Aishwarya Rai’s Cannes Designer Says, ‘Petal’ Dress Represents Hope, Birth, And Beauty

For her second walk on the red carpet on the second day of the 75th Cannes Film Festival in Paris, Bollywood icon Aishwarya Rai Bachchan chose a shell pink and silver Gaurav Gupta couture gown.

Inspired by the birth of Venus, the goddess of beauty and love, the gown celebrates pure artistic couture and creates an unforgettable fashion moment on the red carpet. Keeping the hair and make up minimal, the Bollywood actress choose to wear her tresses to one side and kept her look natural.

Gaurav Gupta, who designed Aishwarya’s dress, which featured a mermaid-style silhouette and a shell-shaped structure on its back, has now revealed the thought process and the hard work that went into designing the unique dress.

He said that he wanted to create something special for Aishwarya, as Cannes 2022 marked her 20th year at the festival. The designer said that with Aishwarya’s gown, he wanted to share a message of hope, birth, and beauty after the tough times the world has faced in recent years.

Gaurav told PTI, “We wanted something which denotes hope, birth and beauty.

After all the world has gone through in the past few years, we wanted to celebrate life and art.” The designer also noted that the gown was his interpretation of Italian also Sandro Botticelli’s famous painting Birth of Venus, with the shell like structure behind the shoulder symbolising Venus’s rise from the scalloped shell.

He said, “Aishwarya is a complete woman and a beautiful person. As I got to know her through the process, I discovered a wonderful, spiritual person who is really connected to her soul and is elegant. That purity in the absolute sense of beauty inspired me to think of the concept of the Birth of Venus.”

The designer reported that it took 20 days and over 100 craftspeople to create the outfit as they made sure not to disappoint ‘one of the most beautiful women in the world.’ He added that Aishwarya herself was involved in the creative process right from the beginning.

Talking about Aishwarya’s stardom at the festival, Gaurav said, “The frenzy, the love, that Aishwarya receives here, it’s almost madness. People couldn’t stop screaming her name out loud and the fanfare was insane. So just to see that frenzy, it fills you with joy… She is a phenomenon in Cannes. It’s like a real-life film in itself.”

After attending the Cannes Film Festival, Aishwarya returned to Mumbai with her husband Abhishek Bachchan and daughter Aaradhya Bachchan on Saturday night. She will next be seen in Mani Ratnam’s Ponniyin Selvan.

Recently, musical sensation Cardi B. also choose to wear the Indian designer’s creation in her latest music video and single release.

Taking A Break From The Digital World Is Healthy

Technology has connected us in ways we never anticipated and made our lives more convenient. While technology definitely comes with numerous positive benefits, there are negative sides to it as well that can lead to physical and psychological issues. A 2017 study by the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that people within the age group of 19-32 who had higher usage of social media were more likely to feel isolated than those who didnt use social media so often.

Innovative technologies and smart gadgets have made us slaves of the digital era, and there’s an imperative need to get some respite from this dependency and disruption. That’s where yoga and meditation can make a difference. These ancient practices have been part of our civilisation for years and are used to align the body, mind and spirit and bring mental clarity.

Why a Break from the Digital World is Necessary

We are constantly tethered to technology through our smartphones, tablets, computers, and even watches, and companies are pushing our psychological buttons to make us return for more. Constant distractions are ruining our cognitive functions and leaving many prone to anxiety and memory lapses. Overuse of digital media can also have detrimental effects on physical health. Too much smartphone usage can put a lot of pressure on the shoulders, neck, and spine. Technology overuse can also lead to strained injuries of the thumbs, fingers, and wrists. Overexposure to the blue light emitted by smartphones and computers can also interrupt the circadian clock, causing sleep issues.

How Yoga can help

In people who practice yoga on a daily basis, changes occur in the brain structure and new connections are developed. Also, it results in improved cognitive skills like memory and learning. Here are some easy yoga poses to get you started:

Tadasana (Mountain Pose): How to do:

*Stand with the feet together keeping the arms by the side.

* Straighten the legs and tuck the tailbone in while engaging the thigh muscles.

* While inhaling, elongate through the torso and raise the arms.

* Exhale and release the shoulder blades away from the head.

* Take slow breaths and maintain this position for 30 seconds.

Benefits: This pose engages all the major muscle groups and improves concentration and focus.

AdhoMukhaSvanasana: How to do:

* Come onto your hands and knees with the palms just past the shoulder.

* The knees must be kept under the hips.

* Lift the hips and press back to form a V-shape with the body.

* Keep the feet hip-width apart.

* Spread the fingers and move the chest towards your legs.

* Maintain this position for 30 second and gently release.

Benefits: This pose stretches the lower body, improves posture and balances the body and mind.

Balasana (Child’s Pose): How to do:

* Kneel on your mat with the toes tucked under.

* Lower the hips towards the feet and extend your arms forward.

* The stomach should be resting on the thighs and forehead touching the mat

* Maintain this position for 1 minute and release.

Benefits: Apart from releasing tensions in the chest, this pose relaxes the spine and back as well as promotes good sleep.

Savasana: How to do:

* Lie on the back with the arms alongside the body.

* The palms should be facing upwards and the body must be kept completely relaxed including the face.

* Continue with gentle breathing and keep your attention on your breath.

* Stay in this pose for a few minutes and release.

Benefits: This pose calms the nervous system reducing stress and anxiety. It also aids the immune and digestive system.

Achieve Balance with Meditation

Meditation has been a useful tool for ages to maintain control of the mind and transform thoughts. People who incorporate meditation into their daily lives remain more composed during times of adversity and clear-minded. In fact, new studies have revealed that consistent practise of meditation increases GABA levels, which promotes emotional well-being and helps one feel happy.

When combined with yoga and pranayama, meditation can do wonders for our body and mind gradually, and one can see the reflection of the same in their daily lifestyle.

Conclusion

The rapid advancement of technology has certainly led to increased stress and emotional distress driven by rapid reward cycles, exposure to too much information, and simultaneous engagement in different tasks. Meditation and yoga can help us release inner tensions, quiet the mind, and stay focused. Only a few minutes of practise every day can bring a whole world of change, making us happy, healthy, and resilient to stress and burnout. Technology is here to stay and even get more advanced. It rests on us as to how we can adopt these practises as part of our lifestyle to bring a positive change and stay healthy.

India Actively Undercutting US’ Efforts To Isolate Russia: Report

India’s refusal to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and efforts to protect trade mean one of Washington’s most valued strategic partners is actively undercutting its efforts to isolate Moscow, Axios reported.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion has become a stress test for America’s global partnerships. America’s treaty allies are all onside, including those outside NATO such as Japan and South Korea. India, for reasons of history and geopolitical pragmatism, is very much not, the report said.

India abstained on a series of UN votes condemning the invasion.

One such resolution was backed by 141 countries, though a Russian diplomat contended that with China and India both abstaining, the critics represented less than half of the global population.

While the US and EU have led a global push to isolate Russia economically, India has been buying up more Russian energy at a discount, Axios reported.

As per the Financial Times, India’s central bank is discussing a rupee-ruble trade plan with Moscow to ensure it can continue to buy Russian goods, potentially weakening the effects of Western sanctions, the report said.

US officials say they understand India’s delicate position vis-a-vis Russia, though White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki called on India’s leaders to “think about where you want to stand when history books are written”.

The British Trade Secretary said Thursday that the UK is “very disappointed” by India’s position and hopes it will change. That’s not looking likely, Axios reported.

Unisex Public Schools In Chicago

Paris, often referred to as the ‘City of Light’ (La Ville Lumière), has always fascinated me for its clean roads and fashion shops. Surprisingly, a few years back, while in the international airport, I was in a Uni-sex toilette with no astonishment of passengers of either sex running up and down in it. Earlier, I felt as if I had done some sinning entering a Ladies’ restroom.

However, after a few hours, while sitting on my flight to New Delhi, my senses became diluted when I used the same bathroom both genders were using. So there is absolutely nothing special about Unisex public toilets (also referred to as gender-inclusive, gender-neutral, mixed-sex or all-gender, or without any prefix at all) are public toilets that are not separated by gender or sex.

Thinking about Gender equity, of course, the problem may be that genders are different and not equal. Somehow the custom and cultural ideologies kept them separate- at least for using the restrooms, and nothing wrong in that practice for many reasons.

But the latest news in the USA that Chicago expels sex-specific restrooms from public schools is a whistleblower for a provocative issue indeed.So far, boys and girls were using their specific restrooms in their own privacy and had no fear of peer pressure from the other gender. However, public school bathrooms will now be “gender-neutral,” a reform that Chicago Public Schools (CPS) boasts of as a “big step forward for gender equity.”

This reformative initiative requires the schools to display language outside of restrooms, informing students, whether male or female, that they may use the restroom that aligns with their gender identity. CPS prompted others, “We require all schools to adopt new signage to make our restrooms more inclusive. This is a big step forward for gender equity for our students and staff.” Is it going to influence the schooling practices themselves, or will it just be ignored?

This initiative not only impacts school children but also the school staff initially. As per CPS, the signage will “make it clear that all restrooms are open for use by anyone who feels comfortable.” It is also stated that the move is to “increase gender equity for all.”

One example of signage that will be displayed at schools reads: “This is a gender-neutral restroom with multiple stalls. It is open to users of any gender identity or expression.”

Is the School system meticulously worried about the health and safety of all students?. If so, Schools need to rip out the existing restrooms and replace them with single-user toilets. It will take up more space, but everyone’s privacy will be protected with no fear of peeping toms!

This is not what they are implementing in Chicago, and it is not a private restroom; it is the standard multi-stall bathrooms. We are really worried about the teens with all confused inhibitions and early sexual emotions.

We agree that all children need to be safe in the bathroom. Lack of safety and lack of comfort may be the two different concerns, which need to be clarified by the school administrators. Across our country, many students avoid using bathrooms fearing that another student might mistreat or harm them emotionally or physically.

Most of them will try to hold it till they reach home because, as we are talking about pre-teens and teens. Middle & high school students are very sensitive and insecure and shameful about their changing bodies and the opposite sex. So, a young girl getting her period for the first time or any girl needing to take care similar situation might have real embarrassment if there is a boy in the next stall; that is the reality. The consequences of these fears can be severe, impacting a child’s health, well-being, and ability to concentrate on learning.

If the real issue is on how to protect and respect individuals with a different gender than one assigned at birth, we need to recognize them. The emotionally disturbed trans may be less than 1%. Why do we change everything for the 1%? – that is what the average parent does not understand. Maybe, rather than designating all bathrooms gender-neutral, they should have at least one set for girls or boys only as well.se

“While the binary male/female gender paradigm is no longer sufficient for understanding gender identity and gender expression, this perspective is new to many people. Therefore, school leaders can reduce misunderstanding and conflict by raising awareness and educating constituencies about gender diversity, including transgender status.” (NAIS- Fox News).

We are apprehensive about the ever-increasing sexual assaults going on in many schools. Having gender-specific toilets will not necessarily stop teenage sexual assaults in school. Instead, how many of those implementing this reforming program would be comfortable in a restroom with someone of the opposite gender in the next stall?. Apart from that, usually, girls spend as much as twice as long in the bathroom as men, and that’s because they have physiological changes, and they have more layers of clothes to remove before using the toilette. Boys waiting outside usually show their impatience, ending up with angry words or shoutings. Needless to affirm that this setup is ripe for bullying, which is already out of control.

Why are so many throwing away gender norms for everyone else, making the majority uncomfortable so the one or two students in question can feel comfortable?.

Neither schools nor parents can assume that every child knows appropriate behavior with unisex concepts. When a school conveys what behaviors are and are not acceptable, the issues related to bathrooms move from assumptions and misperceptions about an individual’s intent and instead focus-on their observable act. Question remains – Is this a “big step forward,” and gender-neutral bathrooms in schools are of the utmost importance now?

