefs Local Politics South Asians in the News Published weekly from Houston, TX W E D D I N G S , S P E C I A L E V E N T S , T E N T E D E V E N T S , O U T D O O R C O U R T Y A R D 3 3 3 0 F M 1 4 6 3 | K a t y , T X 7 7 4 9 4 | 8 3 2 . 8 5 5 . 5 5 2 0 | p a l m r o y a l v i l l a . c o m Friday, June 23, 2023 | Vol. 42, No. 25 $1
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IYD : Houston to Himalayas Hindu Youth Conference P3 P11 P9 India & USA: Now Bhai, Behen? P2
First Lady Jill Biden shares moment with India’s PM Modi and President Joe Biden.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi Begins State Visit to USA

Washington DC: President Biden rolled out the red carpet on Thursday morning to formally welcome Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India to the White House for a pomp-filled state visit intended to woo the world’s most populous nation at a time of conflict with Russia and rising tension with China.

Mr. Biden celebrated India’s rise with a lavish display of friendship marked by marching bands, honor guards and a multigun salute on the South Lawn, to be followed by an Oval Office meeting and a gala state dinner. Mr. Modi agreed to join Mr. Biden in the East Room to meet with journalists and will also address a joint session of Congress in the afternoon.

The visit represents the latest move on the geopolitical chess board as Mr. Biden seeks more allies against increasingly aggressive governments in Moscow and Beijing. India, which remained nonaligned during the Cold War, has refused to join the American-led coalition aiding Ukraine in its war against invading Russian forces. And while it shares a certain enmity for China, it has not fully subscribed to Washington’s strategy for dealing with the Asian giant.

The two leaders plan to announce a long list of initiatives advancing cooperation on telecommunications, semiconductors, artificial intelligence and other areas, according to administration officials. Mr. Modi intends to sign the Artemis Accords, a set of principles governing peaceful exploration of the moon, Mars and other celestial bodies, and the two will announce a joint mission to the International Space Station in 2024.

Among the most concrete agreements to be announced, officials said, will be a deal between General Electric and the state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited to manufacture in India F414 engines used to power the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet. The two sides will also announce that India will proceed with a long-stalled $3 billion purchase of MQ-9B Predator drones from General Atomics.

The military hardware sales may help continue to wean India off Russian arms suppliers, but otherwise officials previewing the visit offered no indications that Mr. Modi would move closer to backing Ukraine in the war, nor were there any concrete examples of increased cooperation to counter China’s assertive moves in the Indo-Pacific region.

Administration officials suggested the meeting was just one step in an evolution of India’s stance on the Ukraine war, part of what they characterized as “bending the arc of India’s engagement,” so New Delhi can be helpful in encouraging diplomacy when the time for negotiations eventually arrives -Peter Baker in The New York Times.

Indo-AmerIcAn news • FrIdAy, june 23, 2023 • June 23, 2023 2 US-INDIA
PM Modi greets Indo-Americans upon arrival in New York. Tesla, Twitter and SpaceX founder Elon Musk meeting with PM Modi.

International Yoga Day 2023: Sessions from Houston to the Himalayas

neW York: Yoga is an ancient physical, mental and spiritual practice that originated in India. The word ‘yoga’ derives from Sanskrit and means to join or to unite, symbolizing the union of body and consciousness.

Today it is practiced in various forms around the world and continues to grow in popularity. Recognizing its universal appeal, on 11 December 2014, the United Nations proclaimed 21 June as the International Day of Yoga by resolution 69/131.

The International Day of Yoga aims to raise awareness worldwide of the many benefits of practicing yoga. The draft resolution establishing the International Day of Yoga was proposed by India and endorsed by a record 175 member states. The proposal was first introduced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his address during the opening of the 69th session of the General Assembly, in which he said: “Yoga is an invaluable gift from our ancient tradition. Yoga embodies unity of mind and body, thought and action ... a holistic approach [that] is valuable to our health and our well-being. Yoga is not just about exercise; it is a way to discover the sense of oneness with yourself, the world and the nature.”

