Fluency in English to Help Immigrants Seeking U.S. Move: Report

first_imgProviding an insight into the merit-based system of immigration proposed by U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration, a senior official said that immigrants who are fluent in English, have the required skills and are talented will be preferred by the United States for admission. These criteria will help countries like India, as a majority of Indian immigrants would meet them, PTI reported.Arkansas senator Tom Cotton and Georgia senator David Perdue introduced the Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment Act (RAISE) in 2017. “Although not intended as a fix-all, if passed, this legislation would take significant steps toward moving the United States to a ‘merit-based immigration system’,” said Federation for American Immigration Reform factsheet (FAIR), the report said.The factsheet also stipulated the different eligibility criteria for selection. It said that the typical examples of the eligibility criteria are ability to speak, read and write the language of the receiving nation, level of education, professional or trade licenses or certifications, and offer of employment in a certified shortage occupation, among others.“And so, our position, is that a system that prioritizes individuals based on their individual skills and merit will certainly produce better results than the system we have now,” said a senior official, the news agency reported. He added that the Trump administration is looking to improve the immigration system in a bid to serve the interest of the United States.Many other nations like Germany, Denmark, Australia, Japan, United Kingdom and Canada use the merit-based immigration system. It allows the receiving country great flexibility in responding to shifting labor and economic needs. Due to their language, education, age and financial requirements, they also encourage more efficient assimilation of migrants into the local and national community, the statement said.“He wants immigrants to come in from everywhere, but he wants to do that through a merit-based system,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said, the report added. She explained that President Trump is pushing for a merit-based system regardless of the country, religion and ethnicity of an applicant.“So, what we have with the Diversity Lottery Program or through chain migration is that in these cases there are identified examples of individuals who were not selected to come to the US based on their love of this country, skills, merit, and individual attributes that will lead them to their success,” the official added.In 2013, only 7 per cent of green cards issued were skills-based. The FAIR statement said that in order to genuinely improve the U.S. immigration system, family-based immigration must be limited to spouses and unmarried minor children of green card holders.“Our immigration system is based on nepotism. We admit immigrants who already have family members in the country. We do not make immigration decisions based on whether or not an immigrant can contribute to our economy or has some remarkable talent that would benefit the nation,” added the FAIR statement, the report said. Related ItemsDonald TrumpGreen CardUnited Stateslast_img read more

NRI Billionaires Set Up India’s First AI Research Institute for Social Good

first_imgPrime Minister Narendra Modi launched the Wadhwani Institute for Artificial Intelligence, founded by Indian American Wadhwani brothers, in Mumbai on Feb. 18. It is said to be the first research institute in India that is dedicated towards finding artificial intelligence solutions for social good.The project is the initiative of Sunil Wadhwani, the Pennsylvania-based co-founder and co-chairman of Mastech Digital, Inc. that had revenue of over $40 million in 2017, and Romesh Wadhwani, the California-based founder of Symphony Technology, who was named as one of the richest men in the United States in 2016.“I have had various interactions with Indian diaspora across the globe during the last three and a half years or so. I have felt an intense desire, to make a contribution to India. Through this Institute, Romesh ji and Sunil ji have blended this desire with a futuristic vision of a prosperous and vibrant India. In doing so, they have set an example that is worthy of emulation,” Modi said at the launch of the institute.“This is a prime example of how the public sector and the private sector can combine with good intention to build a world-class institute aimed at benefiting the poor,” he added.The institute, which will seek AI solutions in the fields of agriculture, health, education and infrastructure, will be based at the Kalina campus of the Mumbai University. The institute will collaborate with renowned education and research centers such as Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Stanford, University of Southern California, NYU, University of Washington, Alan Turing Institute, IIT Bombay, IIT Madras and IIT Delhi, among others.The Wadhwani brothers have committed $30 million for the first 10 years of the institute, which has tied up with the Maharashtra government to identify problems and find solutions. Wadhwani AI also intends to created a talent pool of AI and data science experts. It will be led by AI pioneer and founding MD of Microsoft Research India, Dr. P. Anandan.According to a recent report by Forrester Research, Asian countries are quickly adopting artificial intelligence. The investment and adoption of artificial intelligence in Asia showed a marked rise between 2016 and 2017, led by China (from 31 per cent to 61 per cent) and India (from 29 per cent to 69 per cent).“Indian systems integrators are also actively participating in AI consortiums such as OpenAI,” the research stated.The NITI Aayog is also planning a national program on artificial intelligence.“The road ahead for Artificial Intelligence depends on and will be driven by Human Intentions. It is our intention that will determine the outcomes of artificial intelligence,” Modi said.However, the increasing adoption of AI has also fueled fears of job loss. The Indian prime minister, however, dismissed them. “Such fears are neither un-founded nor new,” he said. “At every stage of technological evolution, we have faced such doubts and questions. This leads to two views of the future. First brings hopes and aspirations and second brings fears of disruption…New opportunities have always outnumbered the lost ones. Human ingenuity has always prevailed and it will continue to do so in the future.”With the Wadhwani brothers – Romesh & Sunil whose Wadhwani Institute of Artifiial Intelligence was launched by @PMOIndia yesterday. The institute will develop AI based solutions to serve the bottom 20% of society. Unique initiative! pic.twitter.com/hcXsuRMIVs— Amitabh Kant (@amitabhk87) February 19, 2018 Related Itemsartificial intelligenceIndian AmericanMumbailast_img read more

Kipling’s Precious Jewel for Rent

first_imgYou now have a chance to rent the Vermont home of Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936), the Nobel Prize winning British Indian author.Kipling wrote some of his most works, such as Jungle Books and Captain Courageous, in this house near Brattleboro, which he acquired in 1892 and named Naulakha, Hindi for precious jewel.The house, which had fallen into disrepair, was acquired and restored by the Landmark Trust USA to much of its original state, including furnishings.You can stroke Kipling’s billiard’s table, brass beds, or slouch in his black leather chair  or simply soak in his deep bath tub.The price tag: $250 to $435 per night.  Related Itemslast_img read more

Blood Lines

first_imgWhen a gunman attacked parishioners at a Clifton church in November, word of the shootings spread quickly among two culturally divergent communities that share a strong but little known bond: South Indians and Middle Easterners, who both are members of the Syriac Orthodox tradition.The tragic shooting cast light on a lesser-known sect of the Syriac Orthodox called the Knanaya, whose members largely hail from the South Indian state of Kerala. The scene where three people were shot inside of the St. Thomas Syrian Orthodox Knanaya Church in Clifton, New Jersey on Nov. 23.On Nov. 23, a gunman entered The St. Thomas Syrian Orthodox Knanaya Church in Clifton, a suburb west of Manhattan, and shot three people, killing two of them.Joseph Pallipurath was arraigned on charges of fatally shooting his estranged wife, 24-year-old Reshma James, who prosecutors say had previously taken out a restraining order against him. Also killed was Dennis John Mallosseril, who witnesses said was trying to intervene on James’ behalf.James’ 47-year-old cousin, Silvy Perincheril, was shot in the head and remains hospitalized and in a coma.The tragedy has reverberated throughout the Knanayan community worldwide, a close-knit Christian sect estimated by church officials to have about 50,000 to 100,000 members. Their strict inter-marriage customs – meant to preserve ancient bloodlines – mean many families know one another, regardless of where they live.The Rev. Thomas Abraham, the head of the Knanayan church in Clifton, said his members trace their roots back to 72 families that traveled from the Middle East around A.D. 340 to India to do missionary work.“They brought the Bible to India, and the Syriac-Aramaic language, as was spoken by Jesus,” Abraham said. “The liturgy and the Mass was celebrated in Syriac, and even now, we use it.”Preserving the bloodlines and the traditions of his people in New Jersey is a challenge with a new American-born generation, Abraham said. Knanaya Church in Thazhathangadi, Kottayam“We are losing some to inter-marrying,” he said. “We practice endogamy – marrying within the same community – and to be born of the Knanayan church you have to be of Knanayan parents, and once you marry outside the church, you automatically lose the bloodlines.”Abraham said he was sorry that people came to learn of the Knanayan’s rich cultural and religious heritage only through the tragedy of the Clifton shootings.“If you say you are from India, people think Indians are all Hindu,” he said. “We want people to know there were Christians in India long before Columbus discovered America.”Kathleen McVey, professor of church history at the Princeton Theological Seminary, said the Knanayan claim Syriac-Jewish descent, and are among the earliest Christians, linking themselves to an apostle of Jesus.“The Knanayan group is its own very ancient tradition, and they see themselves as a distinct group originating in 345, and I think there is good reason to think that their distinctive tradition does go back to a very early date,” McVey said.McVey said they emerge in historical documents in 345, when their leader came with a group from Mesopotamia to the Malabar Coast of what is today India.“They claim other connections through the apostle Thomas, and a connection to Judaism through the earliest converts who converted to Christianity,” McVey said.Upon hearing of the shooting, the Knanayan archbishop traveled immediately from India to New Jersey to mourn with the congregation.Syrian Orthodox church leaders also rushed to the church within an hour of the shooting to comfort the families. The Nasrani Menorah also known as the Mar Thoma sliba. Archbishop Cyril Aphrem Karim of the Syriac Orthodox Church of the Eastern United States, which is based in Teaneck, was one of those who reached out to the Knanayan. Karim said his congregation, largely made up Christians from Syria, Lebanon, Turkey and elsewhere, feel a kinship with the Knanayan, who also answer to the patriarch in Damascus.He said the relationship extends to the congregations in America.“It’s very enriching,” Karim said of the Syriac Orthodox Diaspora. “The dogma, the beliefs are all the same. There’s no difference to talk about in terms of church; there is in terms of culture, but Christianity always expresses itself in local culture.”Karim said the Knanayan church in New Jersey used to fall under his diocese until the early 1990s, when the group founded its own diocese in India.Abraham said the Knanayans incorporate Aramaic language, mixed with Malayalam, an Indian language spoke in Kerala, when saying Mass, and follow many of the same Orthodox traditions as the Syrian church.   Related Itemslast_img read more