Curtain Raiser to Diwali at Times Square Held At Indian Consulate

Samman for All and advisory board members of ‘ShopRite Diwali at Times Square in association with Samman for all’ held a curtain raiser and press conference at the Consulate of India NY to commemorate the beginning of the Diwali at Times Square on October 30th at Times Square.

The event was attended by Media Houses, Performers and the Sponsors of Diwali at Times Square. The program started with Ganesh Pooja followed by Diya Lighting Ceremony and Presentation by Neeta Bhasin, Founder of Diwali at Times Square where she shared the details of the upcoming festival. Sponsors like Shoprite and American Airlines spoke of the significance and importance of cultural event as big as Diwali at Times Square and its impact on the community.

“Our objective this year is to bring the light of positivity in the lives of people especially since the dark gloom of the pandemic has engulfed us. Through this event, we want to uplift the spirit of the community and share the message of love, togetherness, inclusion, and diversity,” Bhasin said.

“ShopRite Diwali at Times Square” in association with the non-profit “Samman for All” is showcasing the rich ‘Colors of India’ via its art and culture right in the heart of Times Square on October 30, 2021, starting at 1:00pm EST.

According to the founder of Diwali at Times Square, Neeta Bhasin, “Understanding different cultures makes us realize that the basic tenets of all cultures are the same. However, the difference in expression is what enriches the tapestry of our lives.” The celebration continues throughout the day into the evening with the traditional Diwali custom of ‘Diya (Lamp) Lighting’ ceremony on stage which will also be projected on the tallest billboard in Times Square followed by a rousing musical extravaganza – ‘The Light Up Times Square’ concert with international singer Jay Sean and other performers will be entertaining people with their superhit songs.

Due to its resounding success in the past years, the festival has also garnered praise and recognition by various media outlets as well as the US Government as being one of the largest Indian festivals outside of India.

This year, Diwali at Times Square has an association with ‘Samman for all’ not-for-profit organization. Director of ‘Samman for All’ said’ Our goal is to help people achieve a dignified living – a life that they can call their own. We wish this Diwali brighten the lives of people”.

”Diwali is an integral part of our cultural heritage. It represents our values, traditions, diversity and thought. Diwali at Times Square brings people from all walks of life together to celebrate the festival of Diwali. We would like to congratulate the Producer, Mrs. Neeta Bhasin, for meaningfully promoting Indian culture and our universal ideas in the US.” Said Mr. Randhir Jaiswal, Consul General of India NY,

The ShopRite stated ‘South Asian community is a very important part of our community, and we want everyone to taste the Diwali Celebration with Shoprite. We look forward to celebrating the festival of Delight at Times Square this year!!

Harry Singh Bolla, President & C.E.O, Bolla Oil Corp “I know how Diwali is a cheerful and nostalgic festival! It reminds me of happy times from my childhood. “Let’s come together and celebrate Diwali At Times Square on a October 30 and cherish all the good times”

Bhasin thanked the “Title Sponsor ShopRite, Airline Partner American Airline, Diya (Lamp) Lighting with the countdown partner Bolla Market and our sponsors Northwell Health, Northlandz, State bank of India and Nazranaa.”

Samman for All. mission is to facilitate people from the lower-economic strata to achieve their dreams by providing them with tools for sustainable living.  Event Guru WorldWide is a premier full-service event company specializing in festivals, concerts, tradeshows, gala dinners and press conferences. We conceptualize and implement events of all sizes and statures.

Post Afghanistan, US-Pakistan Relations Stand On The Edge Of A Precipice

With the Taliban back in power in Afghanistan, Pakistan may have come closer to achieving its long-sought “strategic depth” with respect to its western neighbor, with a Pakistan-friendly government in Kabul. But the Taliban’s victory is also seriously testing Pakistan’s long fraught bilateral relationship with America. For the last 20 years, U.S.-Pakistan relations have been defined by the needs of the U.S. war in Afghanistan. With that war having ended with an outcome as ignominious as a Taliban takeover, the relationship is at a clear crossroads. The outlook isn’t positive. Here’s where things stand.

The Mood In Washington

In Washington, where policymakers have been grappling with the fallout from the sudden Taliban takeover of Kabul in August and the scrambled evacuation that followed, the focus has shifted to identifying the mistakes made in the war in Afghanistan. Washington is taking a hard look at where things went wrong — and Pakistan, given its long history with the Taliban, is part of that equation.

In congressional hearings a couple of weeks ago on Afghanistan, U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley said that “we need to fully examine the role of Pakistan sanctuary” in understanding how the Taliban prevailed. In September, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken similarly said during his congressional hearing that “This is one of the things we’re going to be looking at in the days, and weeks ahead — the role that Pakistan has played over the last 20 years.” He added that the U.S. government would also be looking at “the role we would want to see [Pakistan] play in the coming years and what it will take for it to do that,” signifying that a review of how to engage Islamabad in the future was ongoing.

In the Senate, 22 Republican lawmakers have proposed a bill calling for Afghanistan’s new Taliban government to be sanctioned, along with governments that have supported the Taliban. The bill also calls for a report that will include “an assessment of support by state and non-state actors, including the government of Pakistan, for the Taliban between 2001 and 2020,” that also looks at the provision of “sanctuary space, financial support, intelligence support, logistics and medical support, training, equipping, and tactical, operation or strategic direction.”

What Pakistan Is Saying

Pakistan’s Senate in turn displayed “alarm” over the bill moved in the U.S. Senate, which Pakistan’s media termed an “anti-Pakistan” bill. Pakistan argues that it is being scapegoated for U.S. military and Afghan leadership failures — while ignoring its own support of the Taliban. It has not officially recognized the new Taliban regime, but it has been concertedly pitching engagement with it, with government officials making the case in speeches, op-eds, and interviews.

In his speech to the U.N. General Assembly, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan went beyond calls many have made for humanitarian relief and financial liquidity to avoid economic collapse in Afghanistan, to saying that “we must strengthen and stabilize the current government, for the sake of the people of Afghanistan.” (Pakistan also points out that instability and violence in Afghanistan will spill over into Pakistan.)

But Pakistan faces a credibility issue, and its call for the world to engage with the Taliban may have found more takers if it had not given the Taliban sanctuary or support over the last 20 years. As it is, these calls only highlight Pakistan’s long-standing ties with the Taliban. And Pakistan’s stance seems to argue for international support before the Taliban fulfill promises they have made regarding girls’ education and human rights.

What America Wants From Pakistan

America wants to ensure that Pakistan doesn’t formally recognize the Taliban government, and that it exercises its leverage over the Taliban to get the group to make concessions on women’s rights and girls’ education, and to form an inclusive government. (So far, the Taliban’s interim cabinet is all male, and beyond some diversity of ethnicity, entirely non-inclusive.)

Going ahead, America also wants to continue to cooperate with Pakistan on certain counterterrorism matters — especially now that it is limited to “over the horizon” operations in Afghanistan. General Frank McKenzie, the commander of U.S. Central Command, alluded to that in his congressional testimony: “Over the last 20 years we’ve been able to use what we call the air boulevard to go in over western Pakistan and that’s become something that’s vital to us, as well as certain landlines of communication. And we’ll be working with the Pakistanis in the days and weeks ahead to look at what that relationship is going to look like in the future.” The general was referring to air lines of communication (ALOCs) and ground lines of communication (GLOCs) that Pakistan provided to the U.S. over the last 20 years.

Recent Engagement From The Biden Administration With Pakistan

The Biden administration’s engagement with Pakistan to date — pre- and post-withdrawal — has focused almost exclusively on Afghanistan. Central Intelligence Agency Director William Burns visited Pakistan in September, ostensibly to discuss counterterrorism cooperation as well as other matters. Blinken and Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi had their first in-person meeting on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in New York, and the focus was on Afghanistan.

The readout of the meeting from the State Department was unmistakably bare bones and focused singularly on Afghanistan, but Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ longer readout also noted Pakistan’s “desire for a balanced relationship with the United States that was anchored in trade, investment, energy and regional connectivity.” This imbalance revealed a disconnect in their views of the relationship.

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman visited Pakistan last week. In an interview in India just before the visit, she said: “It’s for a very specific and narrow purpose, we don’t see ourselves building a broad relationship with Pakistan. And we have no interest in returning to the days of hyphenated India, Pakistan.” While in Pakistan, where she met Qureshi; Pakistan’s chief of army staff, Qamar Javed Bajwa; and the Pakistani national security adviser, Moeed Yusuf, Sherman was more diplomatic.

She noted that “Afghanistan was at the top of our agenda, but we also discussed our cooperation in other areas, including the climate crisis, geoeconomics and regional connectivity, and ending the COVID-19 pandemic” and added that “the United States believes that a strong, prosperous, democratic Pakistan is vitally important for the region and indeed for the wider world.”

Hanging over these meetings is the fact that Biden has not yet called Khan since he took office in January. The glaring lack of a phone call is a topic of considerable discussion in Pakistan.

Warning Signs

Many in Pakistan watching this phase of the U.S.-Pakistan relationship are evoking the end of the Soviet-Afghan war, when the U.S., after having allied with Pakistan to fund and arm the mujahideen that Pakistan trained to fight the Soviets, looked away from the region. America eventually sanctioned Pakistan for its nuclear weapons program.

Over the last 20 years, Washington’s needs in Afghanistan defined the U.S.-Pakistan relationship, even if that meant Washington sometimes had to turn a blind eye to Pakistan’s sanctuary for the Taliban. Now, after the withdrawal from Afghanistan, Washington has little incentive to gloss over what it has long seen as Pakistan’s double game or to broaden ties. Washington’s attention is now east of Pakistan: on its relationships with India and other countries to counter China.

In this environment, U.S.-Pakistan relations face a reckoning.

The U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan might have been a moment of opportunity to rethink a bilateral relationship that has been defined for much of the last 40 years by Pakistan’s western neighbor. But in early August, I wrote that the relationship between America and Pakistan stood in an uneasy limbo as the U.S. was withdrawing from Afghanistan; and that there would be “little to no appetite in Washington to engage with Pakistan on other matters going ahead if Afghanistan was embroiled in violence or in Taliban hands.”

The latter outcome has come to pass. Warning signs are flashing red for the U.S.-Pakistan relationship, and it’s safe to say that the scope for cooperation has narrowed. Sherman may not have been engaging in diplo-speak on Pakistan while in India, but she may have given away where the Biden administration is leaning for now on Pakistan: limited engagement on Afghanistan, and little else.

(Madiha Afzal is a Fellow – Foreign PolicyCenter for Middle East PolicyCenter for Security, Strategy, and Technology)

Indian Students Are A Strong Bridge Between India And USA

In a new initiative to connect the nearly 200,00 Indian students with the Indian American community and the Indian missions, GOPIO-Manhattan and the Indian Consulate in New York hosts Meet & Greet Event Welcome Event in New York.

“Indian Students continue to be a strong bridge between India and USA,” Ambassador Taranjit Singh Sandhu told students from India who had come together at Meet and Greet welcome event organized by the GOPIO-Manhattan (NYC) in cooperation with Consulate General of India in New York for the Students from India studying in the Northeast region in the United States. Organized with the objective of connecting the students to the community and providing mentoring opportunities as well as to raise awareness of Consular services to students from the Indian Consulate, the event held at the Indian Consulate in New York on Friday, September 17th was attended by students from 21 universities, mostly from the Northeast participated in person or virtually.