The resolution notes “the importance of individuals and populations making healthier choices and following lifestyle patterns that

foster good health.” In this regard, the World Health Organization has also urged its member states to help their citizens reduce physical inactivity, which is among the top ten leading causes of death worldwide, and a key risk factor for non-communicable diseases, such as cardiovascular diseases, cancer and diabetes.

Prime Minister Modi led the IYD 2023 at the United Nations in New York at the beginning of his state visit to the United States. The session that also marked efforts to take yoga to a global stage was attended by top UN officials and diplomats.

Hollywood actor Richard Gere, New York mayor Eric Adams, musicians Ricky Kej and Falguni Shah, storyteller Jay Shetty, and popular chef Vikas Khanna are among those who joined the session today. With citizens of at least 135 countries taking part in the yoga session, it set a new Guinness World Record for people of most nationalities doing yoga together.

“Yoga is free from copyright, patent, royalty. It is flexible, you can practice alone or in a group, or learn from a teacher or be selftaught. It is unifying and truly universal. It is for all ethnicities, faiths and cultures,” PM Modi told the gathering.

In Houston, yoga sessions were held throughout the city, including Discovery Green in downtown, The Woodlands and India House.

Indo-AmerIcAn news • FrIdAy, june 23, 2023 • June 23, 2023 3 IYD 2023
Prime Minister Narendra Modi leading IYD 2023 session at the United Nations IYD 2023 yoga session at Houston’s Discovery Green.

Devastating Cyclone Biparjoy Storms through Gujarat

Sewa Seeks Aid for Cyclone Victims

ManDvi: A man and his son died in India’s Gujarat state as they attempted to save their livestock in the region hit by cyclone Biparjoy, officials said today.

The longest cyclone to have struck the Arabian Sea, Biparjoy knocked out power in nearly 1000 villages and threw shipping containers into the sea in western India before moving to Pakistan where lashing winds and rain are expected to strike a part struck by devastating floods last year.

The storm made landfall a night earlier, packing windspeeds of 85 kph (53 mph), gusting up to 105 kph (86 mph) through the coastal regions of western India’s Gujarat state. Pakistani authorities were on high alert after evacuating 82,000 people.

The eye of the cyclone, which was churning across the Arabian Sea for more than 10 days, was located around 20km southwest of Jakhau port, 120km northwest of Devbhumi Dwarka and 50 km west-southwest of Naliya, reported Press Trust of India.

Recent studies show cyclones in the Arabian Sea are getting stronger and wetter as the sea surface temperature increased by 1.2C to 1.4C in recent decades.

Over 100,000 people who had sheltered from Cyclone Biparjoy in relief camps in western India have begun to return home after the storm weakened and headed toward Pakistan, officials said Saturday.

In the coastal village of Jakhau, where the cyclone made landfall in

India’s Gujarat state on Thursday, over 130 people had shifted back to their homes from a governmentrun shelter by midday Saturday.

India’s powerful home minister, Amit Shah, was expected to visit the village later Saturday and take stock of the situation.

Officials said electricity had been restored in many villages but some were still without power. After the landfall, the cyclone uprooted trees and electricity poles in hundreds of villages along the coastal regions of Gujarat.

“It was very scary and we expected huge damage,” said Amad, a trader who rents boats to fishermen in Jakhau and only uses one name. “But thankfully nature’s wrath was somewhat lighter than we anticipated.”

houston: Gujarat is currently facing the devastating aftermath of Cyclone Biparjoy. The impact has been severe, with over 940 villages experiencing power outages, hundreds of trees uprooted, and the unfortunate loss of thousands of animals and birds. The National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) has successfully evacuated over 40,000 individuals from the affected regions. The consequences of the cyclone are visible in Kutch, where approximately 80,000 electricity poles have collapsed, and more than 50,000 hectares of farmland have been affected, damaging recently sown crops. Gujarat has received an astonishing 55% of the season’s rainfall within just two weeks. Sewa International, as part of our interventions, provides immediate relief and support to the affected communities in Gujarat. We are distributing food kits to ensure healthy meals during this

difficult time. Additionally, we are serving cooked meals to those in need. Understanding the importance of basic amenities, we provide essential clothes and hygiene items to help individuals rebuild their lives. Furthermore, we are setting up repairing houses to provide a safe shelter for those who have lost their homes. We aim to bring stability and hope to the affected communities, one step at a time.

