Monthly Archives: April 2016

How about a suit you can run a half-marathon in? A sweater that uses carbonised coffee to absorb odours?

Indian-American Aman Advani’s fashion start-up Ministry of Supply revolutionising business wear, inspired by NASA spacesuits

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This isn’t your average performance gear—it’s polished menswear that incorporates advanced technology to make your life that much easier. We’re talking about products — ranging from socks and pants to dress shirts and jackets — that use fabrics and manufacturing techniques designed to make professional clothes cooler, drier, and more stretchy, without looking like the wearer just stepped off the golf course.

A suit you can run a half-marathon in. A sweater that uses carbonised coffee to absorb odours. These are the sorts of things that Massachusetts-based fashion brand Ministry of Supply is bringing to the world of fashion. Some of the technology, such as special heat-regulating substances embedded in the fabrics, were developed by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to help keep astronauts comfortable in orbit.

While graduating at the Sloan School of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2010 – which he joined after consulting with Deloitte – Aman Advani co-founded Ministry of Supply, a clothing brand which seeks to reinvent business wear to include the benefits of athletic gear, said Span Magazine in a feature.

He used “phase change materials” engineered by the space agency that regulate body temperatures.

“As an engineer, you’re taught to tinker, which has always been natural to me. With dress socks, in particular, the solution was simple,” he said in the interview. He said he took his favourite Nike socks, sewed them inside the dress he wore to work. “With my mom’s help on the sewing machine, I had an easy route to testing and proving that a simple mash-up was better than the incumbent,” he added.

Advani, who is the chief executive of the brand, met the co-founders of the company at MIT.

“We were introduced to each other since we stood out from the rest of the start-up crowd. There aren’t too many fashion entrepreneurs at MIT. We all saw a near identical picture of a brand that stood for so much more than a mixture of technology and style,” he was quoted as saying.

Elaborating about the history behind the name of the company, which would remind people of James Bond movies, Advani said: “We love our name’s story. It represents the ’empathetic inventor’; where Q, from the James Bond films, gets Bond ready for anything while always looking sharp.

“Much like Q – whose character is actually based on a real person in the early 1900s’ British government, operating under the cover, Ministry of Supply – we’re in the labs making sure that our customer looks sharp and feels ready for anything.”

“As the lines between work, play, and downtime continue to blur, we need essential garments that keep up with our entire day. We’ve set out to achieve that versatility through capable garments that actually fit the human body and are easy to care for and wear, no matter what you choose to do in them,” the company website says.

This year, the company plans to expand its reach through products, channels and even some in-house manufacturing, reports say.

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India’s loss is Australia’s gain: Haryani wrestler to represent Down Under at Rio Olympics

31-year-old grappler Vinod Kumar Dahiya qualifies in the 66-kg weight category in the Greco-Roman event

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Indian origin wrestler Vinod Kumar Dahiya is all set to represent Australia at the Rio Olympics after he qualified in the 66kg weight category in the Greco-Roman event.

According to the official website, Dahiya, who originally hails from Khanda, a small village in Haryana, became a citizen of Australia a year ago and is now all set to make his debut at the Olympics, to be held in August this year.

The 31-year-old grappler secured an Olympic berth after winning a silver medal at the African/Oceania Olympic qualifiers in Algeria.

Following the footsteps of his older brothers, Vinod started wrestling at age of eight. Seeing his potential, Dahiya’s family sent him to Mahabali Satpal’s wrestling academy in New Delhi in 1998.

Thereafter, he participated in state and national competitions for four years. He also competed in the popular Indian sport of dirt wrestling.

Dahiya migrated to Australia in 2010, where he started training at the United Wrestling Club under former Wresting Australia President, Kuldip Bassi.

Based in Victoria, Dahiya has so far claimed six national championships and countless medals at the Australia Cup and Canberra Cup tournaments.

He represented the green and gold for the first time at the Oceania Championships in New Zealand in March, where he bagged the gold medal.