The Genesis Of Genesis

first_imgEvery story has a beginning, but for cosmologists the Big Bang is the story of the beginning. The foundation of modern cosmology is based on the assumption that space and time originated from a unique event some 14 billion years ago, followed by the manifestation of everything else. According to this theory, the universe started with a bang —the Big Bang —from an unimaginably small, but infinitely dense and hot state called singularity.  PHOTO: NASA The known laws of physics, such as gravity and relativity, break down in the state of singularity. But after the Big Bang, the newly born universe inflated and continues to expand. Basically from the sheer emptiness emerged our magnificent cosmos! Scientific observations support such a scenario, but no one knows what happened at the time of birth let alone before the bang.Usually cosmologists shy away from the question “what happened before the Big Bang?” dismissing it as a purely philosophical question as the Big Bang itself represents the origin of everything we know, even the absolute emptiness that we associate with nothing. Hence, it doesn’t make sense to them to talk about something before that.But, one could argue that this theory of scientific creation is not much different from the mythological or religious stories of creation except that it excludes a creator by transferring that role to the laws or forces of nature. Now, some experts question the uniqueness of this event and claim they have found evidence that the Big Bang occurred several times and the symphony of the never-ending cosmic origin is resonating everywhere.Oxford physicist Roger Penrose is one of the few physicists to confront the pre Big Bang era issues. In a recent preprint paper Penrose and another physicist V. G. Gurzadyan claim that they now have observational evidences of previous Big Bangs. Their conformal cyclic cosmology (CCC) posits the existence of an aeon preceding our own Big Bang. The cyclic nature of the universe was hypothesized much earlier by different researchers, but it is the first time that empirical evidence has been put forward. Penrose and Gurzadyan argue that the  The Planck space telescope released its own version of the microwave sky.  PHOTO: NASAlaws of nature may evolve with time, but their theory precludes the need to introduce a theoretical beginning to the universe, as we currently presume. They use the term aeon to describe the period from our Big Bang until the remote future.Penrose explained to the BBC, “I claim that this aeon is one of a succession of such things, where the remote future of the previous aeons somehow becomes the Big Bang of our aeon.”In essence, the Big Bang is bound to happen again and again creating new universes and recycling old ones. Simply put, anything that can happen is bound to happen infinitely.The Big Bang, including its name, has always been contentious. The name itself is a misnomer as there wasn’t any bang in the first place. A bang (sound) needs to have a vibrating particle to generate it and it requires a medium for the vibrations to propagate. Since the Big Bang is the beginning of anything we can imagine, it is logical to assume that this moment of creation was in perfect silence.  The picture shows a false color depiction of the temperature (brightness) of the CMB over the full sky. This picture is referred to as the baby universe. PHOTO: NASAThis theory was one of the many for the origin of the universe, which were floating around in scientific circles in the 1930s. The other prominent theory was the Steady State Universe, promoted by Fred Hoyle, a British scientist. Georges Lemaitre, a Belgian Catholic priest, astronomer and Physics professor, applying Einstein’s theory of relativity, proposed the Big Bang as the possible origin of the universe. It essentially suggested that the presently expanding universe must have been small in the past, smaller than an atom, where all the known forces co-existed. Then came the “explosion of this cosmic egg” that created the universe, which has been expanding since its birth, 13.7 billion years ago.Although Hoyle coined the term Big Bang to ridicule the theory, the name stuck and Limiter’s theory is known as the Big Bang Theory. American Astronomer Edwin Hubble’s (Hubble Telescope is named after him) discovery that the galaxies are flying apart in an apparently expanding universe provided major support for the Big Bang theory. Eventually Hoyle’s steady state theory faded from the scientific community like the receding galaxies. But the Big Bang theory doesn’t address the question of what created the Big Bang. Cosmologists believe that complete quantum chaos must have existed at an early moment of the Big Bang, and a quantum fluctuation might have caused the bang. Such explanations lack details and are no better than mythological stories of origin.   PHOTO: NASANonetheless, the theory is the standard framework within which most cosmologists now operate. Its position is akin to that of the theory of evolution in Biology. But some critics say this theory is propagating the Judeo-Christian concept of creation and science has sacrificed its soul to theology. The criticism stems from the fact that the theory confirms the theological notion of creation — that the universe has a definite beginning and is created with a fixed design. Nearly all the major religions, except Buddhism, have a creation myth that is tied to a creator. However, interpreting the line, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth,” literally to elucidate Big Bang is unwarranted and unscientific. Georges Lemaitre, who well understood the theological need for creation, probably was even inspired by the Biblical story of creation, has said that, “God cannot be reduced to the role of a scientific hypothesis.” While the monotheistic religions depend on a universe with linear progression since origin, ancient eastern philosophies like Hinduism propose a recurring nature of the universe. Accordingly, the universe has no beginning or ending, but is comprised of never ending cycles. Even the belief of birth and re-birthreflects that philosophy.In his best-selling television series Cosmos, renowned astronomer Carl Sagan reflected on the parallels between modern cosmology and Hindu philosophy, noting: “Hindu religion is the only one of the world’s great faiths dedicated to the idea that the cosmos itself undergoes an immense, indeed an infinite number of deaths and rebirths. It is the only religion in which the time scales correspond, no doubt, by accident, to those of modern scientific cosmology .… There is the deep and the appealing notion that the universe is but the dream of the god who after a 100 Brahma years dissolves himself into a dreamless sleep and the universe dissolves with him until after another Brahma century he starts recomposes himself and begins again the dream, the great cosmic lotus dream. Meanwhile, elsewhere there are an infinite number of other universes each with its own god dreaming the cosmic dream.”   PHOTO: NASA / WMAP SCIENCE TEAMAs cosmologists struggle to generate a consistent model about the pre-Big Bang, the creation myths in Hindu cosmology, which describe Brahma, the creator, bringing the universe into being through his thoughts, might offer some clues. The universe survives four different yugas within a Maha Yuga. At the end of this period universe undergoes a dark age, which in turn gives way to a golden age and this cycle repeats. After the lifetime of Brahma, everything disappears into the Supreme Being and after an unimaginable period of time a new universe and new Brahma emerge. It seems that even the Gods follow the laws of nature.The metaphorical similarities between the newly proposed cyclic universe theory and Hindu cosmology are astounding. Hindus cosmology speaks about the universe being created, destroyed, and recreated in an eternally repetitive series of cycles. Brahma creates a new universe that would eventually be destroyed to begin another universe. According to Hindu cosmology, Brahma himself undergoes destruction after 100 Brahma years, 311 trillion years in the human scale, to pave the way for a new Brahma and thus a new universe. Gods are also subjected to the laws of nature and their lives occupy the cosmos in time scales that are comparable to the astronomical scales in such an oscillating universe. For instance, Kalpa, which is a day in the life of Brahma, is 4.32 billion years, the estimated age of Earth.Although there are different accounts of creation in Vedic collections, all of them clearly point to the self-repeating aspect of cosmic origins. It is comforting that, although these narratives lack scientific underpinnings and are thus not acceptable in the scientific realm, a cyclical model of the Big Bang will answer or at least negate many challenges the Big bang model now faces.The universe, it seems, has a special way of recording birth and death. The birth and death of stars are imprinted in the fabric of the cosmos. Fossils bear the indisputable evidence of the foregone era of plants and animals. How about the Universe? In fact, the evidence of the “oldest birth” is everywhere.   PHOTO: NASAThe discovery of Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation (CMB) in 1964 secured the position of the Big Bang as the most acceptable cosmological theory to date and turned the subject from a purely theoretical science to the most exciting scientific quest of our generation. If we could see microwaves with our eyes, the entire sky would glow with a brightness that is astonishingly uniform in every direction. This uniform radiation is the remnant heat from the Big Bang. It would be impossible for any other source to produce such uniform radiation from all the directions.NASA’s Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP) launched in June 2001 has mapped the CMB radiation. This is the oldest light or radiation in the universe, which emerged when the universe was about 380,000 years old. Currently it remains in the microwave frequency range of the electromagnetic spectrum. Indeed, this radiation fills even our own living rooms. A small part of the noise one detects in the television or radio is from the CMB. Penrose suggests that analysis of this cosmic microwave background showed echoes of previous Big Bang-like events. The events appear as “rings” around galaxy clusters. Like the tree rings that represent the growth and age of a tree, these rings indicate the cycles of the grand cosmic tree. Accordingly, the concentric rings are caused by the clash of super massive black holes in earlier versions of our universe and imprinted ripples of smog of microwave radiation.Many questions remain unanswered and even the authors acknowledge it is not yet time to celebrate. Perhaps the Big Bang did not happen exactly as we envisage currently. The Planck satellite, currently in action, will provide more sensitive data in the coming months. That would provide in-depth analysis of the cosmic birth and force us to rewrite its history yet again.   Related Itemslast_img read more