However, we can make a difference by joining local and government forces in their efforts to provide relief. Your generous donation will aid those affected in rebuilding their lives and finding hope amidst the wreckage. Together, we can provide relief, restore communities, and uplift those in need. Please consider supporting the relief efforts by donating today. Visit https://sewausa. org/SupportCycloneBiparjoyReliefEfforts to contribute.


Indo-AmerIcAn news • FrIdAy, june 23, 2023 • June 23, 2023 5 IN MEMORIUM
Indo-AmerIcAn news • FrIdAy, june 23, 2023 • June 23, 2023 6

A Different Kerala Story: Young Girls Being Killed for Rejecting Relationships

thiruvananthapuraM: On the late evening of June 16, 2021, C

K Balachandran, a resident of Perinthalmanna in Kerala, received a disturbing phone call. He was informed that his wholesale toy shop in the town had been set on fire. He hurried to the location and discovered that more than half of the shop was engulfed in flames. The fire department worked for several hours to extinguish the fire.

Still reeling from the shock, Balachandran received another phone call the next morning, this time from his home. He learned that his elder daughter, Drishya, had been brutally stabbed. His younger daughter, who was only 13 years old, was also injured while trying to protect her sister. Neighbours rushed both girls to the hospital. Balachandran immediately made his way to the hospital, only to receive the devastating news that Drishya had succumbed to her injuries.

Twenty-one-year-old Vineesh Vinod, an old schoolmate of Drishya, was arrested for both the cold-blooded crimes that sent shock waves across the village. According to the police, he murdered Drishya for breaking up with him and rejecting his proposal. Drishya was pursuing a degree in law at the Nehru College, Ottappalam, in Palakkad district.

According to Balachandran, Vineesh had been stalking Drishya

for six months prior to the brutal murder.

“A few months ago, he came to my shop and told me that he wanted to marry my daughter. When I asked Drishya about it, she told me that she had broken up with him and was not interested in marriage,” says Balachandran.

However, Vineesh did not stop there. The local truck drivers noticed Vineesh moving around Drishya’s house in the wee hours three days prior to the murder. They caught him and informed Balachandran. “We went to the police station and filed a complaint against him for stalking. My daughter herself prepared the complaint, but she insisted on not pressing charges. Later, I realised that she might have been scared of him,” says Balachandran.

Drishya changed her SIM card, but Balachandran and his wife had no clue why she changed her SIM card before her death. According to the police, she was scared of his constant stalking and harassment.

The police filed the chargesheet on the 57th day of the murder. The trial is yet to begin. Vineesh attempted a jailbreak and also tried

to commit suicide, twice. He was admitted to the mental health centre for a few months. According to the police, he is fit for trial though he has shown signs of mental health problems.

Seventeen-year-old Devika, a 12th grade student in Ernakulam, Kerala, was burned to death in the wee hours on October 9, 2019, at her home. Twenty-four-year-old Midhun allegedly knocked on the door and barged into their house, poured petrol over Devika and set her on fire. Shalan, Devika’s father, also suffered serious burns while trying to save his daughter. Devika succumbed to her injuries. Midhun also was engulfed by the fire and succumbed to burns. Devika’s mother, Molly, and the younger sister ran away and survived.

A few days prior to his daughter’s death, Shalan had filed a complaint against Midhun for stalking and harassing her. He alleged that the police did not take action on

his complaint.

“Three days before she died, he followed her on his bike. She was scared and ran into a shop nearby. It was only then that I came to know about him and their relationship. She told me that she had broken up with him a few months ago, and he had been harassing her ever since. I quickly took her to the police station and filed a complaint. The cops called him and just warned him, but did nothing else,” says Shalan. With a sense of bitterness he says he would not have lost his daughter if the cops had acted on his complaint.