The Indian Ambassador addressed the students via a video message. He told them: “Delighted to welcome the students virtually!  The education and knowledge partnership are an area that holds great potential in our bilateral relations. During my visits across US, I’ve always made it a point to visit universities and visit faculty and students there.” He further added “We have an active student hub and a dedicated student wing at the Embassy. You can count on them for any assistance.” The chief guest/host for the evening Ambassador Randhir Kumar Jaiswal, commented, “Welcome to all the students from India with open heart as you pursue your future studies here in the North-East region and help in the growth of economy here in USA and back home in India.”

Ambassador Jaiswal further highlighted the goal to expand this program to include more students, from the pool of 200,000 students that come to the USA for further studies, to attend in person more interactive sessions and gain exposure to various services offered by the Consulate for the benefit of the students from registration at the Consular Portal, to cultural events to mental health support initiatives. The program started with a welcome by GOPIO International Chairman Dr. Thomas Abraham, who also serves as an advisor to GOPIO-Manhattan. Dr. Abraham encouraged the speakers to mentor, motivate and guide the students. Dr. Abraham said, “In the 1960s and ‘70s when a foreign student joined a university, he/she was given host family, now with connected world and social media, the host family concept went away and the 4.5 million Indian Americans could serve as the host family to the new students.”

GOPIO-Manhattan Executive Vice President Professor Rajasekhar Vangapaty moderated the first panel on mentoring students in the current market environment and added his learnings to the students using his unique perspective as a Registrar of Fashion Institute of Technology, the MIT of Fashion. There were four panelists in this session who are asked to comment on several questions. Abha Kumar, Business transformation leader/Board member Notify.io Advisory Board Shopelier, Former CIO- Corporate & International Vanguard, shared her experiences with the students and said, “The way we worked in the past will not be relevant post-COVID…we now will look for employees who have the ability to have a wide perspective and connect the dots.”

Kumar further added that students should master the technology component; the companies also look for certain emotional intelligence when they hire. Lastly, in corporate America, your work doesn’t speak for you, you need to speak for yourself. Prasan Kumar, Senior VP & Strategy Director at Publicis Group & Lecturer at Glasgow Caledonian New York College added “When you’re in a classroom, experiment as much as you can.” He elaborated, “bringing more than a text book education is significantly important, get your perspective as per your interest, helps you being a problem solver and think long-term for career choice reflecting from his personal experience of moving 4 careers in 2 decades from IT to advertising now.”

Neil Datta, Head of Due Diligence at Forbes Family Trust & Co-Founder Meritas provided insights in the current market context and said, “You’re either a fintech company or you don’t know it yet.” He further added, “The ability to be a problem solver is a crucial skill that helps you in whatever you choose to work in.” Joe Simon, CIO at Entain which is involved in Sports Betting, echoed the thoughts of the speakers and added, “Cultural sensitivity is crucial.” He further added that in order to succeed, one needs to be fairly convinced about what one is trying to do and that the two most underrated skills in corporate America are patience and persistence.”

The second panel on F1 to H1B via OPT was moderated by Aseem Trivedi, Manager of Data Analytics at Ernst and Young. He shared his unique path to Green Card as an experience for the students. He reminded the students “One should start thinking now what after H1B?” Akshat Singh, a recent economics graduate of Columbia University brought his experience with Students and shared the idea “Get started on OTP process asap and do not wait for 6-months or so.” Ankit Chaudhari, Associate Vice President at JP Morgan Chase commented about his personal journey from F1 to OPT to H1-B to Green Card and suggested students “ask your employer whether they will sponsor your visa or not, but you give your best services.”

Apeksha Tewari, Master of Laws from Penn State Law and Lawyer, shared her personal views to the students as part of the panel said, “Now that you are here, outside of your studies, you need to network with your professors, peers, everyone & communication is the key, ask for things.” Siddharth Jain, GOPIO Manhattan Board Member & Program Coordinator; conducted the questions & answers session and concluded with vote of thanks to Chief Guest/Host Ambassador Shri Randhir Kumar Jaiswal, Dy. Consul Shri Varun Jeph, Consul for Political, Education and Culture Shri Vipul Dev, Consul for Community Affairs Shri A. K. Vijayakrishnan and the consulate staff. Other GOPIO-Manhattan officials present at the meeting included Vice President Vimal Goyle, and Co-Secretaries Dr. Lisa George and Bhavya Gupta.

“The students had an excellent time networking with students from different universities as well as with speakers and the Consulate and GOPIO officials and we plan to do a much bigger event next year hopefully after the Covid restrictions are over,” Dr. Thomas Abraham added.

Politics With STEM In Virginia Public Schools

My second son Stephen Palathingal  graduated from the University of Virginia School of Engineering and Applied Science, a couple of days ago. He has accepted a job offer with Capital One in their software engineering department, where he did his internship last year. His elder brother Xavier Palathingal graduated from the same program six years ago, and currently works for Google.

Our family of four, all engineers and STEM graduates, coming from very middle-class backgrounds, made our lives possible on advanced math and technology, that too ALL in public schools and universities. The advanced math classes starting from 8th grade at Fairfax County Public Schools played the most important role in producing my two computer engineer children. I am immensely proud to watch them work with world-class technology experts from India and China, at companies like Amazon, Google, and now Capital One.

Lack of technical talent in America is a well-established fact. It is time for America to up its game in STEM education, not watering it down. If these advanced math courses are not there in public schools, the rich will go to private schools and get them, while the children of common folks like me will be left with mediocre public education. As a result, we will NOT be able to break the barriers due to our humble beginnings in this country. And, America will continue to remain dependent on foreign talent.

It is painful to watch the current liberal-socialist government in Virginia trying to remove advanced level math courses from its public schools. I remain fully committed to fighting this utter stupidity in the name of “equity” and “feel good for all”, for political benefits and vested business interests.

Quality public schools are what made me, my wife Asha Palathingal, and our kids, and 100s and 1000s of other immigrants, break the barriers, and realize the American dream. That is exactly what I am planning to continue to advocate for, just like I did in 2019 when I ran for Fairfax County School Board.

The mainstream fake media and the Virginia government are backpedaling on their laughable proposal now since they fear an Asian American backlash in the November election. That means the pressure that we are putting on is working.

Vote them out on November 2nd, and “Save Math” for Virginia and America!  And, believe me, “Math is not a racist word”! 😊https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=1309725846096295&id=100011766761465

https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/news/virginia-drop-advanced-math-courses-before-11th-grade-equity

Harish Thakkar Re-Elected President Of Association Of Indians In America-NY

The Associations of Indians In America (AIA) NY, the oldest and association of Indians living in this country, unanimously re-elected its current President, Harish Thakkar for a second term. It also elected a new board for the year 2021-2022.

For the year 2021-2022, President-elect Harish Thakkar will spearhead the team which includes Executive Vice Presidents Dr. Satish Anand, Dr. Bal Gilja, Dr. Jagdish Gupta, Usha Kapoor, Secretary Beena Kothari and Treasurer Dr. Pushpa Shah, as well as Members-at-Large Dipika Modi, Divya Shah, Gitanjali Anand, Nishant Garg, Beenu Sabharwal, Rene Mehra, Joyti Gupta, Vimal Goyal, Govind Bhatija, Swati Vaishnav and Sunny Thakkar

Advisors named include Dr. Shahi Shah, Asmita Bhatia, Rohit Vyas and
Sushma Kotahwala. The AIA held a number of events/projects last year including the
February 2020 Family Bowling event; COVID-19 community help projects, as well as distributing groceries to needy families.

At ASEI’s 2021 AI Summit, AI For Social Good, Data & Ethics Highlighted

The American Society of Engineers of Indian Origin (ASEI) convened an AI Summit with a number of researchers, authors, speakers and experts covering Artificial Intelligence  from multiple perspectives: Augmented Intelligence with Data, AI/ML Solutions for social benefit and Artificial Intelligence Applications for the enterprise & AI Ethics on April 24th, 2021.

Opening the summit, Divya Ashok, who serves as VP of Innovation and Strategy at Salesforce, introduced the AI Summit Chair Piyush Malik who has been working in the Data & AI domain for over 25 years, currently as the Senior Vice President at SpringML, a Google partner startup in Silicon Valley. Piyush gave a bird’s eye view of the AI landscape, the real life and enterprise application opportunities as well as set the stage for the plenary segment where the theme was AI for Society. He recognized  the  contributions of AI pioneer technologists and Turing awardees over the past 7 decades including Prof  Raj Reddy, the first Asian and the only Indian origin person to have won the Nobel prize of computing (i.e. Turing Award for AI) in 1994 long before the current euphoria over AI was commonplace.

  Vilas Dhar,  President and Trustee of the Patrick J. McGovern Foundation (PJMF), gave a message of support from PJMF to ASEI as we work towards our shared vision for AI – powered yet human-centric ethical endeavor for the benefit of society as we  explore the future of meaningful work through youth empowerment. PJMF is a 21st century philanthropy advancing artificial intelligence (AI) and data solutions to create a thriving, equitable, and sustainable future for all. Vilas, a biomedical engineer by initial training is an entrepreneur, technologist, and human rights advocate with a lifelong commitment to creating more robust, human-centered social institutions. His message of support for AI for social benefit  and data philanthropy fostered through interactions with ASEI leadership was complemented by the next speaker Dr Sundar Sundareshwaran, AI Fellow at the World Economic Forum (WEF) where PJMF is a supporter.

At WEF, Dr Sundar is co-creating a governance framework with a multi-stakeholder community for the use of Chatbots in healthcare amongst other initiatives which he talked about in detail having an impact in the COVID era.  Sundar  represents Mitsubishi Chemical Holdings Corporation in his role at WEF’s Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution. He  is a seasoned technologist with research, development, P&L and executive leadership experience. With a Master’s degree in Natural Language Understanding and a PhD in Computer Vision, Sundar has made numerous research contributions in robotics, neural networks, human computer interaction, virtual/augmented reality and autonomous vehicles. His plenary talk at the AI summit gave a broader view of the Policy impact AI is having at the World stage and he welcomed the opportunity for ASEI members to join hands in making the world a better place through fair use of AI rather than fearing from it. On behalf of ASEI, Piyush portrayed the excitement of being able to work with evangelists, policymakers, data and AI professionals and social changemakers at the WEF and PJMF.

In the next section of the summit three  authors spoke about their respective work and the impact each of them are having in the field of AI.  Anyone who has tried to learn GCP or machine learning with Google technologies would have seen Dr Valiappa (Lak) Lakshmanan  in action via his Coursera lessons and courses. Lak as he is popularly known, serves as the Director for Data Analytics and AI Solutions at  Google Cloud. Previously as a Director at the Climate Corporation, he led a team of data scientists building probabilistic estimates of past, current and future weather. Currently with his team he  builds software solutions for business problems using Google Cloud’s data analytics and machine learning products but he is very passionate about AI for Social good on which he spoke at length. Real world proof points and examples in the field of flood control, agriculture, healthcare etc were shared with the summit audience which resulted in a lot of interactive chats and Q&A.

ASEI Michigan chapter president Muthu Sivanantham introduced and facilitated discussion with the next two speakers.  Dr Raj Ramesh, a TEDx speaker who happens to have a doctorate in AI was the next author to speak. He has broad experience with digital transformation and helps  organizations bring together complementary strengths of machines and humans to effect grand change.  His talk featuring interesting doodles and interactive audience participation surveys was patterned on his recent book, “AI & You” and he advised how to co-exist with machines by sharing  how to think, thrive, and transform in an AI driven future.

“AI will present a lot of opportunities in the future.  Sure, some jobs will be replaced, but each of us can leverage our knowledge, passion, and experience to position ourselves at the forefront of this cognitive revolution” – Dr Raj Ramesh at the ASEI AI Summit

The next speaker Ashish Bansal with his cool demeanour brought to light an example of how rubber meets the road in AI though Models in Natural Language Processing. NLP is a topic of increasing attention given the recent popularity of Open AI’s GPT3 model and discussions of “AI creating AI”. Ashish has previously worked in AI/ML  & Recommendation systems  for Twitter and Capital One and currently is a Director at  Twitch. His recent book Natural Language Processing with Tensorflow was discussed in brief as well.