Netflix Targets Indian Viewers with Tie-ups with Shah Rukh, Anurag Kashyap

first_imgNetflix has partnered with Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan’s production house Red Chillies Entertainment to produce a multilingual series based on the novel Bard of Blood by Bilal Siddiqi.Netflix founder and CEO Reed Hastings expressed his excitement about the original productions in India. “We are thrilled to work with a brilliant, young writer like Bilal Siddiqi and take his gripping, inventive storytelling to Netflix members worldwide,” said Hastings.The web-streaming global giant faces stiff competition in the Indian market, which according to a study conducted by them, loves watching television in the public. Star India’s HotStar already has 63 million subscribers but Netflix has only 4.2 million so far. Teaming up with one of the biggest star’s in India and one of the highest-paid actors globally is a move that aims to boost their business.Also in the market is Viu, a fledgling compared to HotStar, and AltBalaji.“We don’t have as much regional content as we would like to have. The ambition for us is to keep doubling (the amount) of our content. Since 2016, we have doubled our content library. And if you compare now to 12 months ago, there is a lot more Indian content,” Jessica Lee, the Vice President of Communications at Netflix, had said last month.One of the other big budget shows with a Bollywood star is Sacred Games, a book written by novelist and screenwriter Vikram Chandra, in which Saif Ali Khan plays the lead. Sacred Games is produced in partnership with Anurag Kashyap’s Phantom Films. It is also a thriller, just like the Red Chillies series, involving the police in Mumbai. The shooting for the series is going on.The multiple players in the web-streaming market is also good for the content creators. “What that is doing is everybody bidding for content, to have the most valuable content. So the prices now for creators now are increasing. And there are more shows and movies getting produced than ever before,” Hastings told CNBC-TV18 in an interview.Bard of Blood, which gets its name from Shakespeare himself, will be made into an eight-episode political espionage thriller. Siddiqi claims that the book was “researched with the assistance of U.S. and Indian intelligence agents, war correspondents and the crime veteran S. Hussain Zaidi.” The Penguin-published book will “take you on a thrilling journey from the power corridors of RAW to the war-torn terrain of Balochistan.”Khan said in a statement: “We have always tried to create world-class content and entertainment from India. Netflix has shown that Indian stories have a global audience and we would love to use this platform and its reach to tell more stories.”This is all that we got from them before they started watching He-Man. #BardOfBlood@iamsrk @reedhastings @RedChilliesEnt @gauravkapur pic.twitter.com/7r7wKofkwO— Netflix India (@NetflixIndia) November 18, 2017Venky Mysore, CEO, Red Chillies, said: “We can’t wait to bring this thrilling nail-biter to screens around the world.”The book is about an expelled spy and is set in the Indian subcontinent. The book seems nothing short of an action-packed Bollywood movie, where the hero has to go back to a violent past life to avenge injustices on him.My first book – #TheBardOfBlood is going to be a @netflix series soon. This would not have been possible without Mr @_GauravVerma . Yes, that is the founder & CEO of Netflix – Mr @reedhastings . And then of course, there’s the man who has inspired millions like me – @iamsrk sir! pic.twitter.com/HEEXR43bGe— Bilal Siddiqi (@BilalS158) November 17, 2017According to Red Chillies, the series will involve “intricate, highly stylized action sequences never before seen on screen in India.”“There couldn’t have been a bigger moment in my life. My first book – TheBardOfBlood – is going to be a Netflix Original series soon,” said Siddiqi on his Facebook page. Siddiqi was 20 when his book hit the shelves in March 2015. He has written two more books besides Bard of Blood. Related ItemsNetflixSaif Ali KhanShah Rukh Khanlast_img read more

India Is No Longer Home To The Largest Number Of Poor People In The World. Nigeria Is.

first_imgIt is a distinction that no country wants: the place with the most people living in extreme poverty.For decades, India remained stubbornly in the top spot, a reflection of its huge population and its enduring struggle against poverty.Now new estimates indicate that Nigeria has knocked India out of that position, part of a profound shift taking place in the geography of the world’s poorest people.According to a recent report from the Brookings Institution, Nigeria overtook India in May to become the country with the world’s highest number of people living in extreme poverty, which is defined as living on less than $1.90 a day. The threshold captures those who struggle to obtain even basic necessities such as food, shelter and clothing, and takes into account differences in purchasing power between countries.The Brookings report was based on estimates generated by the World Poverty Clock, a model created to track progress against poverty in real time. As of Monday, its figures showed that India had 70.6 million people living in extreme poverty, while Nigeria had 87 million.What’s more, the gap is widening: The number of people living in extreme poverty in India is falling while the opposite is true in Nigeria, where the population is growing faster than its economy. Extreme poverty rises in Nigeria by six people each minute, according to calculations by the World Poverty Clock. Meanwhile, the number of extreme poor in India drops by 44 people a minute.“It’s a good news story for India, coupled with some caveats, and it’s a real wake-up call for the African continent,” said Homi Kharas, director of the global economy and development program at the Brookings Institution.Extreme poverty is increasingly an African phenomenon, the Brookings report noted. Africans make up about two-thirds of the world’s extreme poor, it said. By 2030, that figure could rise to nine-tenths if current trends continue.Africa’s central place in the battle against poverty comes amid dramatic progress worldwide. Since 1990, the number of people living in extreme poverty has fallen more than 60 percent, according to the World Bank. Much of the reduction has come in Asia, first in places such as China, Indonesia and Vietnam, and more recently in India, which appears to have made striking achievements in recent years.In a post on Monday, World Poverty Clock researchers raised the tantalizing prospect that by 2021, fewer than 3 percent of India’s population will live in extreme poverty, a benchmark viewed by some development economists as “a watershed moment.”For many in India, such talk is sure to provoke sharp debate. Tens of millions of people remain destitute and thousands of farmers commit suicide each year. Nearly 40 percent of Indian children under 5 are short for their age, a sign of chronic undernutrition.“The claims that India is on the verge of winning the battle against extreme poverty sit uneasily with the current concerns about job creation or rural distress,” said an editorial last week in Mint, a financial newspaper in India.Part of the disconnect may be the result of how poverty is defined. The extreme poverty threshold is an absolute measure used for international comparison. Last year, however, the World Bank added another benchmark that aims to capture a sense of relative poverty. For “lower middle income” countries like India, it set the line at people who live on $3.20 day. By that measure, a third of Indians are poor, economist Surjit Bhalla estimated in a recent article.More clarity could be only months away. In June, the Indian government completed a national survey which is conducted once every five years and provides the best available data on poverty. In the past, the results have been released anywhere from several months to a year after finishing the survey. Bhalla, an economist who also serves as a part-time adviser to the Indian government, believes that the country’s own data could show it made even more progress reducing poverty than the estimates produced by Brookings and the World Poverty Clock.(c) 2018, The Washington Post Related Itemslast_img read more