Pic courtesy: Reuters

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This Columbia University professor is on a quest to change the way we look at cameras

Among Indian-origin Shree K Nayar’s inventions – a wrap-around camera that can take photos of the hidden side; a kid-friendly digital camera that can be assembled by the user; the world’s first fully self-powered video camera; etc

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Indian-origin researcher Shree K Nayar is on a mission to change the way we look at cameras. Recently, scientists – led by the Columbia University professor – developed a novel flexible sheet camera that can be wrapped around everyday objects to capture images that cannot be taken with conventional cameras.

The researchers designed and fabricated a flexible lens array that adapts its optical properties when the sheet camera is bent. This optical adaptation enables the sheet camera to produce high quality images over a wide range of sheet deformations.

“Cameras today capture the world from essentially a single point in space,” Nayar was quoted as saying by media reports. “While the camera industry has made remarkable progress in shrinking the camera to a tiny device with ever increasing imaging quality, we are exploring a radically different approach to imaging,” he said, adding: “We believe there are numerous applications for cameras that are large in format but very thin and highly flexible.”

If such an imaging system could be manufactured cheaply, like a roll of plastic or fabric, it could be wrapped around all kinds of things, from street poles to furniture, cars, and even people’s clothing, to capture wide, seamless images with unusual fields of view.

The design could also lead to cameras the size of a credit card that a photographer could simply flex to control its field of view.

However, this is not the first time the Birla Institute of Technology, Mesra and North Carolina State University alumnus has made the quintessential camera look more exciting. In 2009, he designed a camera that can be assembled by the user. The idea was to redesign the camera so as to inspire young kids to learn the underlying technology.

As per Gizmag, the Bigshot camera was inspired by a 2004 documentary project that put cameras into the hands of the children of prostitutes from Sonagchi, Calcutta, providing a unique snapshot of life in the city’s red light district while the kids learned new skills.

In 2011, Nayar founded a startup called Kimera, LLC to get Bigshot into the hands of students and teachers worldwide. The market-ready camera kit is now being manufactured under licence by Hong Kong’s EduScience, and sold in the US by Elenco Electronics for just $89 each.

In April last year, Nayar invented the “world’s first fully self-powered video camera” that can produce an image each second, indefinitely, of a well-lit indoor scene. The camera, which is encased in a 3D-printed body, is completely self-sustaining meaning it can power itself indefinitely.

The computer scientist known for his work in the fields of computer vision, computer graphics and computational cameras. Nayar is the TC Chang Professor of the Computer Science Department at Columbia University. He co-directs the Columbia Vision and Graphics Center and is the head of the Computer Vision Laboratory (CAVE), which develops advanced computer vision systems. In February 2008, he was elected to the US National Academy of Engineering.

Nayar received a BE in electrical engineering from Birla Institute of Technology in Mesra, Ranchi in 1984, and an MS in electrical and computer engineering from North Carolina State University in Raleigh in 1986. He received a PhD in electrical and computer engineering from The Robotics Institute of Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh in 1991.

Nayar worked as a research engineer for Taylor Instruments in 1984. From 1986 to 1990 he was a graduate research assistant at The Robotics Institute of Carnegie Mellon University. In the summer of 1989, he was a visiting researcher at Hitachi Ltd. in Yokohama, Japan. He joined the faculty of the Computer Science Department at Columbia University in 1991, and in 2009 he became chair of the department.

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Meet the three Indian-origin professionals featured in the ‘100 Most Connected Men in the UK’ list for 2016

While Mumbai-born Sarosh Zaiwalla was the first Asian man to establish a London city law firm in 1982, Rishi Saha is the head of public policy at Facebook UK; Samir Desai is director at Funding Circle, a fintech ‘unicorn’

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Sarosh Zaiwalla

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In 1982, Zaiwalla became the first Asian man to establish a London city law firm. Born and raised in Mumbai, the lawyer left India for London to become a solicitor, just like his father.