Final section of the AI Summit was the “Women in Data & AI” segment facilitated  by Vatsala Upadhya and featured a lively and colorful “Ethics in AI” discussion between  Dr Sindhu Joseph, CEO of Cognicor with 6 Patents in AI, and Bala Sahejpal, SVP at DataRobot with Piyanka Jain, President and CEO of Aryng moderating

Issues of bias, reproducibility , transparency and equity and inclusion in  data and AI from people of color perspective was discussed as well as importance of governance and building checks and balances in the development and testing of AI systems was deliberated

Bala is an accomplished leader with over 25 years of experience and a proven ability in leading cross functional global teams for building Data and Analytics solutions delivering enterprise success while securing multimillion-dollar savings for diverse business functions. She shared what made her interested in AI infused  automation and drove her towards joining DataRobot after stints at Cisco/Appdynamics, Juniper and Netapp.

Piyanka has two Master’s degrees, with her thesis involving applied mathematics and statistics. Before founding Aryng, she was the Head of Business Analytics at PayPal-North America.She happens to be a bestselling author of “Behind every Good Decision”  and a regular contributor to Forbes, HBR, InsideHR, TDWI, Experian, Modern Workplace, Predictive Analytics World, etc. Her efforts over the years have driven $1b+ in business impact for her clients. Injecting her 20+ years of Data & Analytics experience during the panel discussion, she said “As AI becomes more prevalent, AI literacy for leaders and AI governance are two ‘must-haves’ to truly capitalize on the power of AI to drive significant business value while staying clear of AI fiasco like Tay”

Recounting the challenges that are faced in the adoption of ethical AI, Dr. Sindhu Joseph, founder, and CEO of CogniCor, which provides a digital assistant platform for financial services, said – “AI is not just scaling solutions, but amplifying the historic biases embedded in our society. Given that the most popular branch of AI namely ML/DL learns its models from historic observations, our inherent biases make their way into the data sets, making a small, select, and often homogeneous group of developers, organizations as guardians of fairness.”

 This session underscored the need for diversity in organizations and in startups developing AI algorithms and attention and investment in branches of AI that have the potential to bring about fairness.

The interactive Q&A sessions and chat texts continued to buzz throughout the nearly 4 hour conference with an engaged audience. The most interesting audience questions and some early bird participants won 10 books courtesy the three  authors and publishers. Proposing the vote of thanks, Raju Sreewastava, CEO of Big Data Trunk announced the list of winners.

The AI Summit showed the attendees the depth of AI/ML experience and thought leadership amongst Indian diaspora & ASEI members and gave a glimpse of the richness of  its collaborations with national and international professional bodies.

As is evident from recent events and newsletters, ASEI has had a fantastic 2021 so far with a large number of activities and new programmes such as MentorConnect, UniversityConnect and YouthPrograms to serve its members’ interests and build the next generation of engineers and technologists.

The American Society of Engineers of Indian Origin (ASEI) is a not-for-profitorganization that provides a platform for networking, career advancement,community service, mentoring and technology exchange for professionals,students and businesses in the United States and abroad. Members are guidedby several objectives, including the creation of an open, inclusive, andtransparent organization; providing positive role models, awarding scholarships,and remaining socially responsible. ASEI was founded in 1983 in Detroit,Michigan by a handful of visionaries. Today, the organization  has active chaptersin Michigan, Southern California, Silicon Valley, San Diego, and Washington, DC with more in the pipeline.

Gujarati Seniors of Chicago Honor Dr. Mehboob Kapadia for Covid-19 Vaccination Camps

Gujarati Seniors of Chicago was established in 2019 under the Presidentship of Praful Shah. Due to the recent Pandemic, it had curtailed its activities. They have approximately 250 members. On Saturday, May 01, 2021, from 11:00 AM to 3:00 PM, Gujarati Seniors of Chicago had organized an entertainment cum social program to recognize Dr. Kapadia’s community service to help seniors during the Covid-19 pandemic. The event was held at Swaminarayan Temple, 1020 Bapa Road, Streamwood, IL.

In the beginning all attending members were given lunch tokens. Membership renewals as well as New Members were enrolled.

Bharat Thakkar, addressing the audience, informed Members to celebrate Gujarat Day along with Ram Navmi and Mother’s Day. To commemorate Mother’s Day all mothers present were given flowers. Birthday cards were given to all those who had their Birthday this month. He also outlined ensuing programs.

Mahen Patel introduced Dr. Mehboob Kapadia who was felicítated for arranging Vaccinations camps at many places and serving the community.  A plaque encasing the Recognition and Appreciation letter from the Governor of Illinois was presented to Dr. Kapadia as token of love from Gujarati Seniors of Chicago.

The Appreciation letter from the Governor concluded: “On behalf of the people of the State of Illinois, it is my pleasure to thank you for your ongoing work of Vaccination. Your dedication and leadership have created a lasting impact in your community and you have been an asset to all of Illinois in our collaboration to overcome the Pandemic. “J.B. Pritzker, Hon. Governor of Illinois.

Dr. Kapadia in his reciprocal speech deliberated various facets of Covid- 19, its variants, in depth comparison of various vaccines, their importance and dangers, inter relationship of each type, highlighted dangers and their effects.  Due to efforts of his team, they have already vaccinated more than 100,000 people and target to administer at least 1 million shots at the earliest possible. He warned not to take it lightly till all the variants come under control.

Dr Kapadia and his wife Seema Kapadia thanked each member of the team including Gujarati Seniors of Chicago team who made the vaccination camp a huge success. Dr Kapadia mentioned how his wife Seema Kapadia and his sons have been a driving force behind all these campaigns to ensure smooth execution. He added that Ms. Seema Kapadia has been present at many vaccination camps from the beginning till the end to ensure a safe, timely and equitable administration of the vaccine.

Sumptuous Gujarati Lunch prepared by Swaminarayan Temple was enjoyed along with enjoyable music. Shaila Khedkar and Abdul Gafoor of Sursangam performed at Gujarati Seniors Day celebration. Shaila Khedkar is a versatile singer and well-known for her melodious singing of all types of songs like bhajans, Garba and Bollywood songs. She has been performing in Chicago and other cities for various functions. Her Latajis songs are very much appreciated by the audience!

She and Mr. Gafoor started with bhajans- payoji and Sukh ke Sab, and then rendered old and new songs. Some of her solos included Satyam Shivam Sundaram, Tumhi Mere, Ruk Ja Raat, Tu Kitni Acchi hai, Ankhiyo Ke, E dil Muze, and Ashaji’s dance Medley. After a few old movie songs by Gafoor ji (Rafi and Kumar Sanu hits) they sang few old and new duets including. ye Raat, Ude Jab, Sagar Kinare, itna na, Tuze Dekha, Shyam Teri, humko Hamise. They delighted the audience with their melodious singing.

Politics of Pandemic in India

Current Covid-19 (Corona) situation in India is quite grave. There is no denying that the mistakes were made on multiple fronts which resulted into Corona taking awful tolls across the country. The central government’s errors were compounded by the State governments (govt). During the first corona-wave when the central-govt took over all the precautionary elements into its own hand, the State-govts cried out loud labeling it as ‘authoritarian’ or ‘dictatorial’. The central-govt ultimately gave in to their demands in the last quarter of 2020 and provided them instead, enough funds to fight this beastly virus. The money was supposed to be used for PPT kits, essential medicines, setting up bed-facilities and to procure Oxygen-equipment but nothing of that sort happened. The States showed complete laxity to take any proactive step, the moment they felt that Corona was receding. No one knows what the States did with their money. Maharashtra Govt in particular, which had 1/3 of cases and 1/4 of deaths started shutting down the bed facilities. When India was basking in the praise of the western world as the ‘role model’ for the containment of Corona, the Central and the State govts should have collectively started preparations for the impending second wave of the pandemic. This did not happen. Although in democracy, the elections are inevitable come what may, there should have been complete clamp down on rallies, however unrealistic this may sound. The central-govt should not have permitted any religious gatherings (including ‘Kumbh-Mela’ – April 2021), processions to take place, although Corona had started taking enormous tolls weeks before (February-March 2021) such gatherings. The collective lapses sent wrong signals to the public. Nevertheless, the fatal expansion of Corona squarely rests with ‘the public at large’. People not only disregarded the severity of Corona by not following mandated safety precautions, but also, started all their routine activities and celebrations, as if it did not exist. This had deadly consequences.

Covid-19 is a global phenomenon but in India it is being tossed around like a political football whose ultimate goal is, not only to project how the country is on the brink of ‘Armageddon’, but also, to emphasize how inept and insensitive the current administration is. The major players in this game are the opposition political parties and their surrogates. Scores of leading opposition political leaders who are now clamoring for vaccines, had earlier not only mocked the idea of vaccination, but also, had floated vigorous anti-vaccine campaign. The current shortage of ‘oxygen’ has everything to do with the lethargy of the State-govts. The Central-govt had sectioned 162 oxygen generating PSA plants for strategic areas across India but the States collectively set only 33 plants and blamed the Central-govt for their own ineptitude. Make no mistake, in this game, some national and international Medias are also involved. Instead of reporting positive inspiring stories, they mass-marketed unflattering, exaggerated or sometimes even fake stories. The international Media has converged on India’s plight as if it is the biggest calamity the world has ever witnessed. When China, the birthplace of Covid-19 and the global capital of misinformation, recently planted a mischievous tweet on the social-media, it was summarily condemned by a major news organization in U.S. We all know how a leading New York tabloid, couple of weeks back, used a picture of a roadside dead body from some gas leakage somewhere, to support their claim, ‘how the people in India are dying on the streets’. This is not an isolated incidence. Scandal-sniffing notorious British press isn’t less offensive either. The international media-cartel has never publicized the complicity of their own govts in the current crisis. As per WHO, 87% of vaccines have been cornered by high-income countries and only 0.2% of vaccines have gone to poor countries. The Indian ‘netizens’ who also now include numerous private TV channels, have proved themselves equal to so-called ‘yellow journalism’ by exposing all the falsification and putting it against rock-solid proofs. When, opposition parties are harping on the sorry conditions in the country, it is worth noting that none of their cadre or party-workers are seen anywhere helping out the masses. In their stark absence, the people have taken things into their own hands. At this moment, lot of caregiving is being done by numerous social or religious local organizations. All these organizations are collectively providing hundreds of thousands of meals to the needy people; setting up thousands of beds and acquiring necessary equipment & medications, where possible. Spearheading these efforts, nationwide, are RSS, VHP volunteers.