Drishya and Devika belong to a long list of victims who have succumbed to toxic masculinity in the name of ‘love’. India has recently witnessed a spike in the number of crimes in which girls/women have been subjected to brutal violence by men who claim to be lovers. Recently, a 16-year-old girl was stabbed to death in Delhi in full view of the people on the street. The 21-year-old assailant, who claimed to have had a ‘relationship’ with the girl, according to media reports, killed her because he was angry that ‘she talked to other men’. Both of them report-

edly had heated arguments a few days prior to the murder.

On November 7, 2022, 21-yearold Shilpa Jharia was murdered at a resort in Jabalpur allegedly by her ‘boyfriend’ who later posted a video on the social media displaying her blood-smeared body. The man who appeared in the video with a fake name, Abhijit Patidar—his actual name is Hemant Bhadaude—warned her ‘not to cheat’. On March 17, 2023, Dharani, a 19-year-old nursing student was murdered at Villupuram in Tamil Nadu in the same way Shilpa was murdered. Her ex-boyfriend allegedly slit her throat for breaking up with him. The assailant, 23year-old Ganesh, was arrested for the murder.

According to the police, Dharani ended her relationship as she found out that he was using drugs. On that fateful day, he contacted her and she lied to him that she had returned to Chennai where she was pursuing her studies. But when Ganesh found out that she was at home, he went to her house and stabbed her.

Neither the National Crime Records Bureau nor the state bureaus have separate data of these heinous crimes in which girls have been killed for saying “No” to boys.

“We have no separate data on such crimes. It comes under the category of ‘homicide’,” says an officer with the State Crime Records Bureau of Kerala.


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Indo-AmerIcAn news • FrIdAy, june 23, 2023 • June 23, 2023 7
Indo-AmerIcAn news • FrIdAy, june 23, 2023 • June 23, 2023 8 COMMUNITY MENTAL ILLNESS IS NOT A CRIME In partnership with The Harris Center and law enforcement, the District Attorney’s Office ensured 4,000+ mentally ill, non-violent offenders received mental health treatment instead of going to jail. If someone you know is experiencing a mental health crisis, please call Harris Center for Mental Health at 1-713-970-7000

EDUCATION Sri MTS to Host NextGen Hindu Youth Leadership Convention

pearlanD: The first, inaugural NextGen Hindu Youth Leadership Convention, hosted and sponsored by the Sri Meenakshi Temple Society, Hindus of Greater Houston, and the Hindu Temple of The Woodlands, will ignite the potential of Hindu youth through a full-day event featuring esteemed speakers, engaging panels, and valuable networking opportunities. This free convention, tailored for Hindu youth aged 17 to 45, will include an impressive lineup of accomplished guest speakers and aims to inspire personal and professional growth, foster community connections, and strengthen cultural pride.

Set against the stunning backdrop of the Sri Meenakshi Temple, this transformative event will take place on July 29th, commencing at 9 AM and concluding with an evening reception and networking dinner from 5 PM to 7:30 PM. Attendees can look forward to an immersive experience that encourages learning, community building, and personal development.

Renowned speakers, both local and international, will share their expertise, insights, and personal journeys to inspire attendees. Attendees will have the opportunity to hear from distinguished guest speakers who have made significant contributions to their fields. The convention will feature enlightening panel discussions on Spirituality, Hindu Advocacy, Holistic Health, and Entrepreneurship, guiding participants to explore the significance of

these topics in contemporary life. These sessions will equip Hindu youth with the tools and knowledge to make a positive impact within their communities and find a sense of belonging with one another.

Hon’ble D.C. Manjunath, Consul General of India in Houston, will share his wisdom and insights on fostering cultural connections and empowering the youth. Suhag Shukla, Executive Director of the Hindu American Foundation, will enlighten participants with her expertise on Hindu advocacy, advocating for Hindu rights, and creating a more inclusive society. Pooja Jesrani, Flight Director at NASA, will be discussing her experience when preparation meets opportunity.

Joseph Emmett, Director of the Vedanta Institute, will delve into the profound teachings of Vedanta and how they can enrich lives.

Professor Shobita Parthasarathy from the University of Michigan will provide valuable insights into the intersection of Hinduism and contemporary society. The convention will also feature pan-

el discussions on Spirituality and Hindu advocacy, with Madhu Vasudevan and Rajiv Pandit serving as moderators, respectively.