A Minister Feting a Lynch Mob? India Recoils in Disgust

first_imgJayant Sinha is a Celtics fan. He graduated from Harvard. He worked for McKinsey.Born and raised in India but minted in the United States, he found wealth and success in the Boston area. His American friends say his politics were moderate, maybe even progressive.Then he returned to India.He ditched the suits he had worn as a partner at McKinsey & Co., an elite management consulting firm, in favor of traditional Indian kurtas. He joined the governing Hindu right political party and became a member of Parliament and then a minister, leading Hindu parades and showering worshippers with flower petals from a helicopter.This month, he also feted and garlanded eight murderers who were part of a Hindu lynch mob that authorities said beat an unarmed and terrified Muslim man to death. His embrace of the convicted killers has become the political stunt that Indians can’t stop talking about.Across the country, the images of Sinha draping wreaths of marigolds around the men’s necks have started a conversation about whether the state of Indian politics has become so poisoned by sectarian hatred and extremism that even an ostensibly worldly and successful politician can’t resist its pull.Members of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, a right-wing Hindu ideological group, salute the group’s flag at a morning gathering near Hazaribagh, India, July 14, 2018. Photo Credit: Saurabh Das/The New York TimesIt has become the year of the lynch mob in India. Dozens of people have been beaten to death, often in cold blood, by crowds of bored young men who alternate between booting someone in the head and taking a selfie. Suggestions of whom to kill rip so fast through villages via social media, especially WhatsApp, that no one seems able to stop them.In this atmosphere, some conclude that Sinha might actually win votes for his maneuver.“He’ll get some benefit,” said Rajiv Kumar, a homeopathic medicine salesman and one of Sinha’s constituents. “I don’t agree with what he did; it’s only going to encourage more lynching. But Jayant was concerned his party would dump him, and this will help.”Sinha says he now feels horrible about garlanding the convicts.“In a highly polarized environment, this became a spark and I regret giving the spark,” he said in an interview. “I wouldn’t do it again.’’For decades, a center-leftist political organization, the Indian National Congress, dominated politics.But four years ago, India’s political landscape was wiped clean. The Bharatiya Janata Party, with its roots in Hindu supremacy, won overwhelmingly, and the party’s top figure, Narendra Modi, became prime minister. Modi promised to stoke India’s go-go economy, and he recruited Sinha, who had built a small fortune in the United States as a consultant and hedge fund manager, to help him.It didn’t hurt that Sinha’s father was a senior member of the Indian Parliament and the Bharatiya Janata Party. With Modi’s backing, Sinha easily won the election to take over his father’s seat. He was made a finance minister and then a minister for civil aviation, a post he still holds.The territory his life spans is dramatic. Sinha, 55, owns a beautiful home in Chestnut Hill, a posh enclave outside Boston, where his wife still lives. He has degrees from some of the world’s best universities, including the Indian Institute of Technology in New Delhi, India’s capital, and Harvard Business School.But the area he represents, centered in the bushy town of Hazaribagh (which means “a thousand gardens”) is poor, troubled and socially conservative. Lying more than 500 miles east of New Delhi in the state of Jharkhand, it is home to coal mines, Maoist rebels and land-grabbing gangs.Like so much of India today, Hazaribagh is more polarized between majority Hindus and minority Muslims than it has been in a long time. Many people here support Hindu vigilante groups, especially the so-called cow protectors who hunt down those who break Hinduism’s taboo against killing cows.It was one such vigilante group that swarmed Alimuddin Ansari, a Muslim trader, in Sinha’s constituency last year. A rumor spread that Ansari was transporting beef, and a mob dragged him out of his van and beat him. Police officers eventually pulled him away, but he died a few hours later from internal injuries, officials said.His family is now broke.“My life is doomed,” said Mariam Khatoon, his widow. She sat in a plastic chair in a ramshackle house, the concrete foundation cracking beneath her feet.From cellphone footage — the culprits gleefully shot pictures of themselves hitting Ansari — investigators identified 12 culprits and a court sentenced all of them except a juvenile to life in prison.But a higher court recently granted an appeal, saying the evidence was flimsy. And where did eight of the men go the moment they were granted bail? Sinha’s house, where he was waiting with plates of sweets and wreaths of marigolds.There is still a mystery about how Ansari died. A lawyer representing some of the convicted lynchers said that, yes, the mob had roughed up Ansari but that it was actually police officers who beat him to death, in custody. The lawyer pointed to photos that have been circulating on social media that show Ansari looking alert and apparently not badly injured as officers led him away from the mob. The trial court had heard many of these arguments and rejected them.Sinha said he was helping the convicts because there was “no evidence” that they killed Ansari. He has actively supported their legal defense, paying several hundred dollars to one of the defense lawyers and connecting this lawyer to an experienced attorney friend to craft a persuasive appeal.He celebrated their release from jail with sweets and flowers, he said, to show how happy he was that they “got a fresh lease on life.”But Sinha concedes that he never made a condolence call to Ansari’s widow, who is also his constituent. He said it was too dangerous to visit her, an excuse that raises questions. Her scruffy little house sits on a quiet lane. And with his ministerial security detail, it’s hard to imagine anyone in that neighborhood bothering Sinha.National elections are scheduled for next year, and Sinha might have been feeling vulnerable. He has hewed to the political right since his time in the United States, but in today’s India, his right may not be right enough.Neither he nor his father came up through the ranks of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, a right-wing Hindu ideological group that molded Modi and other top members of his party. Recently, Sinha had been taking heat from a former lawmaker in his constituency who said he was not doing enough to help the convicted killers.“There was a lot of resentment toward Jayant,” said Abhijit Sen, a senior journalist in Hazaribagh. “Those others forced him to act.”Sinha insisted that he had tried to stay out of the case because it was so divisive. But after he studied the files, he said, he became convinced that there was much more to it than initially reported. He regrets the garlands but not helping the convicts.“For me, it’s simply a matter of justice,” he said.But the criticism keeps coming.A group of retired civil servants demanded that Sinha resign, saying he had essentially issued “a license to kill minorities.”And a recent letter to the newspaper The Indian Express was headlined: “Despicable Act.”© 2018 New York Times News Service Related ItemsbjpSocial mediaWhatsApplast_img read more

Tibetans Divided Over Voting in Himachal Pradesh Assembly Elections

first_imgTibetans in Dharamshala, living in exile for long in the second capital of Himachal Pradesh, are divided over securing voting rights in India.Some of the Tibetans feel that exercising their vote in India could dilute their struggle for freedom while others say that the Tibet movement is in their hearts and voting can’t deter them from their struggle.Although Tibetan voters are around 1,000 in Dharamshala, contestants in the fray for the Nov. 9 Assembly polls cannot ignore this small segment as the presence of some powerful candidates has made the contest tight. The main candidates are Urban Development Minister Sudhir Sharma of the Congress and former minister Kishan Kapoor of the BJP.Among others contesting the elections as independent candidates are Ravinder Rana from the Gorkha community, Vikas Choudhry, a UK-returned journalist, and Pankaj Kumar, a contractor with a NSUI background.The Gorkha community has been a traditional vote bank of the Congress and has a substantial presence in the constituency. Rana, being from the community, is spoiling the chances for Sharma. Kumar is also damaging his prospects.Kapoor is banking on his Gaddi community, which accounts for around 15,000 voters.With around 69,000 voters in the Assembly, Choudhry is leaving no stone unturned to woo the voters across the constituency by projecting himself as the best alternative to the Congress and the BJP.Choudhry, who studied humanities at the Birmingham University, claims to have worked with Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s core team during the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. He is attracting voters by campaigning on a tractor, which is also his election symbol.Besides these five major contestants, the presence of seven other candidates as Independents has made the electoral battle interesting.In the 2012 Assembly polls, Sharma defeated Kapoor by 5,000 votes.Sharma, a close confidant of Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh, is seeking votes on his development work. He claims that due to his efforts the Central University of Himachal Pradesh and an IT park have been sanctioned but Kapoor hits back at him in a poster war, saying when will these turn into reality.As per the Election Commission, about 1,000 Tibetans have registered themselves as voters ahead of the Assembly elections.In a close contest, these 1,000 Tibetan voters who will cast their vote for the first time, may prove decisive in electing their MLA.With the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) leaving the decision to cast votes on their wisdom, the Tibetan community appears to be divided.Phurbu Tolma, an official at the Election Commission of CTA, expressed her apprehension that voting would affect their ongoing struggle for a free Tibet.“We want to go back. Voting right will affect our struggle,” she said.But Thinley Jampa, a social activist, and Rinchen Gyal, an official of CTA, are of a different view.“Through voting we would mingle with Indians and would tell them about our struggle. This is not going to deter us. Freedom of Tibet is paramount,” Jampa, who runs the Tibet United Society, told IANS.Echoing the same view, Rinchen said, “Voting rights is a facility while free Tibet is our right. There is no base in the claims that voting in Indian election would divert us from the goal. Many Tibetans are living in different parts of the world and have got citizenship there but when it comes to our cause they don’t hesitate in giving their blood.”The rules allow all Tibetans born in India during 1950-1987 to get voting rights.Their importance in these elections can be understood from the fact that RSS leader Indresh Kumar held an hour-long meeting with Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama in Dharamshala on Nov. 4 in an apparent bid to woo the community votes. — (IANS) Related ItemsDalai Lama DharamshalaTibet Indian votingTibetans Himachal electionTibetans Himachal PradeshTibetans IndiaTibetans India electionlast_img read more