It is true that the healthcare system in India is simply overwhelmed at this moment by Corona cases. At the same time, it is very essential to analyze whether the current tragic phase is as ‘cataclysmic’ as the Media, think-tanks, and the govt-bashing pseudo-secular activists have made it out to be. When the western media is so eager to call the situation in India as ‘genocide’ or ‘criminal act’ without any regards to journalistic decency, where were they with the same verbalism when 3,500-4,000 people were dying each day in U.S. amid hundreds of thousands of covid cases? Let’s take a break and have comparative study with hard numbers. As of now, populations of India, USA, U.K. and ‘European Union (EU)’ are respectively 1,391 Million, 332.60 Million, 68.18 Million and 447 Million. As of May 1,2021, the Corona cases they have are 19.60 Million, 32.80 Million, 4.4 Million and 30.29 Million. The death tolls are respectively 216,000, 576,700, 151,200 and 679,000. In short, statistically, although U.S. population is less than 1/4 of India, it had 11 TIMES more deaths and 7 TIMES more corona cases. In U.K., although the population is measly 4.77% of India, it had 14.32 TIMES more deaths and 4.54 TIMES more Corona cases and though ‘EU’ population is less than 1/3 of India, it has 9.68 TIMES more deaths and 4.77 TIMES more Corona cases. Although the pandemic numbers of the highly developed countries look shocking in comparison to India, they are in no way comforting to what is unfolding in India, now. Each life is precious. The whole objective of this numerical exercise is only to put Indian pandemic in global perspective. It’s not just India, even developed nations like Canada, England and so many European countries are currently struggling with the acute shortage of vaccines and medical facilities. (My nephew is ER-Chief in a Toronto Hospital and one of my closest friends is overseeing a Hospital in London). Needless to say, the question that pops up in one’s mind is – ‘why then, the western world is finding Indian pandemic so monstrous when they themselves have fared so badly’ in reality? The reason being – India’s formidable stature as a rising world power under the leadership of PM N. Modi. This is their way of pointing out India’s vulnerability. Dr. Gautam Sen of ‘London School of Economics’ says, (as per the report that is available) – ”a professional international campaign has been launched in the context of Covid crisis in India in the hope of delegitimizing the Modi Govt and weaken it fatally … the goal is to instigate rejection of BJP in the forthcoming elections.”

India produces 70% of the world’s vaccine and a major chunk of generic drugs that U.S. needs. Even before under Trump administration, United States (U.S.) relations with China had started deteriorating, the American consumer-giants had already started eyeing India as the alternative manufacturing hub for their goods. By this time India had established itself as one of the biggest consumer markets in the world. When the new U.S. President Joe Biden bought 600 million dosages to play vaccine-diplomacy, his administration wasn’t fully aware of how much U.S. depended on India. During Trump administration, when U.S. badly needed millions of ‘Hydroxychloroquine’ dosages, it was India who had come to U.S. rescue.  When President Biden prematurely arrested raw material supply for Vaccine production in India, it took his administration some time to realize what a blunder he had made. As numerous countries started coming to India’s aid, it not only reflected badly on U.S. as a selfish, isolationist country, but also, presented a Public-Relation nightmare for the U.S. giants doing business with India. There is no doubt that PM Modi and his team charmed the new President and smoothen out diplomatic wrinkles but that wasn’t the only reason why Biden administration reversed its earlier decision. The tripping point that delivered the goods in India’s favor came in the third week of April. during an emergency meeting of U.S. Secretary of State, Antony Blinken with 135 CEOs of major U.S. conglomerates. The CEOs reportedly convinced the new Administration that if the U.S. didn’t reciprocate India’s earlier goodwill gesture, it would have disastrous economic repercussions, especially when nationalistic fervor running so high in India. Moreover, lately PM Modi’s new motto of ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ (self-reliant, self-sufficient, with self-esteem – India) had become worrisome to them. Nevertheless, the pandemic situation in India is definitely a matter of great concern which needs global efforts. Afterall one-fifth of the humanity and the world’s largest consumer clientele is at stake. In U.S., Indian diaspora is raising lot of funds through various organizations to fight Corona in India. Organizations, like ‘Sewa International’, ‘VHP of America’, ‘BAPS’, ‘Ekal V. Foundation’, ‘Share & Care’, ‘AAPI’ have collectively raised millions of dollars. Various American groups and organizations are also busy raising quite bit of money for India. It is very comforting to know that the people around the world are motivated to help India. One World! One Humanity! One Objective!

Ayurveda For Modern Day Beauty

The world’s oldest documented body of medical knowledge for physical, spiritual and psychological wellbeing, Ayurveda, expounds a way-of-life. Focusing on the balance between the governing forces of all Life, or the Doshas (mind, body and soul) this science is codified in the text, ‘Charaka Sa?hita’.

Empowering us with a framework to understand the natural shifts in our bodies, with day-to-day guidance to maintain the balance of doshas, Ayurveda enables the maintenance of good health — the key to the highest state of beauty.

As the world rediscovers the potency of natural healing today, the ancient science is emerging as a system of choice for many. Where true beauty comes from within, Ayurveda speaks highly of skincare rituals, using natural ingredients to maintain and improve health of the skin, hair and body.

Using rich, natural ingredients, beauty brand Kama Ayurveda curates ranges of authentic Ayurvedic treatments, as modern skincare solutions. With the promise to provide unmatched purity, the brand researches each product, to give consumers the truest time-tested Ayurvedic formulations, containing unadulterated ingredients selected for their efficacy.

Bringing Ayurvedic products suitable for different hair and skin types to the front, the brands Ayurvedic treatments are gentle, yet highly effective. The quality and authenticity of ingredients such as handpicked Saffron from Kashmir, Bhringraj from Western Ghats, Roses from Kannauj and Jasmine from Madurai, strengthen the efficacy of each formulation.

Following the principles of Ayurveda, the brand believes that your skin and hair are a reflection of your overall health. To help consumers understand and better use their products, it has a wide network of ayurvedic doctors present at their stores and website.

In a bid to quantify the efficacy of their Ayurvedic beauty solutions, the brand has been conducting clinical trials via an internationally recognised third party. Some of their findings include the Kumkumadi Serum proven to brighten by 2.5 times, reduce pigmentation by 20 per cent in 4 weeks; the Rejuvenating and Brightening Night Cream brightening skin by 2.5 times, reduces dark spots and blemishes by 20 per cent; the Kumkumadi Brightening Ayurvedic Face Scrub proven to smoothen skin by 34 per cent and reduce pores and firm skin by 24 per cent.

As a brand deep rooted in the learnings of Ayurvedic beauty, Kama Ayurveda continues to conduct trials on an increased portfolio of products, thereby strengthening and affirming the modern day beauty buyer of the power of natural beauty.

Socialite Mira Rajput Kapoor, a patron, has chosen to share her experience stating, ”A few months after delivering my second child, my skin started losing its luminosity. It looked dull and I started getting dark spots. This is a common concern as our bodies change. Around this time, I discovered and started using Kama Ayurveda’s Rejuvenating Night Cream. Every night after cleansing and toning, I started to apply this luxurious cream on my face and neck. After a few weeks, my skin was glowing, and dark spots had visibly reduced. My skin also felt super supple.” (IANS)

NASA’s Mars Helicopter Completes First Flight on Another Planet

The Ingenuity helicopter has successfully completed its historic flight on Mars and safely landed back on the surface, according to NASA.

The first powered, controlled flight on another planet took place at 3:34 a.m. ET.

Unlike when the helicopter’s fellow traveler, the Perseverance rover, landed on Mars on February 18, there was a bit of wait to know how the helicopter fared in its attempt.

The helicopter team was in mission control at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, early Monday morning to receive and analyze the first data from Ingenuity’s flight attempt.

Confirmation of the flight’s success came at 6:46 a.m.

The flight was originally scheduled for April 11, but plans shifted after a command-sequence issue was discovered when the helicopter went through a system of preflight checks with its software. The Ingenuity team received data on April 16 showing that the helicopter successfully completed its rapid spin test after they had made a tweak to the command sequence.

The chopper autonomously flew through the thin Martian atmosphere, with no help from its teams on Earth.

“We can now say that human beings have flown a rotorcraft on another planet,” said MiMi Aung, Ingenuity project manager at JPL. “We’ve been talking about our Wright brothers moment on another planet for so long. And now, here it is.”

Images, in addition to the data, also helped the team confirm that the flight was successful.

A lower-resolution black-and-white image from the helicopter’s navigation camera appeared first. The Perseverance rover has already returned several images it captured of the helicopter.

The rover will continue to send back more images and video from several of its cameras. The team has already shared the full video of Ingenuity’s flight, which was captured by Perseverance.

“Ingenuity is the latest in a long and storied tradition of NASA projects achieving a space exploration goal once thought impossible,” said acting NASA Administrator Steve Jurczyk in a statement. “The X-15 was a pathfinder for the space shuttle. Mars Pathfinder and its Sojourner rover did the same for three generations of Mars rovers. We don’t know exactly where Ingenuity will lead us, but today’s results indicate the sky — at least on Mars — may not be the limit.”

First flight

Ingenuity, which is a technology demonstration, flew for about 40 seconds total on Monday. The 4-pound helicopter spun up its two 4-foot blades, rose up 10 feet (3 meters) in the air, hovered, made a turn, took a photo, and touched back down on Mars.

“Mars is hard not only when you land, but when you try to take off from it and fly around, too,” Aung said. “It has significantly less gravity, but less than 1% the pressure of our atmosphere at its surface. Put those things together, and you have a vehicle that demands every input be right.”

The Perseverance rover helps the helicopter and its mission team on Earth communicate with each other. It received the flight instructions from JPL and sent those plans on to the helicopter. Perseverance is parked at an overlook 215 feet (65 meters) away from the helicopter so it could safely watch the flight and capture images and videos.

During the helicopter’s hover, it captured images 30 times per second to feed into the navigation computer. This made sure Ingenuity remained level and in the middle of its 33-by-33-feet (10-by-10-meter) air field.

Ingenuity used a second higher-resolution camera pointing toward the horizon to capture images while the helicopter was aloft.

Once the helicopter landed on Mars, it sent back data through the rover to Earth.  Håvard Grip, NASA’s chief pilot for the Ingenuity helicopter, said this morning’s helicopter flight was perfect.

“It was a flawless flight,” he said. “It stuck the landing right in the place where it was supposed to go.”

That first black-and-white image from the helicopter’s navigation camera is key because “that will help us localize where the helicopter landed,” said Tim Canham, Ingenuity operations lead at JPL.

“The primary purpose of this project is to get that detailed engineering data that we can see the performance of the vehicle, and then that data can be used by future projects to make even bigger and better helicopters,” Canham said.

The rover captured this view of the helicopter from Mastcam-Z, a pair of zoomable cameras, afer it safely touched back down on the Martian surface postflight. The airfield now bears a new name fitting for this historic event.

“Now, 117 years after the Wright brothers succeeded in making the first flight on our planet, NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter has succeeded in performing this amazing feat on another world,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, in a statement.

“While these two iconic moments in aviation history may be separated by time and 173 million miles of space, they now will forever be linked. As an homage to the two innovative bicycle makers from Dayton, this first of many airfields on other worlds will now be known as Wright Brothers Field, in recognition of the ingenuity and innovation that continue to propel exploration.” It’s fitting that the mission carried a piece of history as well.

A postage stamp-size piece of muslin fabric that covered one of the wings from the Wright brothers’ Flyer 1 is attached to a cable beneath the helicopter’s solar panel.

The first powered, controlled flight on Earth took place aboard the Flyer near Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, when Orville and Wilbur Wright flew 120 feet for 12 seconds in December 1903. History was made when the Wright brothers conducted four separate flights on Dec. 17, 1903, and each one was a little longer than the previous one.

Future flights

“The Mars Helicopter project has gone from ‘blue sky’ feasibility study to workable engineering concept to achieving the first flight on another world in a little over six years,” said Michael Watkins, director of JPL, in a statement.

After the first flight, Ingenuity will get a “rest day” to charge up using its solar panel. The team will use data sent back by the helicopter this week to plan its next flight, now scheduled for no earlier than April 22.

“Ingenuity itself is extremely healthy at this point,” said Bob Balaram, the Mars helicopter chief engineer at JPL. “In fact, she’s even healthier than she was before this flight. She shook off some of her dust that had been covering a solar panel and is in fact producing even more solar energy than before.”

Balaram said the batteries, communication system, landing gear, computers and motors are also in great shape.

“We have been thinking for so long about having our Wright brothers moment on Mars, and here it is,” Aung said. “We will take a moment to celebrate our success and then take a cue from Orville and Wilbur regarding what to do next. History shows they got back to work — to learn as much as they could about their new aircraft — and so will we.”