Sanjay Ramabadran, Chairman of Houston Metro Transit, will lead the panel discussion on Entrepreneurship. The panel will also include esteemed entrepreneurs Partha Chatterjee from Shell Energy and Eddie Stern, Director at the Yoga Institute in New York, who will provide valuable insights and strategies for aspiring entrepreneurs. Furthermore, the convention is honored to have Hon’ble Judge Arun Subramanian, a Federal Judge in New York as well as Arun Venkataraman, Assistant Secretary at the US Department of State, joining as guest speakers.

The distinguished Professor Vasudha Narayanan from the University of Florida and Jodi Bernstein from Interfaith Ministry will share their wisdom and perspectives on the significance of Hindu temples and interfaith dialogue and collaboration. Last but not least, Kalyan Viswanathan, President of the Hindu Uni-

versity of America, will inspire participants with his insights into the importance of education and lifelong learning.

An integral part of the convention is the dedicated networking reception, allowing attendees to connect with like-minded individuals, potential mentors, and professionals from various fields. This vibrant atmosphere will encourage the formation of meaningful relationships and create a supportive network for ambitious Hindu youth.

Complimentary meals and snacks will be provided throughout the day, ensuring participants can fully engage in the enriching content and networking opportunities. The dinner reception is

sponsored by the Hindu University of America and will feature some light cultural programs.

The NextGen Hindu Youth Leadership Convention aims to empower Hindu youth by nurturing a sense of pride in their heritage and equipping them with the skills and knowledge to become leaders within their communities. This event serves as a platform to foster a stronger bond within the Hindu community, inspire future generations, and encourage activeparticipation in shaping a positive future.

Mark your calendars for July 29th and seize this extraordinary opportunity to learn, connect, and grow. The first, inaugural NextGen Hindu Youth Leadership Convention promises to be a transformative event that will leave a lasting impact on the lives of Hindu youth.

Although the event is free, Registration is required. RSVP by July 5, 2023. For more information and registration, please visit the event’s Eventbrite site ( or contact the organizers directly at NextGen. Let us unite, celebrate our heritage, and build a brighter future for the Hindu youth community.

Indo-AmerIcAn news • FrIdAy, june 23, 2023 • June 23, 2023 9

Amrina: Houston’s Exciting Restaurant with Destination-worthy Dining

the WooDlanDs: Somewhere between Amrina’s habit-forming whiskey naan and juicy, longboned lamb chops, my dining companion announced, “I’d save my money to eat here. And I’d drive to do it.”

Since she lives in Clear Lake and Amrina is in The Woodlands, that meant something. I had to agree: Although this fascinating modern Indian restaurant is a 70-mile-plus round trip from my door, I consider it destination dining.

Chef Jassi Bindra, a stylish fellow with a spark in his eye, has a bold, assured touch with a menu the staff repeatedly refers to as “eclectic.” (I suspect it’s to head off complaints that “this isn’t Indian food.”) Italian, Middle Eastern and Southeast Asian touches weave in and out of Amrina’s core Indian menu — in a way that tastes smart and earned, not forced and try-hard.

Just try Bindra’s rectangle of compressed matter paneer, the Indian farmer cheese, layered with a mash of minted green peas and pooled in a lively spiced tomato sauce. “It’s the Indian lasagna,” joked our waiter. The result is both vibrant and delicate, right down to the lacy emerald pea-shoot tendril curling along the top.

Or how about the chef’s “channa masala hummus,” one of several ingenious dips for Bindra’s ingenious Indian flatbread variations. Here was an idea I resisted in principle (yet another improbable “hummus”?) but loved in practice, the whipped chickpeas bursting with warm shadings of spice and beautifully managed heat.

Those are effects at which Bindra excels. During one of his periodic rounds among the tables, I asked him about his Middle Eastern touches and learned that he had eaten widely in the region when he

was consulting for a restaurant group that has a location in Dubai.

Later, in Washington, D.C., he earned a Michelin plate designation for his work at Punjab Grill and partnered with an Iranian couple in a more casual restaurant, Layla, where Persian influences came into play. Try it with one of the thoughtful, well-executed cocktails while you figure out the rest of your meal.