The Microsoft Millionaires

first_imgWalk into Seattle-based technocrat turned philanthropist Vijay Vashee’s spectacular waterfront home in swanky Mercer Island and it is hard to imagine that this 50-ish, “We were stupid enough to think we could change the world, and surprisingly, very often the world would actually let us change it!” says Vijay Vashee.soft spoken quicksilver man from Zimbabwe, thoroughly at ease entertaining a toddler, was not too long ago, a tough-as-nails Microsoftie, credited with raising the revenues of Windows Project 20-fold, from $5 million to $100 million, in two years. Or talk to the very wealthy and very down to earth S. Somasegar, 40, corporate vice president of Microsoft’s Developer Division, and you would be unlikely to imagine that the man once unable to even afford his school education while growing up near Pondicherry, now, hobnobs with the who’s who of Indian politics and American CEOs.Similar stories of mercurial rises are retold in affluent living rooms and neighborhoods all over Seattle. Thousands of ambitious brainiacs from Chandigarh to Chennai, many via Africa or the famed IITs (Indian Institutes of Technology), have made Microsoft’s Redmond campus their home. Many are 30- or 40-something in their Porsches and Mercedes, people with otherwise simple needs. They only want a laptop and some coffee, food is optional as is the need to rejoice in their wealth or rest on their laurels.Microsoft dominates the world with 700 million personal computers using its products. Its company logo is reputed to be the second most recognized after Coca Cola and its revenue are expected to top $40 billion this year, more than fourfold that in 1996. Roughly half of Microsoft’s global workforce of 65,000 works out of the Puget Sound area, where its Redmond headquarters are based. An estimated 3,000 Indians, just under 10 percent, perhaps the largest single foreign group, work for the company in Washington State.Alka and Akhtar Badshah with their art work at their home in the Seattle suburb of Bellevue, Wash.The vast majority of Indians at Microsoft are lay software employees, pulling anything from $60,000 to $120,000 in annual salary. But a handful have penetrated the highest echelons of the company, including at least six corporate vice president, including, besides Somasegar, Anoop Gupta, corporate vice president, Unified Communications Group; Satya Nadella, corporate vice president, Microsoft Business Solutions; Gurdeep Singh Pall, corporate vice president, Live Communications Team, Real-Time Collaboration Group; Sanjay Parthasarathy, corporate vice president, Developer & Platform Evangelism Group; Amitabh Srivastava, corporate vice president, Windows Core Operating System Development. Many other Microsoft hotshots have gone on to start their own companies.Somasegar wants to demystify the urban legend called Microsoft. Still driving his 1994 Honda, Somasegar is likely to blow you away with his simplicity. He is a medical technician’s son and a well-known figure in the Indian community in the Emerald City. He says growing up in 1960s, he was in love with mathematics and (something strange at the time), called computers. Life consisted of constantly studying smart to ensure he retained his school scholarships. In a logical conclusion to this technology fairytale, in a reversal of fortunes, his pre-teen daughters now attend math camps at Stanford and his close-knit family vacations at the top resorts in the world.Many Indians made their millions from the mercurial rise in Microsoft’s stock in the early 90s. Between 1986 to 1996 as Microsoft stock soared hundredfold, Seattle economist Richard S Conway, Jr., who evaluated Microsoft’s fiscal impact on Washington State, estimates the company generated 10,000 millionaires by 2000. At least a few hundred of them are Indian.Many of the Microsoft millionaires took long sabbaticals and then returned to work for “the man,” otherwise known as Bill Gates for no other reason than to fulfill their love of innovating technology. Most of them say they do not need to work and, in fact, could easily take care of the next three generations of their family. Nevertheless, work has many times been so exciting, intellectually and materially speaking, that many of them have joyfully welcomed its intrusions into important events like marriage, for instance!35-year-old Sharmilli Ghosh, an ex-Microsoftie and now a consultant with Microsoft, remembers how her start up company Zephyr was being bought in America on the day of her wedding in Kolkata in 1999. While she was getting ready for the ceremony, faxes upon faxes were popping in, telling her how her company’s net worth was going up every hour.Her “very traditional” relatives could only shake their bemused heads at the spunky software engineer’s achievements, thanks to her stubborn will to study in America and a stint at Microsoft. Instigated by a conspiratorial elder brother to come to America for her undergraduate studies, Ghosh says luck brought her to the Microsoft Redmond campus where she pretty much lived at work and met and married her fiance, fellow Kolkattan Shubho Bhattacharya. Sure work was grueling, with sometimes no time to even sleep at night, but who could leave at 5 pm when you saw Bill Gates stay on till midnight, she says with a chuckle! Ghosh, now a high profile collector of Bengali art, says in the glory days of mid-90s, Microsoft was the life center of most Indian professionals. If you were going out to a movie, you met at Microsoft; if you were going to a Club you first met there; heck, if you needed late night munchies, you converged on the campus for some Mexican street food. Life had no zing without Microsoft!Sanjay Parthasarthy, corporate vice president at Microsoft, says his original dream was to play cricket professionally for India and says he learned many business management maneuvers from the game.A genial laugh often punctuates Vijay Vashee’s nostalgic accounts of the early days of Microsoft. He recalls that he enjoyed his interview with Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer so much that he took a 15 percent pay cut (and some stock options, which he saw as little more than a white elephant), to accept their offer to be the second Indian hire and 27th employee at Microsoft. He says he convinced his wife they would be able to buy a bigger house if the stock options turned out to be worth $10 each! He remembers going to lunch with Gates and the gang at cheap mom and pop joints in Bellevue. Thai Kitchen was one such haunt, where Gates would order his favorite burgers and fries from an adjoining restaurant twice a day. Gates had to turn vegetarian for a while when his cholesterol rocketed, but soon reverted to burgers.Vashee says that is characteristic of Gates; relentless in going after the things he wants, be it fries or revenue! He also remembers his Friday night beer bashes with the gang. It’s very different now; when Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer plan lunch together about once a week, they are known to take a helicopter ride to Vancouver, B.C., where they can have some privacy and be back at work in a couple hours! Vashee received his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from IIT Bombay, a masters degree in Electrical Engineering at Cornell and an MBA at the University of Chicago. After 19 years at Microsoft, a super influential busybody, Vashee retired from active work four years ago.Ask him what made Microsoft the icon it is and he likens this IT behemoth to Gene Brody, a fictional Scottish school teacher, who said, “Give me a girl who is impressionable and she’s mine forever.” He says substitute the girl for the world and Microsoft for Gene Brody and you’ve got one of the world’s biggest tech success stories.Vashee who is chairperson of Bellevue Community College’s board of trustees, shares tidbits of Microsoft’s early days, when it was a $25 million firm, and just how cocky and wild Bill Gates and his team was, both linguistically and business-wise. He says emotions often ran high at the company and the absence of women in the workplace allowed their language to be colorful. He says, “We were stupid enough to think we could change the world, and surprisingly, very often the world would actually let us change it!”In an era where corporate profit margins were de rigeur, Microsoft made bets on windows and stuck with the commitment. This stubborn backing of a product, actually stemmed from insane hours researching and fine tuning it and then marketing it till the cows came home. Vashee, a key player in several technology and company acquisitions, led major product definitions and marketing for Windows 1.0, Works, Excel, Access and MS Mouse.Samir Bodas, CEO of Disha Technologies, at his office in Seattle, Wash.Vashee co-founded and brought TiE (The IndUS Entrepreneur) to Seattle and regularly mentors many young professionals in the area. He says his focus and humility comes from working years with whip smart people who keep you on your toes and keep your drive to “learn” alive and kicking.Somasegar credits drive and passion to his motivation to show up for work everyday. He says once at a popular ride in Disneyland a few years ago, he had an epiphany when he looked around at the long line of people around him. He said there was a good chance all of them had used Microsoft Windows at least once, which had been his “baby” for 16 years, which made him feel all warm and fuzzy inside! Some Microsofties find humor in their blinding love for technology in a variety of witty nicknames.This constant pressure, working with the best minds in the world is anathema to many, but exhilarating for some, whose middle names should read “coding machine,” “tech junkies,” or “Gals,” which stands for “genetically altered loonies.” In fact, Vashee says people used to call Microsoft the “Velvet Sweatshop,” where you would work very hard, but be so stuffed with money that few would want to leave the hallowed interiors that often consumed 90 percent of their time. He says he remember a coworker who after making his millions retired on an island in Jamaica where he even now lives in a hut without a phone or email. Just the ocean and the sky!Some of the 40-something millionaires, who are earning salaries or cashing in stock options that would leave ordinary people incredulous, have enjoyed their material possessions, but are also finding ways to share their wealth with the world and Microsoft, along with the Gates Foundation, have led the way.On a magnolia-scented nook in Bellevue sits the home of Akhtar Badshah, senior director of Community Affairs at Mircrosoft. A doctoral graduate of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Badshah serves on the advisory board of the Development Gateway Project of the World Bank, World Links India, World Corp., Teachers Without Borders and Datamation Foundation India. Over sips of cinnamon chai, this architect and well-known activist, says Microsoft is his first gig working at a “for profit” company and he is having a ball. He says no other company has the influence of Microsoft, which gives him the freedom to spend its funds on the underserved of the world. Apart from giving substantial grants to poor countries, Microsoft’s program “Unlimited Potential,” offers IT empowerment to disadvantaged individuals. Microsoft contributes to 500 community projects in 95 countries and has been a leader in HIV/AIDS prevention in Africa. Badshah, who has been directly working with world leaders like Kofi Annan on making large parts of Africa technology literate, and President Bush on doing something similar with Mexico, says Microsoft is hoping to impact the lives of 250 million people by 2010 by teaching them basic IT skills and also by contributing $200-$300 million through its yearly software donation program. Badshah and his wife Alka, both transplanted Mumbaites, have had a long association with the software industry.Alka, a user interface designer and consultant for Microsoft since 1993, saw Akhtar disgruntled over the state of corporate giving in America. In 2004 she suggested he come to work for Microsoft to make a difference in the lives of people worldwide. Currently, Badshah, consumed by his non-profit background, is traveling the world, overseeing Microsoft’s many IT projects, from Nairobi to Cape Town. Alka, presently on a sabbatical, regularly indulges in her passion making glass art in her spare time. Their home, strewn with art objects from all over the world, is unpretentious like its owners. Here they paint or make sculptures in the courtyard while being serenaded by Sanjeev Kumar’s Gulzar classic Aandhi. Neither of them has any bitterness over the years they spent catching precious bits of each other in airport lounges, while their three sons were watched by nannies.Philanthropy is definitely high on the “to do” list of many of the Microsoft millionaires. Vashee calls himself a spiritual (not religious) man, and has been the founding father of Seattle’s first Hindu temple. He says after 9/11, he went to many churches, observed a grieving society and saw how the Indian community lacked a place to gather for emotional release. Vashee is also active in several charities, such Child Relief and You (CRY). His other passions include golfing and collecting art and antiques with his wife Sita.S. Somasegar says once at a popular ride in Disney land a few years ago, he had an epiphany when he looked around at the long line of people around him and concluded there was a good chance all of them had used Microsoft Windows at least once.Deepak Amin, a serial entrepreneur in his mid thirties, who founded three successful software outsourcing companies Covelix, VJungle, and Indicus, says he learned virtually everything he knows about business ethics from Microsoft and his father I.D. Amin, an engineer for the Indian Railway, whose other name should be “Tough Love Amin” for the manner he stood up to unions and terrorists in Punjab in the 1990s. In acronyms like ERP, CRM, SCM you see Amin and a motley bunch of tech innovators changing the way we live, work, do business, heck, even talk. Sitting in his high-rise water front apartment in fashionable Kirkland, he talks of the priceless life lessons he learned at Microsoft that motivated him to dive head-long into entrepreneurship.Microsoft also allowed him to travel all over the world for business and pleasure, but a deep socialistic vein drives him to visit his little village Mannood in the heart of Gujarat every year to make sure he doesn’t forget his commitment to making the lives of India’s villages better. Married to the artist Mamta Chandra, Amin says his entrepreneurial streak really blossomed after he aced the notorious Microsoft interviews and found himself loving the high pressure epicenter of the technology giant. He says his six-year stint at Microsoft showed him how to deal with work related stress by not taking himself too seriously. Mamta says it takes enormous energy to keep up with him as the rosy cheeked, profusely smiling, chatty dynamo smiled even more in response.A human dynamo would be a good nickname for S. Somasegar who was hand picked by Microsoft from the blustery winters of Buffalo, where he was studying for his Ph.D. and brought to verdant Seattle in 1989 as a software design engineer. He has since had a meteoric rise professionally. He saw Microsoft Windows being born literally in front of his eyes and now oversees the highly coveted India Development Center (IDC) in Hyderabad. He was invited by President APJ Kalam to India for a CEO seminar in 2003. Somasegar says he has been influenced by Narayan Murthy of Infosys and relates a story when he visited Infosys on behalf of Microsoft. It was a Saturday and guess who showed up to make sure he had a pleasant visit? Narayan Murthy, himself. This level of dedication and attention to detail is what differentiates a statesman from a businessman, says Somasegar, and compares it to the passion of Bill Gates. His wife Akila relates how he lugged his laptop even on vacations and only now has started leaving it at home. She says he never really asks for anything, except a quiet corner to do his work. She says he is an involved father to his two daughters Sahana, 12, and Archana, 9, making sure he spends time with them everyday after putting in his usual 12 hours at work.Sanjay Parthasarthy, another young corporate vice president at Microsoft, insists that working “smart” hours is critical to success. He took a four month vacation to be with his extended family in Chennai this summer and marvels at Microsoft’s ability to allow employees to take such time off to remain creative to battle competitors like Google. Parthasarthy says his original dream was to play cricket professionally for India and says he learned many business management maneuvers from the game.Amar Nehru, a former vice president for corporate development and strategy, says he felt very empowered and liberated while working for Microsoft. He was interviewed by Melinda French (not “Gates” yet), who offered him the job. Nehru started his Bachelor’s in Richmond, Va., the day after his oldest daughter was born and he attended his MBA graduation ceremony at Kellogg Business School with his infant third daughter strapped to his chest in a baby snuggly! Nehru relates a story where he once made a mistake that might have cost the company $3 million. He instantly confided in his boss CFO M. Brown, who went on to become the head of NASDAQ.Brown told him, “Son, no one got fired at Microsoft for making a mistake; they get fired for hiding one. It’s ok, we’ll fix it.” Now 46, Nehru is retired and enjoys entertaining his wife with his extensive repertoire of international and regional Indian cooking!Several prominent entrepreneurs in Seattle who have at one point or another worked for Microsoft include Pradeep Singh, founder of Aditi Technologies and Talisma; Samir Bodas of Disha Technologies; Shirish Nadkarni of TeamOn Systems; Naveen Jain of Infospace, and Rajiv Agarwal of MAQ software, among others. Singh, an affable man in his late forties, says the roll of the dice has been very favorable to this nomadic son of an army man, who used to feel like he was an admissions mistake at Harvard! He says working at Microsoft was a liberating and empowering experience where he learned a lot. Where else could he be in charge of a $20 million thriving tech product, Excel on Mac, two years out of business school, at 29 years of age? In 1993, after a life changing bicycle accident, he founded Aditi technologies, a software product development company.Amitabh Srivastava, corporate vice president, Windows Core Operating System DevelopmentBodas, CEO of Disha tech, a software testing firm that was recently acquired by Aztec for $12.1 million, is an alumna of the Wharton Business School. He spent several years at Microsoft Corp., most recently as director of SME Customer marketing where he executed the company’s worldwide strategy for demand generation, licensing, anti-piracy, and on-line efforts targeting of SME customers. Bodas worked at Microsoft during its most successful decade and says to a large extent, a part of one’s success is tied to being at the right place at the right time, and making sure you do a good job. He worked on the company’s flagship products, including Windows 3.1 and Window 95 and says that Microsoft helped him grow both as a leader and a businessman.Nadkarni, of the famed Blackberry, is a 12-year veteran of Microsoft, which he joined in 1987, where he held various senior management roles in marketing, product planning, and business development. A MBA graduate from Harvard Business School, Nadkarni was director of Product Planning at MSN.com, where he successfully drove the product and business strategy that catapulted MSN.com from ninth place to among the Web’s top three portal sites. While at MSN.com, he also orchestrated the acquisition of Hotmail.A common characteristic of the high rollers at Mircrosoft is a middle class academics-oriented family background. Although they have made it big, they are determined to impart simple, middle class values to their children. Many have passed up big mansions and rarely discuss money in front of their children. Most view money as means to an end, treating that extra zero in the paycheck as not being overly important in the grand scheme of things. Many aspire to address social ills, such as poverty and gender discrimination and lack of educational opportunities.Several of the ex-Microsofties lament that the company has lost its idealistic zeal and has become “a typical company.” Other common complaints are that they are so wound up at work that they have forgotten how to relax. Some have trouble sleeping, a few have been chronically depressed, even occasionally seen their marriages collapse.Seeta Vashee, an IT professional herself, says it is very hard for someone not at Microsoft to understand their spouse’s work pressures. Hence, marriages between two Microsofties tend to work better. Amin and Ghosh also talk about an over-the-top work culture where some Microsofties felt that just as the company was invincible, by association, they were too!Gurpreet Pall, a senior director of architectural strategy, who is in his mid thirties, says that after years of being in the top earning bracket at Microsoft, he has become an active spiritual seeker, often asking himself the meaning of life when he lies awake at 3 am gazing at the heavens! For starters, he now would like to go back to a simpler time, a simpler life, where he could drive a Toyota Corolla to work and have time to smell the roses. Related Itemslast_img read more