The helicopter has two weeks of its experiment justify, and the team is planning four flights that will push the helicopter to fly higher and longer to test the limits of what it can do.

Meanwhile, the rover will remain at the overlook and may switch on its microphones to capture sounds of the future flights. The rover is currently investigating some intriguing rocks near the overlook.

The cadence between flights will get progressively shorter. Ingenuity could fly four days after the first flight, then three days after the second flight and so on. The latter flights could see the helicopter rising as high as 16 feet (5 meters) and performing lateral movements up to 50 feet (15 meters) out and back.

“Once we get to the fourth and fifth flights, we’ll have fun,” Aung said. “We really want to push the limits. It’s not every day that you get to test a rotorcraft on Mars. So we want to be very adventurous.”

A Healthy Indian Ocean Feeds, Protects, and Connects all South Asians

(IPS) – It is the oceans that engendered life. The lives of humans remain connected to the seas, making the good health of the seas and the efficient management of sea-based activity essential elements for the wellbeing of people and nations. The Indian Ocean offers tremendous opportunities and some challenges for the island, coastal, and inland nations of South Asia and beyond.

Regional cooperation is an excellent platform for leveraging opportunities and transforming challenges to promote the health of, and harmony in, this ocean space of common heritage, for common good.

Take the problem of plastic waste. Up to 15 million tons of plastic makes its way into the Indian Ocean each year, contaminating it with a trillion pieces of plastic and making it the world’s second most polluted ocean after the North Pacific.South Asian countries have developed isolated projects to manage the ocean’s plastic waste. Fishermen in India’s southern state of Kerala were paid to recycle the plastic bags, straws, flip-flops, and other plastic detritus caught in their nets.

Once shredded, the plastic was sold to construction companies that used it to strengthen asphalt roads. With regional cooperation, lessons learned by the Kerala fishermen could benefit other countries.The formal basis for such cooperation is being laid. All eight nations of South Asia are now coming together through a new regional project, supported by the World Bank and its partners to fund innovative ways to prevent, collect, and upcycle plastic waste into global supply chains.

The project also supports research and innovation grants to find and support alternatives to plastic. The Plastic-free Rivers and Seas for South Asia project aims to help build a circular economy for plastic that will stop plastic waste from leaking into the environment.
The Indian Ocean Rim Association, whose two dozen member states stretch from Australia to South Africa and north to Iran and the United Arab Emirates, are watching the project and may expand it across the Indian Ocean.
Some of the busiest sea lanes in the world cross the Indian Ocean and its rich marine life. Under its surface lie state-of-the-art global communications technology.
As the world’s economic growth engine pivots toward the Indo-Pacific, activity in the Indian Ocean increases. This growth must be managed in harmony with nature and in tranquility, to ensure optimum and shared benefits, and prosperity for all.

For this purpose, it is essential for South Asian nations to work toward evolving a system where all communities that use the Indian Ocean pursue their aspirations and competing claims in accordance with international law, regional conventions, and age-old traditions.
A system with greater cooperation among states, and with differential treatment for resource and technical capacity asymmetries is needed for tackling natural disasters, promoting maritime security, and keeping sea lanes open and safe.

This system should also enhance economic connectivity within South Asia and facilitate access to markets in the region and beyond, delivering goods and services at faster speeds, greater volumes, and lower costs.
Without doubt, the Indian Ocean needs better overall management which, among other measures, requires:
• Protecting the marine environment and pollution control;
• Managing illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing;
• Protecting fish and other resources in exclusive economic zones claimed by governments in coastal waters;
• Combating trafficking of humans, drugs, and arms;
• Combating piracy and marine terrorism;
• Safeguarding energy supply chains at maritime choke points;
• Managing port security and ensuring secure cargo loading;
• Promoting ocean-based tourism and leisure activities with a connected regulatory framework for safety in territorial waters and the high seas;
• Ensuring that Indian Ocean sea lanes, which carry much of the world’s cargo, including petroleum, are safe and secure; and
• Ensuring the safety of fiber optic cables on the ocean floor that transmit internet traffic, including financial transactions, e-mail, and phone calls.

Working in partnership with countries and sharing information, expertise, and best practices is essential as no single country can meet these maritime challenges on its own.

Disputes must be settled within a rules-based system that follows international norms and transparent practices.
South Asian nations can work together, with other major maritime nations beyond the region, and with multilateral institutions to promote health and harmony in the Indian Ocean. The results will benefit South Asia now and the generations to come.
(Ambassador Prasad Kariyawasam has also served as his country’s Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva and New York and was a member of UN panels on migrant workers and disarmament. He has been a relentless advocate of championing the cause of regional integration and cooperation in South Asia.)

Yale Professor Says, New Covid Variants Infiltrating Indian Population, More Lethal & Infectious

New Delhi– India’s record breaking number of Covid cases this month is very concerning, as the new Covid variants have infiltrated the population, and some of these variants are known to be more infectious and lethal, said Manisha Juthani, Associate Professor of Medicine and Epidemiology at Yale School of Medicine and Yale Medicine infectious diseases specialist.

She added that long-lasting symptoms after Covid will be a worldwide problem and nearly 30 per cent people are likely to suffer from long Covid.

Excerpts from the interview

Q: India is amid the second wave of coronavirus. The rise in cases is too steep, sharper than the first wave. Is it consistent with the pattern seen in other virus pandemics?

A: This steep incline in cases in India is very concerning for new Covid variants infiltrating the population. Some of these variants are known to be more infectious and lethal. The highest concentration of cases is in Maharashtra with Mumbai being a travel hub. This suggests that travellers have brought in variants which are rapidly spreading in the population.

Q: Usually, experts say human behaviour is considered a major factor linked with a spike in coronavirus cases. But some experts also point at a probability of a new strain, possibly behind the second wave, which maybe infectious, not fatal, leading to a surge in cases in many places in India?

A: New variants from around the world have been identified in India. There is the concern of the ‘double mutant’ in India that has also now been identified in San Francisco. Anecdotally, I know of several people in India that have tested negative for Covid, but who have all the clinical features suggestive of Covid. Sometimes, one member of the family tests positive but the others test negative, all with the same symptoms. It is possible that a variant is spreading with a mutation that results in false negative tests. This is particularly concerning because other family members can get exposed if they believe the index patient does not have Covid. When the first wave was receding in India, it seemed that variants may not have yet reached. With the current explosion in cases, variants seem to at least be playing a part.

Q: Long Covid is emerging as a major problem in the UK. Do you think, globally it could be a major issue too?

A: Long Covid will be a worldwide problem. Up to 30 per cent of infected individuals worldwide may end up suffering from long term symptoms. Some promising news is that vaccination seems to ease these symptoms in some people.

Q: Experts say that seasonal change has no effect on coronavirus. There were some locations, for example Delhi (at the onset of winter season), which saw a high number of coronavirus infections early on, followed by a decline (December-January), is facing a “second wave” of increased cases, at the beginning of summer season in March.

A: We have been learning about Covid for over a year now. The anticipated seasonal variation that occurs with other respiratory viruses has not consistently proven to be the case. The common thread for spread appears to be close contact, particularly in indoor settings. In the winter season, indoor gatherings seem to be a source of spread because people remain indoors for warmth. In hot locations in the summer, indoor gatherings also seem to be sources of spread, likely because it is too hot to remain outdoors, and people gather indoors. Heating and air conditioning might even contribute to the spread of viral particles.

Q: Is there a possibility that a second wave may not lead to increase in fatality or increase in Covid patient’s admission to Intensive Care Unit (ICU), however the viral infection may have a long-lasting health impact in patients, for example, kidney, live or lungs damage?

A: Given that hospitals already appear to be filling up in many parts of India, it seems likely that hospitals will continue to feel the burden of caring for Covid patients. In addition, we know that appropriately 30 per cent of Covid patients can go on to have chronic symptoms such as shortness of breath or fatigue. End organ damage can happen with Covid as well, particularly after long hospitalizations. I anticipate that India will have a surge in hospitalized patients in addition to those that suffer long term consequences of Covid.

Q: Experts say young people may be behind the increase in cases. Is it possible that young people, who have contracted the new strains of coronavirus, are spreading it to more than one person, leading to a spike in cases?

A: Vaccinations have begun in India, but many young people are not vaccinated yet. Adults in their 20s and 30s remain the most social thereby transmitting the virus from one another. This age group may also be travelling more. The US is seeing a surge of cases among young adults primarily because of congregating behaviours and because the youngest adults have not been eligible for the vaccine until now. In India, older adults are still getting infected, either because they haven’t received the vaccine yet, only received one dose, or are exposed to other people. It is unclear if the current spike is because of young people, but young adults have always been the most likely to engage in social behaviours and get infected.

Q: The US and Europe have already faced the second wave of coronavirus, is there any learning for India from the western countries?

A: Throughout the world, when public health measures (masking and physical distancing) have been put in place, cases have been controlled. Lockdowns have been necessary and effective in various regions of the world. With a very steep rise in cases, in order to maintain hospital capacity, more restrictions will be necessary.(IANS)

Rajnikanth To Receive The Dadasaheb Phalke Award for 2019

 

Megastar Rajinikanth has been chosen to be conferred with the prestigious Dadasaheb Phalke Award, for excellence in cinematic achievement, is the highest honor in the film world and is awarded by the government.

Megastar Rajinikanth will be conferred with the prestigious Dadasaheb Phalke Award for 2019, the Government of India announced last week. The Dadasaheb Phalke, awarded for excellence in cinematic achievement, is the highest honor in the film world and is awarded by the government. The recipient of the 2018 award was Amitabh Bachchan, Rajinikanth’s co-star from ‘Hum’.

The 70-year-old star has featured in Bollywood as well as South Indian films and has a humongous fan following. The ‘2.0’ star had made his debut in 1975 with K Balachander’s ‘Apoorva Ragangal’ and has completed more than 45 years in the Tamil film industry.

Superstar Rajinikanth will be honored with the 51st Dadasaheb Phalke Award, Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar announced. Calling Rajinikanth “one of the greatest actors in the history of Indian cinema”, he said that the actor was being awarded for his contribution in the field of acting, production and screenwriting for Indian cinema.

Posting a picture of the actor, Javadekar wrote: “Happy to announce #Dadasaheb Phalke award for 2020 to one of the greatest actors in history of Indian cinema Rajnikant ji His contribution as actor, producer and screenwriter has been iconic I thank Jury @ashabhosle @SubhashGhai1 @Mohanlal @Shankar_Live #BiswajeetChatterjee.”

Rajinikanth has extended ‘deepest gratitude’ for all the love, greetings, and wishes he received after the announcement. The award will be given to the star for his stupendous contribution to the world of Indian cinema. The ‘Robot’ actor took to Twitter and extended his deepest gratitude to all those who took out time to wish him. “For all the love, greetings & wishes I’ve received from eminent political leaders, my film fraternity friends & colleagues, well-wishers, media, every person who took the time to wish me & my beloved fans from across India & all over the world .. my deepest gratitude and thanks,” tweeted Rajinikanth.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated Rajinikanth with a tweet, “Congratulations Talaivar”. Soon Vice President M. Venkaiah Naidu too, tweeted.

“Hearty congratulations to Shri @rajinikanth on being conferred the prestigious Dadasaheb Phalke Award. Over the past many years, the versatile actor has been enthralling people by portraying a vast array of roles depicting myriad hues of human experience and emotions.#Rajinikanth,” said Naidu and added: “My best wishes for the renowned thespian’s future endeavours! #Rajinikanth.”

Calling Rajinikanth “one of the greatest actors in the history of Indian cinema”, the I&B minister said that the actor was being awarded for his contribution in the field of acting, production and screenwriting for Indian cinema. Actor-turned-politician, Kamal Haasan also congratulated Rajinikanth.