Perhaps a classic Last Word in intricate cut glass, uplit by a portable, electric-blue light so that it looks as if it beamed down from Mars. Or a Japanese Gin and Tonic tinged with rosewater and yuzu, the refreshing Cashmere and Lace. Or the Smokey B, its mezcal base touched with Cointreau and Crème de Violette, served up with smoking wood chips in its own little wooden coffin.

My own face lights up whenever I try another stretchy triangle of Bindra’s whiskey naan, the flatbread shimmering with a tangy tamarind-whiskey glaze and finished with a spritz of Laphroaig Scotch from an atomizer, right at the table. It’s insanely good, and I can’t visit Amrina without ordering it right off the bat.

Try it with one of the thoughtful, well-executed cocktails while you figure out the rest of your meal.

Perhaps a classic Last Word in intricate cut glass, uplit by a portable, electric-blue light so that it looks as if it beamed down from

Mars. Or a Japanese Gin and Tonic tinged with rosewater and yuzu, the refreshing Cashmere and Lace. Or the Smokey B, its mezcal base touched with Cointreau and Crème de Violette, served up with smoking wood chips in its own little wooden coffin.

If you’re going for a luxe club atmosphere — which the Singh brothers, Surpreet and Preet Paul Singh, co-owners with Bindra of Amrina’s Kahani Social Group, certainly are — you must have the cocktails and the wine list and even the high-roller caviar service to match. You must have backdrops like the curvaceous tapas bar at which Pretty Young Things will want to TikTok each other. But the heartening thing about Amrina is that the drinks, the tapas-bar tasting menus and the thoughtfully selected wines are all quality initiatives, not hollow gestures. I can’t stop thinking about little details like the $6 pickle service, a

very Indian notion that stars everything from baby carrot to mango to skinny little green chiles. Or big things like those swooping lamb chops with their rosy centers, poised on a surprising rubble of chopped lamb keema that comes off like some turbocharged sloppy joe.

I love the mixand-match potential on this menu: the way the varied chutneys and the cool, tart raitas and yogurt dips mesh with this or that; the way the sweet tang of the pineapple chunda relish can light up a savory dish. It’s a voyage of discovery, right down to flatbread accompaniments like a thin, flexible sheet of rumali roti you can use to wrap up anything you please. This is what I call fun.

I admire the way Bindra’s vegetable dishes swagger with importance. As befits cookery from the most vegetarian country in the world, ideas like pan-seared exotic mushrooms (everything from king trumpets to hon shimeji to hen of the woods) on a buttery puree of garlicky spinach exert all the earthy gravitas of nihari beef short rib, with its dark, burnished sauce and topknot of fried “potato spaghetti,” as Bindra calls his Bengali shoestrings.

Jackfruit biryani arrives dumstyle, under a tender pastry dome studded with the wild-onion twinge of kalonji seeds. Eaten with a bit of yogurt sauce and Bindra’s lush, brick-hued dal makhani — the lentils cooked for 24 hours — it’s thrilling stuff, the

meaty jackfruit fleshed out with sweetly caramelized onion.

I could go on about the cubes of Spicy Tangy Potatoes or the luxurious spinach with spiced butter and garlic, but you get the idea. I’ve seldom taken a wrong turn on this wide-ranging menu. The sole clunkers were a baked oyster overwhelmed by tandoori-spiced crumbs dotted tamarind gel; and a fruit-strewn coconut panna cotta with bitter, acrid crumbles of glassy brûléed sugar.

That messy dessert seemed wildly out of character for a kitchen that produces a sumptuous cardamom chocolate mousse held in gleamy, dark-chocolate bubbles, as if it were some extraterrestrial quailegg carton. It’s glorious, although the white-chocolate “kiss” lips on top is mere Instagram folderol.

It is easy to run up a dauntingly high tab here. But you can keep to a budget by booking a $65 tasting at the festive “tapas bar,” where dishes are served in entertainingly surrealist modern Spanish style Another cost cutter is ordering off the small plates side of the menu, augmented by flatbreads, chutneys and sides. Crazy-good minced ostrich seekh kebab skewers, perhaps, set off by translucent wafers of gently pickled kohlrabi and blobs of spiced parsnip mousse; or a tender globe of burrata with a semiliquid interior sploosh.