Creativity Crosses Physical Boundaries, Says Crime Fiction Writer Vish Dhamija

first_imgFrom the crammed lanes of Mumbai’s Bhendi Bazaar to the labyrinth of a female cop’s mind, Vish Dhamija’s crime fiction unfolds in a diverse array of settings. The British Indian writer is as much at ease with writing about the murky, volatile underworld as he is about the measured intensity of a court room drama.Dhamija himself is one who wears many hats. He is only seven years old in the publishing world, and already has six novels to his credit. The seventh – The Mogul – is scheduled to be released in 2018. And he is not even a full-time writer. When not writing, Dhamija remains busy with digital marketing. He spent years in the corporate world before taking up writing.Unlike many South Asian writers who begin by focusing on the migrant experience, Dhamija chose to write what he loves to read – crime fiction.“I like legal fiction, and since no one had written in that genre in the market yet, I took the risk,” the London-based writer tells Little India during his visit to the country for the Bangalore Literature Festival. “Being the first is always a two-edged sword — it could have bombed. But my first legal fiction — Déjà Karma — was successful, and encouraged me to write my second, Unlawful Justice.”The mass-followed genre, in fact, gave him an edge. Dhamija got an audience that is not restricted by the geographical base of the author or the characters of the book.“My primary audience is in India, but there are a lot of readers who live in various parts of the world who download my books on Kindle,” he says. “Like anything creative, stories, too, aren’t limited to physical boundaries — their setting might be.”Dhamija, who grew up at Ajmer in Rajasthan, before moving to the United Kingdom to pursue MBA at the Manchester Business School, is convinced that “every experience in life influences you”. And that includes his experiences as an Indian based in Britain.“You see a different world, you not only realize that different people react/behave differently to similar situations and things, but you also appreciate why they do so,” he explains. “Living in London, which is one of the most diverse cities in the world, modifies your thinking, your language.”His thoughts were also influenced by James Ellroy’s four novels (termed as LA Quartet), which inspired him to write Bhendi Bazaar and the book that he is working on — Lipstick. Dhamija is also candid about the impact on him of Scott Turow, John Grisham, Richard North Patterson and Michael Connelly, who prompted him to pen legal thrillers. His books, however, are being hailed in the world of Indian fiction for the innovative touch they carry. Often called “nuanced noir”, his work is occupying space that was largely lacking Indian writers in English, since many of them focus on the Young Adult genre.The characters in his novels are complicated, layered and exist in a world where everything is grey. In his recent novel, Unlawful Justice, another legal fiction brought out by Harper Publications in July this year, the characters grapple with their worlds crashing down and becoming something they had never imagined. The court room drama was eagerly consumed by readers, earning him a 4-star rating on Goodreads.Not that the accolades have brought about a storm in his life, even years after his first book, Nothing Lasts Forever, was long-listed for the Vodafone-Crossword Book Award 2011. Dhamija, in fact, even discounts that his life has been any different from his days in India. “My life was the same then, as it is now,” he says, “if you discount that I drove a different car, drank a different brand of cola.”He strongly feels that we tend to give too much importance to countries, which are a human construct. “As someone put correctly put it: why limit yourself to a nation when you can belong to the whole world?,” he says. “I, honestly, believe in John Lennon’s Imagine.”Well, considering Lennon’s song also has lyrics such as Nothing to kill or die for, that’s quite something coming from a crime fiction writer. Related Itemsbhendi bazaarcrime fiction Indian writernothing lasts foreverNRI authorunlawful justicevish dhamijalast_img read more