Several B-town celebs had also taken to their social media handles to congratulate Rajinikanth. Neena Gupta, Hrithik Roshan, Akshay Kumar, Anil Kapoor, Karan Johar, Shilpa Shetty Kundra, Sidharth Malhotra, Boney Kapoor, among others, wished him on Twitter. The Dadasaheb Phalke Award for 2019 should have been announced last year but was postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, as were the National Film Awards for 2019.

He has delivered hit films such as ‘Billu’, ‘Muthu’, ‘Baashha’, ‘Sivaji’, and ‘Enthiran’. Rajinikanth was last seen in AR Murugadoss’s ‘Darbar’. Currently, he is shooting for his upcoming film ‘Annaatthe.’ Among his numerous hits are films like “Baashha”, “Sivaji” and “Enthiran”. He is known as Thalaivar or leader by his fans.

Widely regarded as one of the most popular cinematic icons in India, Rajinikanth has also been honored with the Padma Bhushan in 2000 and the Padma Vibhushan in 2016 by the Government of India.

The Dada Saheb Phalke award jury consists of Malayalam super star Mohanlal and Tamil music composer and singer, Shankar Mahadevan, besides veteran singer Asha Bhosle, and moviemaker Subhash Ghai.

Tamil Nadu villages and cities bursted with joy on the announcement of Rajini’s feat. People took to streets and hundreds reached Poes Garden residence. At Salem people celebrated Rajini’s Phalke win by distributing sweets and lighting crackers. Congratulatory messages are pouring in from political leaders, actors, directors and social workers, besides people from all walks of life.

IAICC South Carolina Chapter Launched To Foster Economic Development Of US, India, Rest Of The World

The Governor of South Carolina, Henry McMaster declared March 24 as the “IAICC-South Carolina Chapter Day,” in a proclamation, at the inauguration of the IAICC South Carolina Chapter on March 24 at the Governor’s Mansion in Columbia, South Carolina.

Governor McMaster presented the proclamation to KV Kumar, President & CEO of IAICC at the inauguration and appreciated the work of IAICC. While speaking at the event, Governor McMaster welcomed IAICC to South Carolina and said his administration will work with IAICC and support its initiatives in the State.

He also said that South Carolina and India enjoy great relations, and the State has been playing a significant role in promoting India-US trade relations for so many years now. He added that relations between these two countries have continued to flourish even during the pandemic, and announced that South Carolina was the first State in the SE Region to establish an Office of the Trade Representative in New Delhi.

Welcoming the gathering, KV Kumar appreciated Governor McMaster’s efforts in the State and thanked him and the First Lady Peggy McMaster for graciously hosting the IAICC inauguration and the reception at the Governor’s Mansion. He also thanked the Indian Ambassador to the US, Mr. Taranjit Singh Sandhu, and the Consul General of India in Atlanta, Dr. Swati Kulkarni for their continued support to IAICC. Kumar said he missed the Ambassador at the event, and congratulated him for bringing several key initiatives to strengthen India-US relations. During her address,

Dr. Kulkarni praised Governor McMaster and Mr. Kumar for their work in India-US Relations. She commended IAICC’s role in enhancing the trade partnership between US and India, and said IAICC will play as a catalyst in bringing more business opportunities to South Carolina. She also presented a communique on the present status of India to Governor McMaster.

At the inauguration, Secretary of Commerce, Mr. Robert Hitt III, and IAICC officials signed an MoU. One of the objectives in the MoU stated that the signatories will establish and promote a new era of South Carolina – India Relations.

IAICC SE Regional Chairman, Dr. Narasimhulu Neelagaru also thanked Governor McMaster for his support and said he looked forward to working him and the State of South Carolina. At the event, Mr. Kumar introduced Ms. Bhavna Vasudeva, President of IAICC-SC Chapter.

Ms. Vasudeva delivered the vote and thanks and thanked Governor McMaster for hosting the event and other guests for their valued presence. IAICC Executive Committee members and officials Mr. Appen Menon, Mr. Achyut Allady, Dr. Anu Bhat, Mr. Kinesh Doshi, and Dr. Subrahmanya Bhat were also present and participated in the event.

Members of the Governor’s Cabinet, Ms. Jeanette Prenger, Chair of The Latino Coalition, Ms. Cici Rojas, President of The Latino Coalition, and other local business leaders also attended the event.

Rahul Gandhi Describes How Assassination Of His Father Changed Him

As a leader, Rahul Gandhi has always been the strongest proponent of politics of purpose. Over the years, he has lent his voice to a number of issues but has always remained focused on propagating non-violence, equality and justice.

 

Through his life, Rahul Gandhi has always been the strongest proponent of politics of purpose. Over the years, he has lent his voice to a number of issues but has always remained focused on propagating non-violence, equality and justice. He has imbibed these virtues through a lifelong tryst with Indian politics and history and has developed a keen understanding of the Indian social fabric. Having experienced the pain of losing both his father and grandmother to acts of violence and hatred, Rahul Gandhi has always been a champion of Gandhian philosophies of ahimsa and truth.

Rahul Gandhi has said that the assassination of his father and former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1991 changed him. Also noting that he had always been accustomed to an “environment” of public service, he said that he was brought up with the idea that you cannot tolerate injustice.

Rahul Gandhi made the remarks during an online interaction with Nicholas Burns, the Professor of the Practice of Diplomacy and International Politics at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, and a former US Under Secretary of State.

To a question by Burns about his family’s engagement in public service and if he had always assumed, when young, that some form of public service would be his life’s work, Rahul Gandhi, a Lok Sabha MP from Kerala’s Wayanad, said: “First of all, families are unique in a way. So, I guess I don’t see it (my family) as a unique family, I just see it as a family that just happens to go through certain things.” He said that he grew up in the environment of public service.

“When I was small, there was this underlined thing of a sense of trying to understand India, what is going on, what are the forces it plays and some of these things on how it works. In this sense I was embedded in it and I saw it from the beginning,” he said.

Discussing the assassination of his father in Tamil Nadu in the run-up to the 1991 general elections, he said: “Of course, there were certain events that sort of pushed me… in a way, my father’s assassination was one of them that developed that sense that I felt that my father was fighting some particular forces and he was wronged. And so as a son, that of course, had an effect.”

“And also I was brought up when I was small and young with the idea that you cannot tolerate injustice. And that’s something what I have been trained from beginning. If I see this up, it rattles me up and I get agitated and it doesn’t matter to whom the injustice is being done. And if that injustice is going with somebody whom I am not very fond of, that gets me going. So those are the type of things,” he said.

In interviews and speeches, Rahul Gandhi has often spoken of his traumatic childhood during which he saw his father and grandmother assassinated. These statements are often dismissed as ploys to gain sympathy. Yet he makes the point so often and so forcefully, it may be useful to consider the possibility that his grief is genuine, and that it has defined his politics in ways that makes it impractical for him to lead the Congress party.

Rahul’s personal agony is reflected in his ambivalence towards politics, his distrust of the system in which he must operate, and his fleeting attempts at redefining the idea of power and its pursuit. His psychological makeup seems to explain why he is out of sync with his party, unable to become an inspiration to it.

Rahul won his first election with an overwhelming margin of 2,90,853 votes — a testament to the faith placed by the people of his constituency in him. From the beginning, it was apparent that Rahul believed that our nation’s future lies with her people. Through the ebbs and flows of a decade-long political career, Rahul has held true to the very principles that won him the hearts of the people in his very first election.

In 2013, Rahul Gandhi was elected as the Vice-President of the Congress Party. Within the Congress party, Rahul Gandhi played the key role of channeling the party along the lines of Congress’ core principles. He tirelessly worked to democratise the student wing and youth wing of the Congress party and ensured a breath of fresh air entered the grand old party by encouraging young leaders to take up leadership positions. His pivotal role in shaping the party along Congress’ core values over his political career earned him the post of President of the Congress Party in 2017. Under Rahul Gandhi’s guidance, the Congress Party has once again emerged as the voice of the nation.

While he was President of the Opposition party, Rahul Gandhi played a key role in raising the demands of various stakeholders of the country. He championed the rights of the poor & the marginalised. He led the battle against the ruling government on poorly implemented policies such as Demonetisation, Aadhar, GST and more.

The vision of Rahul Gandhi and his strategy to fight the democratic battle with love and unity is what makes the Congress Party the true representative of a united India. Going forward, he aims to put these principles into action by creating systems that provide India’s citizens with the tools and opportunities they need to reach their full potential.

In his current role as a Member of Parliament in the 17th Lok Sabha, he represents the constituency of Wayanad in Kerala. After leaving his position as President of the Congress party, he has put all his focus & energy in representing the people of Wayanad & taking on the government on a number of issues, like the undemocratic abrogation of Article 370 & the violation of human rights by the government in Kashmir. He remains steadfast in his quest for truth, peace & harmony for the people of India.

India Joins Quad Leaders, Committing To Free, Open, Secure And Prosperous Indo-Pacific Region

Quad Leaders from Australia, India, Japan and the US “a group of democratic nations dedicated to delivering results through practical cooperation”  coordinated rapid humanitarian assistance and disaster relief to people in need.

“To strengthen our quest for a region that is open and free, we have agreed to partner to address the challenges presented by new technologies and collaborate to set the norms and standards that govern the innovations of the future,” the leaders of the four-nation Quad said in a statement here on Friday, March 12th. The Quad leaders in the summit on Friday vowed to strive for a “free, open and inclusive” region unconstrained by “coercion”.

In an opinion piece in The Washington Post after holding the first Leaders’ Summit of Quadrilateral alliance, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, US President Joe Biden, Australian PM Scott Morrison and Japanese PM Yoshihide Suga asserted that all countries should be able to make their own political choices, free from coercion.

Australia, India, Japan and the US “a group of democratic nations dedicated to delivering results through practical cooperation”  coordinated rapid humanitarian assistance and disaster relief to people in need, they wrote. “Now, in this new age of interconnection and opportunity throughout the Indo-Pacific, we are again summoned to act together in support of a region in need,” they said.

Reaffirming that they are striving to ensure that the Indo-Pacific is accessible, dynamic and governed by international law and bedrock principles such as freedom of navigation and peaceful resolution of disputes, and free from coercion, sending a clear message to China which is flexing its muscles in the region and beyond. They said the governments of India, Japan, US and Australia have worked closely for years, and now for the first time in “Quad” history, they convened as leaders to advance meaningful cooperation at the highest level.

The virtual Quad summit took place as China and India are involved in a military standoff along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh since May last year. China is also engaged in hotly contested territorial disputes in both the South China Sea and the East China Sea. In the East China Sea, Japan has maritime disputes with China.

The leaders of the 4 nations said the cooperation, known as “the Quad,” was born in crisis. It became a diplomatic dialogue in 2007 and was reborn in 2017. “In December 2004, the continental shelf off the coast of Indonesia shifted two meters, creating one of the largest tidal waves in modern history and a nearly unprecedented humanitarian crisis around the Indian Ocean. With millions displaced and hundreds of thousands killed, the Indo-Pacific region sounded a clarion call for help. Together, our four countries answered it,” they wrote.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that the quadrilateral grouping of the U.S., India, Japan and Australia has “come of age” as he attended the first Quad leaders’ summit virtually. The grouping is being seen as a united front to counter China’s imperialistic aggression and expansion through trade and military occupation. Modi started his speech by declaring, “It is good to be among friends.” The four countries, he said, “are united by our democratic values and our commitment to a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific.”

The agenda of the summit — covering areas like vaccines, climate change and emerging technologies — makes the Quad a force for global good, he said. Describing Quad as a positive vision, the prime minister said that it is an extension of India’s ancient philosophy of ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam,’which regards the world as one family. “We will work together closer than ever before for advancing our shared values and promoting a secure, stable and prosperous Indo-Pacific,” Modi said.