Burrata is such a menu staple these days that it skirts cliché, but not here. Boquerone-style anchovies and a Kashmiri red-chili “sofrito” light up the cheese without obliterating it. Why is Bindra serving it? Because Punjabis have helped rescue the Pugliese cheese industry in recent years.

That’s the kind of multicultural culinary connection this chef loves to make. Houston — and The Woodlands — is lucky to have him.


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Indo-AmerIcAn news • FrIdAy, june 23, 2023 • June 23, 2023 10 DINING
-- The Houston Chronicle Chef Jassi Bindra at Amrina Karen Warren/Houston Chronicle

‘Adipurush’: Prabhas-Starrer Lacks Feeling

Solution Next Week

In the opening moments of ‘Adipurush’, we see Raavan throwing his head back, and laughing. He is stomping through the snow, one shoulder rising, the other dipping, just like a cartoon character, and going ha-ha-ha-ha. That laugh is called the villain’s ‘thahaka’ in Bollywood: every single significant baddie from KN Singh to Amrish Puri has given us that laugh. You see Saif Ali Khan’s Lankesh tossing that one off, and it is an indication that Om Raut’s version of ‘Ramayana’ will be a series of clunky computer graphics, bathed in Bollywoodese. And that’s exactly what this nearly three-hour long film is.

computer generated armies going at each other.

Despite our 3D glasses, Prabhas (Ram), Sunny Singh (Lakshman), Sita (Kriti Sanon) all appear 2D: the only one who feels somewhat filled out is Hanuman (Devdatta Nage), with his few funny lines. Saif Ali Khan, vamping it up as Raavan, and looking like Bollywood’s idea of a Mughal monster, gets a few moments, but is felled by having to re-create that demonic laughter, and grapple with his ten heads, which refuse to fill out an orderly line. He felt much more alive in Raut’s 2020 film ‘Tanhaji’.

tity of ‘behens’, just like crass characters in bad Bollywood movies? Do you really think a vulgar phrase like ‘teri jali kya’ ( does it burn) belongs in the ‘Ramayan’? This, when Hanuman’s tail is set alight. Who’s written these dialogues? Why leach out all signs of reverence in this zeal to make it, one presumes, palatable to New India? And where, most importantly, is the feeling of piety? Like millions of Indians, I love the ‘Ramayan’, with all its wondrous characters and twists and turns. It is amongst the greatest of all epics. Why reduce it to this two dimensional barrage of little feeling?

When the film opens, Ram, Sita and Lakshman are already in the forest, the Maryada Purushottam having accepted his ‘vanvas’. In short order, we get the Sooparnakha tale (Raavan’s sister whose nose is slashed by Lakshman when she comes on to him strongly), the Shabari story (an old woman whose ‘jhoothe ber’ are eaten by Ram), and the chapter of the Lakshman rekha which Sita steps over, and is promptly kidnapped by Raavan. The rest is an endless barrage of the rescue mission, the meeting with Pavan Putra Hanuman, the creation of the Ram Setu, the formation of the ‘vaanar sena’, and the battle with Raavan and his cohorts, ending, of course, in the victory of good over evil.

This version of the Ramayan is not interested in connecting with the feeling of genuine religiosity that any reading of the ‘granth’ arouses, whether it is the most popular Tulsidas version or the Valmiki version. This is a beloved epic turned into an actioner, reminding you of a little of ‘The Lord Of The Rings’ (the poor ‘rakshashas’ guarding Lankapati’s castle look like orcs and trolls, and the building itself a gargoyle with zero provenance), a bit of ‘Game Of Thrones’, and countless films which have

Questions abound. Why does ‘Adipurush’ choose to call its lead character Raghav, and not Ram, when it is going to lay the RamSiya-Ram chant thickly over the movie? Why talk about the sanc-

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Place a number in the empty boxes in such a way that each row across, each column down and each 9-box square contains all of the numbers from one to nine.
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