Indian Doctor Pleads Guilty to Groping Minor on United Airlines Flight in U.S.

first_imgAn Indian doctor pleaded guilty on Nov. 8 to groping a minor girl who was sleeping during a United Airlines flight from Seattle to New Jersey’s Newark Liberty International Airport in July.Vijaykumar Krishnappa, 29, admitted to intentionally touching the girl, 16, near her groin over her leggings without her consent while she was asleep, Acting U.S. Attorney William E Fitzpatrick said in a statement. He will be jailed for 30 to 90 days in January, according to a plea agreement.The girl was awakened by the stranger’s hands on her thigh. He quickly removed his hand when she woke up. The girl then went back to sleep.“I knew what was going on but like, I just thought I was dreaming or something, like, this cannot really be happening,” she told CBS. She was on her way to Princeton after winning admission to a prestigious young women’s leadership academy.However, the next time she woke up, he had “put his hand on her groin and inner thigh, and began rubbing the victim through her clothing,” according to the complaint. She caught him trying to put his hands inside her pants. She reported the incident to the airlines crew and they moved her to a different seat.“I just felt like he could see me. Like he could see wherever I was sitting,” she told CBS News. “There was just still so much time, like, I couldn’t just leave the plane. I didn’t have anyone. I didn’t feel like there was anyone on the plane that could protect me.”After landing at the airport she called her parents in Washington. Meanwhile, Krishnappa left.The girl’s family filed a complaint against the airlines for not detaining the man, who was studying medicine in the United States under a fellowship for doctors from foreign countries.“I literally thought I was going to die,” the teen’s mother said. “I’m 3,000 miles away. My child says she’s been sexually assaulted and I’m asking her questions and she’s like, disoriented, I’m like, ‘Where is he? Do you see him?’ And she said, ‘He just walked by me.’ And I said, ‘Get the police! Get United!”‘The United terminal supervisor told the mother that “United did not follow their own protocols.” Later, the police and the FBI investigated the incident and the man was picked out by her from a line-up. Related Itemsindian doctor sexual molestationNRI molestorunited airlines Indian doctorUS flight sexual assaultVijaykumar Krishnappalast_img read more

Hate Crimes Increase in New Jersey But Fewer Indian Americans Targeted

first_imgThree cases of hate crime were reported against Indian Americans in New Jersey in 2016, according to latest data released by the state. A total of 10 cases of hate crime against 10 Asians were reported in the same period, it added. Three of the hate crimes were against Hindus, of which two were against the individual, while one concerned damage to property.Hate crimes had been declining since 2011 in the state that has a large population of Asians, including Indian Americans. However, there was an increase in hate crimes in 2016, although Indian Americans were less targeted.There were 775 total reported incidents of hate crime in 2010, followed each successive year by 606, 553, 459, 373 and finally 367 in 2015. But there were 417 incidents in 2016. There were seven hate crimes against Asian Indians in 2015.“It’s sad that we see bias incidents trending upward, but it’s not surprising, given that we have political leaders in this country who encourage the expression of intolerance and hatred, or in other cases, ignore or countenance it,” Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said on March 29, according to NJ.com. “What we need to do, as individuals and as a society, is to push back against this prejudice. We need to embrace the diversity that makes us stronger as a state and a nation, and we need to spread a countervailing message of tolerance and unity.”There was an increase in hate crimes against Muslims in 2016, with 15 crimes reported against a person, seven against property, and four against Islamic public property. In 2015, hate crimes against Muslims increased 250 per cent in New Jersey. There were 14 crimes against Muslims in 2014 and 14 in 2015. Nationwide, hate crimes against Muslims increased by two-thirds in 2015 over 2014.Jewish and African Americans also faced more crimes in 2016 than Asian Indians. There were 114 incidents of hate crimes against Jewish people, including property and public property while there were 127 hate crimes against African Americans.Most of the offenders in the state were aged between 11 and 17 years. Fifty three offenders were in that age group while 50 victims were also between that age group. There were 144 male offenders and 149 male victims while there were 35 female offenders and 99 female victims.Some of the hate crimes were also sexual in nature. Homosexual males were the most persecuted group as hate crimes against them numbered at 25 out of all 48 hate crimes that were sexual. Related Itemshate crimesIndian AmericansNew Jerseylast_img read more

Owner, Operator of Indian Restaurant Convicted for Allergic Death of Teenager in U.K.

first_imgAn Indian restaurant owner and operator have been found guilty and convicted for an allergy-related death of a 15-year-old girl.Mohammed Abdul Kuddus, 40, and Harun Rashid, 38 were found guilty of manslaughter at Manchester Crown Court following an investigation into the death of Megan Lee.According to a police statement, Lee had ordered a takeaway from the Royal Spice Indian takeaway in Hyndburn on December 30, 2016, and the food caused an apparent allergic reaction.She was admitted to Royal Blackburn Hospital but died on January 1, 2017. Later, a post-mortem examination revealed that she died from asthma due to a nut allergy.After a thorough investigation held by the Lancashire Constabulary, Lancashire County Council and Hyndburn Borough Council and, after consultation with the Crown Prosecution Service, Kuddus and Rashid, were charged. The statement further said that the concerned restaurant Royal Spice in Oswaldtwistle, Lancashire did not take any safety measures for the customers regarding allergies.Deputy Chief Inspector Mark Vaughton, of Lancashire Police, stated, “Megan’s death was the tragic consequence of the conduct of these two men. As owner and operator, Kuddus and Rashid each owed a duty of care to the public. They had to take reasonable steps to ensure customer safety; and in particular, in discharging that duty of care, to take reasonable steps to provide food that was not harmful to customers with a food allergy.”Kuddus reportedly admitted to one count of failing to discharge general health/safety duty to a person other than an employee and one count of contravening or failing to comply with EU provision concerning food safety and hygiene. He also pleaded guilty to the same offenses on behalf of Royal Spice Takeaway Ltd, trading as Royal Spice, but had denied manslaughter, the statement read.Rashid has been charged with manslaughter, one count of failing to discharge general health/safety duty to a person other than an employee and one count of contravening or failing to comply with EU provision concerning food safety and hygiene. He had pleaded not guilty to the charges.Both the men were found guilty of all counts following the trial. Their sentencing has been scheduled for Nov. 7. The Indian restaurant is now trading under a new ownership.Vaughton said, “This was a tragedy waiting to happen, and one to which these defendants had given little or no thought.”Expressing the grief over losing their daughter and stressing the importance that should be given to safety measures, Lee’s family has released a statement after the verdict, which read,” Our lives will never be the same, the loss of our beautiful daughter has completely devastated us. Megan’s positive presence and infectious smile will be forever missed …. We wouldn’t have been able to get through these most difficult times without the incredible support and professionalism of our family liaison officers and investigation team at Lancashire Police. We’d like to thank them wholeheartedly for their exhaustive and meticulous work with Megan’s case. Also, to our legal team, led by Mr. Wright for their impeccable and industrious work.”Stressing the necessity of allergy-related food safety, the statement said, “Whilst we may have received some justice with today’s verdict, we live in hope that today’s result is a warning to other food businesses operating in such a deplorable and ignorant manner to learn by this and improve their standards with immediate effect. We urge all food businesses to improve the standard of food safety and to take allergies seriously. Trading Standards and Environmental Health are there to help. Do not guess, do not play ignorant, do not play Russian roulette with precious lives.” Related Itemslast_img read more