Quad, he added, “is an important pillar of stability in the region.” Modi’s statement was welcomed by a lot of India watchers in the U.S. Former U.S. diplomat and Harvard academic Nicholas Burns praised the move, tweeting, “Today’s first-ever Quad leaders meeting – of the US, India, Japan and Australia – is a big deal. Led by the President of the United States Joe Biden, these four can lead on vaccine distribution, strengthen democracies in the region and limit China’s assertiveness.”

There are reports that India will produce Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose Covid vaccine shot as part of the first Quad initiative. The project will be financed by Japan and the U.S., while Australia will use its logistics capability to ship the vaccines to Southeast Asia and Pacific countries.

“Against this backdrop, we are recommitting to a shared vision for an Indo-Pacific region that is free, open, resilient and inclusive. We are striving to ensure that the Indo-Pacific is accessible and dynamic, governed by international law and bedrock principles such as freedom of navigation and peaceful resolution of disputes, and that all countries are able to make their own political choices, free from coercion,” they wrote.

The Anti-Swastik Bill Will Not Move Forward: NY Democratic Party Chair Assures Indian-Americans

New York State Democratic Party Chair Jay Jacobs announced during a March 10, 2021, Zoom meeting with members of the Indian-American community, that the NY Senate Bill 2727, which designates the Hindu, Buddhist and Jain religious symbols as representing hate, “Will not move forward, it will not be advanced in the Senate or the Assembly, it is not going anywhere”.

The Zoom meeting was organized by the Nassau County Democratic Committee and the newly formed United Front of Indian Americans in North America (UFIANA).

“The meeting was the result of intense efforts by Kamlesh Mehta, who has taken a frontline seat in the ‘save Swastik’ campaign,” the press release from the United Front said.

Besides Mehta, others leading the initiative include Dr Raj Bhayani, Vibhuti Jha and Mukesh Modi, all of whom formed the host committee for the high profile meeting attended by at least 60 people.

Dr. Uma Mysorekar, president of the Hindu Temple Society of North America. Photo courtesy United Front of Indian Americans in North America

Mehta introduced Jacobs as well as others attending the meeting — the Consul General of India in New York Randhir Jaiswal, Dr. Uma Mysorekar, president of the Hindu Temple Society of North America.

All those attending unanimous said that the Bill S2727 should be rescinded, or the language relating to Swastik be removed from the text because the bill was intended to ban Nazi Hakenkreuz as a symbol of hate.

“I am familiar with Swastik as a positive symbol of peace, prosperity and good tidings among people of many cultures and nationalities. So, when Kamlesh Mehta brought to my attention the difficulty with this bill I understood the importance to the Indian community,” Jacobs is quoted saying during the meeting, in the press release.

“When I spoke to members of the Senate and others concerned, I said, we in this country have a culture of respecting each other. What makes America great is we are an amalgamation of people from all over and part of the lure of America is that you lead your life as good citizens with kindness towards each other and still have the ability to hold on to your own culture. This bill would have been an affront to that basic premise of American democracy. The Indian American community is essential to the success moving forward of this country,” Jacobs continued.

Kamlesh Mehta, one of the leaders of the ‘save Swastik’ initiative. Photo courtesy United Front of Indian Americans in North America

He thanked New York State Senator Kevin Thomas, the first Indian American to be elected to the upper house, noting, “He understood the need that the hate bill does not move forward.”

Dr Mysorekar emphasized that the Swastik has been a sacred symbol in the Vedic tradition for many millennia.

“Symbolizing well-being, auspiciousness and good luck charm, it is part of our festivals, temple rituals, and is displayed at homes, weddings and even below the deity as a yantra,” she said.

“Its negative connotation in the western world especially in the U.S. is because of Hitler. But today, misrepresenting and teaching Swastik as a symbol of hate will cause confusion in the minds of young people, who utilize it in their daily religious practice, and can lead to bullying and biases against them. It can also perpetuate misinformation,” Mysorekar warned.

She added that she has been receiving many calls from people worried about the hate bill, but after Jacobs’s assurance, “now we can all sleep peacefully.”

Ambassador Jaiswal shared some of his personal history with attendees. He said though he is a Hindu, and Swastik is personal (it is even displayed outside his father’s house in Hazipur in Bihar), he also carries the responsibility of Buddhist and Jain traditions because of their links with the place of his birth, Vaishali.

India’s Consul General in New York Randhir Jaiswal. Photo courtesy United Front of Indian Americans in North America

“Swastik has given a wealth of hope, happiness and philosophy to the modern world at large. So, juxtaposing something ancient and sacred with something as recent as early 20th century when it was twisted, would have amounted to doing injustice to the inner meaning of Swastik and the emotions of people attached to it,” Consul General Jaiswal said.

Mehta appreciated the prompt response and instant action by Chairman Jacobs. He emphasized the sanctity of Swastik, saying all taking part in the meeting follow different faiths, yet Swastik is the common auspicious symbol among them, uniting 1.8 billion people all over the world.

Jha, who has been active in promoting U.S.-India relations, also thanked Jacobs. “In the annals of India-US relationship, your name will last forever,” he told Jacobs.

Noting that the two symbols, Om and Swastik, are basic to Hindu religion, Jha said that Jacobs’ assurance will delight over a billion people, and it has prevented a fissure between India and the United States.

Mukesh Modi, who the press release said, was unofficially called the mayor of the Indian American community on Long Island, thanked Jacobs for respecting the constitutional and religious rights of everyone.

“You are going to get 1.8 billion blessings, which will give you more power and strength to protect our constitutional and religious rights,” Modi said.

Dr Raj Bhayani, an eminent leader in healthcare whose heart beats for India, said that the holocaust and difficulties faced by the Jewish community must be recognized, but that two wrongs do not make a right. Hakenkreuz is not Swastik, he stressed.

Dr Bhayani acknowledged the leadership of Kamlesh Mehta, founder of The South Asian Times, India Day Parade, Rotary Club of Hicksville South, RANA and the new organization which hosted the Zoom meeting.

Pradeep Tandon, in his power point presentation, showed how the ancient Swastik was a positive symbol and was freely used in U.S. society and culture before World War II. There is even a town named Swastik in Clinton County in New York.

Krish Rudra recalled working with Jacobs some years ago and requested him to see that Swastik identified as a hate symbol is also removed from New York Penal Code 240.31.

Bina Sabapathy expressed the hope that the issue does not arise again.

Many community leaders including Dr. Jay Sarkar, Narinder Kapoor, Dr. Rakesh Sharma, Dr. Ravindra Goyal, Dr. Raj Modi, Harish Thakkar and Fal Pandya also spoke and thanked Chairman Jacobs for his assurance to the Indian American communities in New York.

Jacobs noted that what needed to be done was educate people on differentiating Swastik from the Nazi symbol.

Humans Versus Earth: The Quest To Define The Anthropocene

Crawford Lake is so small it takes just 10 minutes to stroll all the way around its shore. But beneath its surface, this pond in southern Ontario in Canada hides something special that is attracting attention from scientists around the globe. They are in search of a distinctive marker buried deep in the mud — a signal designating the moment when humans achieved such power that they started irreversibly transforming the planet. The mud layers in this lake could be ground zero for the Anthropocene — a potential new epoch of geological time.

 

This lake is unusually deep for its size so its waters never fully mix, which leaves its bottom undisturbed by burrowing worms or currents. Layers of sediment accumulate like tree rings, creating an archive reaching back nearly 1,000 years. In high fidelity, it has captured evidence of the Iroquois people, who cultivated maize (corn) along the lake’s banks at least 750 years ago, and then of the European settlers, who began farming and chopping down trees more than five centuries later. Now, scientists are looking for much more recent, and significant, signs of upheaval tied to humans.

 

Core samples taken from the lake bottom “should translate into a razor-sharp signal”, says Francine McCarthy, a micropalaeontologist at nearby Brock University in St Catherines, Ontario, “and not one blurred by clams mushing it about.” McCarthy has been studying the lake since the 1980s, but she is looking at it now from a radical new perspective.

 

Crawford Lake is one of ten sites around the globe that researchers are studying as potential markers for the start of the Anthropocene, an as-yet-unofficial designation that is being considered for inclusion in the geological time scale. The Anthropocene Working Group (AWG), a committee of 34 researchers formed by the International Commission on Stratigraphy (ICS) in 2009, is leading the work, with the aim of crafting a proposal to formally recognize the Anthropocene. This new epoch would mark a clear departure from the Holocene, which started with the close of the last ice age. To define a new epoch, the researchers need to find a representative marker in the rock record that identifies the point at which human activity exploded to such a massive scale that it left an indelible signature on the globe.

 

Given how much people have done to the planet, there are many potential markers. “Scientifically, in terms of evidence, we’re spoiled for choice, but we have to pin it down,” says Jan Zalasiewicz, a palaeobiologist at the University of Leicester, UK, and chair of the AWG.

 

The committee’s current plan is to look to the legacy of the atomic age, when radioactive debris from mid-twentieth-century nuclear bomb blasts left a fingerprint of radioisotopes in the atmosphere, rocks, trees and even humans. “There’s a big bomb spike somewhere between 1952 and 1954 that is quite distinct and unmistakable,” says Zalasiewicz.

Once they pick their representative marker, researchers working with the AWG need to gather enough evidence from around the world to convince the governing bodies of geoscience that they have found a truly reliable signal for the start of the Anthropocene.

 

But some scientists argue that human activity has been shaping the planet for thousands of years, and that the working group has settled too quickly on the 1950s for the start of the proposed epoch. Erle Ellis, a geographer at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and an AWG member, has criticized the committee’s plans for designating the start of the Anthropocene. “The AWG decided the timing of the boundary before deciding on the marker, not the other way around,” says Ellis.

Hard evidence

 

In the end, it will be the rocks that have the final say. The decision on whether to officially designate the Anthropocene will come down to stratigraphic evidence preserved in the geological record — that is, whether humans have left a distinctive set of marks preserved in rock, seafloor mud or glacial ice that indicates a fundamental change in the planet.

 

After a decade of investigating this question, the AWG decided in May that humans had, in fact, left an indelible geological mark. In a binding vote in May, 29 of the 34 members opted to move forward with developing a proposal supporting the designation of the Anthropocene.

The AWG’s next task is to put forward a formal proposal identifying a global boundary stratotype section and point (GSSP), or ‘golden spike’ (see C. N. Waters et al. Earth Sci. Rev. 178, 379–429; 2018). A GSSP is a primary geological marker at one location that can be correlated with sites around the globe in diverse environments. The Anthropocene’s golden spike needs to demonstrate that there was a globally synchronous moment when physical, chemical and biological processes amounted to the irreversible crossing of a geological threshold from the Holocene to something altogether different.

In its recent vote, the AWG members decided overwhelmingly to pursue a GSSP in the mid-twentieth century. This time marks the start of the ‘Great Acceleration’, a vast transformation after the Second World War when the growing population began consuming resources and creating completely new materials at an exponential rate, eclipsing even the Industrial Revolution. All that activity poured unprecedented amounts of persistent organic pollutants into the environment, ramped up the rate of animal extinctions and created geological features that had never before existed.

 

These include 4-kilometre-deep gold mines and landfills more than 70 metres high, such as Teufelsberg in Berlin, where rubble from the Second World War was piled into an artificial hill. Although the AWG is still exploring several potential golden spikes, the radioactive record from the nuclear age has emerged as the front runner. “Radionuclides still look like the sharpest signal,” says Zalasiewicz. The AWG summed up its current work in The Anthropocene as a Geological Time Unit, published in February by Cambridge University Press.