Celtics edge Nets for 6th straight win

first_imgCarroll shot 3 for 12 and scored 10 points and had to be helped from the floor by teammates after the final flurry near the basket. He came into the game batting rib soreness. Coach Kenny Atkinson said Carroll wanted to keep playing, but he’s going to be hurting while he does. “I think it’s very painful,” Atkinson said. “I think if you’ve ever had a rib, I think those are painful but I do think it’s something that can’t get worse, so it’s what pain level can you tolerate.”UP NEXTCeltics: Play Philadelphia on Thursday in London.Nets: Host Toronto on Monday night. Don’t miss out on the latest news and information. Typhoon Kammuri accelerates, gains strength en route to PH LeBron James has near triple-double, Cavs hold off Magic Read Next “He is not scared of the moment,” coach Brad Stevens said about the No. 3 pick. “Never has been.”The Nets cut it two on Joe Harris’ tip and had a bunch of chances to tie in the final seconds, but missed a series of shots near the basket, with DeMarre Carroll appearing to be injured during the sequence.Irving finished with 21 points, and Tatum added 14.Both teams shot under 40 percent, with the Celtics perhaps worn out after a draining week in which they beat Cleveland on Wednesday and Minnesota on Friday in nationally televised games at home. But they played their usual rock-solid defense, limiting the Nets to 33 percent shooting from the field and 19 percent from 3-point range.“For us as a young, developing group to really will ourselves to that win, of course there are some games where we’re not necessarily going to score over 90 points,” Irving said. “But on the flip side, we can hold teams to under 90 points so we’ll always give ourselves a great chance to win if we’re playing at a high level on the defensive end.”ADVERTISEMENT 8th Top Leaders Forum assessed the progress of public-private efforts in building climate and disaster resilient communities Giannis Antetokounmpo powers Bucks in bounce back win over Celtics PLAY LIST 02:29Giannis Antetokounmpo powers Bucks in bounce back win over Celtics00:50Trending Articles00:50Trending Articles01:29Police teams find crossbows, bows in HK university01:35Panelo suggests discounted SEA Games tickets for students02:49Robredo: True leaders perform well despite having ‘uninspiring’ boss02:42PH underwater hockey team aims to make waves in SEA Games01:44Philippines marks anniversary of massacre with calls for justice01:19Fire erupts in Barangay Tatalon in Quezon City Brace for potentially devastating typhoon approaching PH – NDRRMC BI on alert for illegally deployed OFWs to Iraq Kammuri turning to super typhoon less likely but possible — Pagasacenter_img Boston Celtics guard Terry Rozier, center, moves the ball around Brooklyn Nets guard Allen Crabbe (33) during the second half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, Jan. 6, 2018, in New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)NEW YORK — With a couple big wins behind them and a long plane ride ahead, the Boston Celtics knew they were in for a rough game.“I think everybody had to push through,” rookie Jayson Tatum said.ADVERTISEMENT Spencer Dinwiddie had 20 points for the Nets, who were bidding for their first three-game winning streak of the season.They’re also trying to earn respect, and Dinwiddie feels they aren’t getting it yet from referees.“When you approach somebody and they shush you or they wave you off like you’re not a man, you know what I’m saying, or something of that nature,” Dinwiddie said, “that’s also frustrating to already be in a position of feeling like you’re not getting the same respect.”Harris had 10 points and 12 rebounds in his first career double-double.TIP-INSCeltics: The Celtics missed their first five free throws before Irving made the second of his two attempts in the second quarter. Jaylen Brown was 0 for 4 in the first half. Boston finished 8 for 15. … The Celtics have won the last eight meetings, including three close games this season.Nets: Jahlil Okafor had 12 points in 13 minutes, going 5 for 12 from the field in his second straight appearance. … With backup guard Caris LeVert out for a second straight game with a left groin strain and Isaiah Whitehead unavailable, Milton Doyle made his third appearance of the season and second at home. The rookie guard is on a two-way contract and has spent much of his time with the Nets’ G League affiliate.HORFORD HURTINGHorford said his knee began hurting in the second quarter of the Celtics’ victory over Minnesota on Friday night, though he didn’t recall any specific moment. He said the knee felt better after treatment overnight and Saturday and was optimistic he could play, but said the knee just didn’t feel right after his pregame workout on the court. He said he hoped to play Thursday.CARROLL CONCERN MOST READ Tatum did most of the pushing at the end.He had a driving dunk and a 3-pointer on consecutive possessions, pulling the Celtics out of a late hole and leading them to an 87-85 victory over the Brooklyn Nets on Saturday night.FEATURED STORIESSPORTSWATCH: Drones light up sky in final leg of SEA Games torch runSPORTSMalditas save PH from shutoutSPORTSLillard, Anthony lead Blazers over ThunderPlaying without Al Horford because of a sore left knee, Boston won its sixth straight heading into its trip to London to face Philadelphia on Thursday.The Celtics were trailing by one when Tatum got the ball and drove for a powerful slam that gave them an 84-83 lead. Kyrie Irving missed on Boston’s next possession but wrestled the ball away from DeMarre Carroll and got it to Tatum in the corner near the Boston bench, and his 3 made it 87-83 with 45 seconds to play. Asian shares slide on weak Japan data; US markets closed Kris Aquino ‘pretty chill about becoming irrelevant’ Do not bring these items in SEA Games venues LATEST STORIES View commentslast_img read more

Alab bounces back, torches Mono Vampire

first_imgPhoto by Tristan Tamayo/ INQUIRER.netTanduay Alab Pilipinas vented their ire on Mono Vampire en route to a 114-87 win Sunday in the 2018 ASEAN Basketball League at Stadium 29 in Bangkok.Coming off a humiliating home loss to Singapore last Wednesday, Justin Brownlee led the charge for the Philippine side with a near triple-double effort with 29 points, eight rebounds and nine assists with two blocks to boot.ADVERTISEMENT Bobby Ray Parks Jr. sparked the blowout as he unleashed 10 of his 19 markers in the first quarter, shooting 3-of-6 from three. He also collected seven boards and six dimes.Josh Urbiztondo also waxed hot from deep, going 5-of-10 from to finish with 17 points on top of three rebounds, and three assists, while Renaldo Balkman had 14 markers, seven boards, and five dimes.FEATURED STORIESSPORTSWATCH: Drones light up sky in final leg of SEA Games torch runSPORTSLillard, Anthony lead Blazers over ThunderSPORTSMalditas save PH from shutoutAlab asserted itself early, taking an 18-7 lead in the first quarter and pull ahead by as held as high as 33, 104-71, with a Brownlee layup with 6:58 remaining.The Filipinos, who evened their record at 4-4, also snapped Mono’s three-game winning run to drop to 6-4. Asian shares slide on weak Japan data; US markets closed Do not bring these items in SEA Games venues John Lloyd Cruz a dashing guest at Vhong Navarro’s wedding Brace for potentially devastating typhoon approaching PH – NDRRMC Don’t miss out on the latest news and information. Typhoon Kammuri accelerates, gains strength en route to PH BI on alert for illegally deployed OFWs to Iraq 8th Top Leaders Forum assessed the progress of public-private efforts in building climate and disaster resilient communities Quarters: 32-22, 54-37, 88-62, 114-87. Trending Articles PLAY LIST 00:50Trending Articles00:50Trending Articles02:31In Thailand, Paul Zamar resuscitates PBA dream with Mono Vampire01:29Police teams find crossbows, bows in HK university01:35Panelo suggests discounted SEA Games tickets for students02:49Robredo: True leaders perform well despite having ‘uninspiring’ boss02:42PH underwater hockey team aims to make waves in SEA Games01:44Philippines marks anniversary of massacre with calls for justice01:19Fire erupts in Barangay Tatalon in Quezon City Mike Singletary carried the load for the Thais with 24 points and 11 rebounds, while Paul Zamar got 20 markers and three boards.Sam Deguara also had 17 points and 12 rebounds for Mono, but struggled to get help from the locals.The Scores:ALAB PILIPINAS 114 — Brownlee 29, Parks 19, Urbiztondo 17, Balkman 14, Raymundo 10, Maierhofer 7, Javelona 6, Alabanza 4, Domingo 4, Celiz 2, Hontiveros 2, Sumalinog 0.MONO VAMPIRE 87 — Singletary 24, Zamar 20, Deguara 17, Brickman 7, Boonyai 5, Ananti 4, Chanthachon 3, Apiromvilaichai 2, Khukhandhin 2, Phuangla 2, Samerjai 1, Kruatiwa 0.ADVERTISEMENT LATEST STORIES Read Next Kammuri turning to super typhoon less likely but possible — Pagasa MOST READ Dandan: It’s very obvious we have a lot of weaknesses View commentslast_img read more

England recall Morgan, Hales for India limited-overs series

first_imgEoin Morgan has been recalled to England’s limited-overs squad and he will be leading the team against India in the ODI and T20I series next month.The 30-year-old is also joined in both squads by top-order batsman Alex Hales. Both players return to the international set-up for the first time since the end of the English domestic season.  Joe Root also returns to the squad having been rested after England’s ODI series victory over Bangladesh in October. Meanwhile, Ben Duckett, Steven Finn and James Vince all miss out. England under Morgan and head coach Trevor Bayliss have won nine of their last 12 ODIs. Selectors have announced both the ODI and T20 squads for the India series. England will play three ODIs and three T20Is during the three-week tour with the ODI opener taking place on January 15 in Pune. ODI squad: Moeen Ali, Jonathan Bairstow, Jake Ball, Sam Billings, Jos Buttler, Liam Dawson, Alex Hales, Eoin Morgan (capt), Liam Plunkett, Adil Rashid, Joe Root, Jason Roy, Ben Stokes, David Willey, Chris Woakes T20I squad: Moeen Ali, Jake Ball, Sam Billings, Jos Buttler, Liam Dawson, Alex Hales, Chris Jordan, Tymal Mills, Eoin Morgan (capt), Liam Plunkett, Adil Rashid, Joe Root, Jason Roy, Ben Stokes, David Willey.last_img read more