After qualifying, he trained at Stocken and Co, a maritime law firm in Fleet Street. Among Zaiwalla’s most renowned early interns was a young Tony Blair. Over the course of his illustrious career, Zaiwalla has represented a number high-profile names, including the Gandhi family, the Dalai Lama, Benazir Bhutto, the ruler of Dubai, Tchenguiz brothers and the Chinese government, to name just a few.

Zaiwalla successfully represented the case between Iran’s largest private bank, Bank Mellat, in its highly-profiled sanctions litigation with the European Council. Zaiwalla’s firm had successfully challenged the ruling, whereby the European Court of Justice upheld the decision that Bank Mellat did unfairly have sanctions placed upon it by the European Council. The European Court of Justice confirmed the annulment of the fund-freezing measures in place against Bank Mellat since 2010 and also ruled that the European Council failed to provide sufficient grounds or evidence.

Rishi Saha

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Saha is the head of public policy for Facebook in the UK. He previously led digital communications at 10 Downing Street and the Cabinet Office, with responsibility for online outreach and citizen engagement on behalf of the Prime Minister. The 36-year-old Saha joined Facebook from the WPP consulting firm, Hill+Knowlton Strategies, where he served as the Dubai-based regional director for the Middle-East, India, Africa and Turkey region.

A born-and-bred Londoner of Indian-origin, Rishi also serves as a trustee of the Taylor Bennett Foundation, a charity that addresses the need for greater diversity in the communications industry through the delivery of a training and personal development programme for black and minority ethnic graduates. He is the one behind the ‘Pimp My Party’ Internet game for David Cameron.

Samir Desai

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Desai is the co-founder and director of Funding Circle, the largest peer-to-peer lender in the UK that focuses on SMEs. Founded in 2010, the platform recently topped £1 billion in lending. Operations have expanded into the US as well as parts of Europe and is one of the largest Fintech successes in the country. Desai is responsible for driving the company strategy, overseeing the company’s finances and managing the day-to-day operations at Funding Circle. He has worked extensively in the financial services sector. Before founding Funding Circle, he was an executive at Olivant, a private equity investor in financial services businesses in Europe, the Middle-East and Asia. Prior to this, Desai was a management consultant at BCG, advising a number of major UK and global banks and insurers on strategy, new product initiatives, and operational efficiency.

In December last year, Desai was honoured as a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE). In a statement emailed to Business Insider, Desai said: “I am honoured to have been awarded a CBE. This honour is testament to the hard work of the Funding Circle team who have helped originate £1.25 billion of loans from thousands of investors to small businesses in the last five years – creating over 50,000 new jobs globally.” A CBE is one of the UK’s most prestigious awards, and sits just one rung below a knighthood in the order of heraldry in the UK.

Photos courtesy: Tom Stockill; YouTube, The Sunday Times, UK

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He wrote a book to highlight the bullying of Sikh kids in the US

Karanveer Singh Pannu, 18, of New Jersey wanted to help alleviate pain and suffering that children from his faith go through on a daily basis

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According to a study by The Sikh Coalition, a non-profit advocacy organisation based in the US, 67% of turbaned Sikh youth in Fresno, California, have experienced emotional and physical bullying in schools and also cyberbullying.

“Sikh-American youth are largely unrepresented and do not seem to have a voice on the national stage or in the media, especially when it comes to bullying,” Karanveer Singh Pannu told NBC News. “I wanted to help in any way I could to alleviate this pain and suffering which children from my faith go through on a daily basis,” added the Sikh-American high school student from New Jersey.

Thus was born Bullying of Sikh American Children: Through the Eyes of a Sikh American High School Student, a new book written by Pannu that looks at bullying from the point of view of the student.

In the book, Pannu introduces the Sikh faith, which originated in the Punjab region of India, and discusses the significance of the turban and the history of Sikhs in the US. He details the results of a bullying survey he conducted of Sikh-American children in order to draw from their experiences as well as his own. He also suggests practical solutions drawn from interviews with several child psychiatrists and psychologists.

Pannu said he hopes the book can help other Sikh-American children who’ve experienced bullying, as well as parents and school administrators trying to understand the students’ experiences.

“[A] couple of days ago, a very emotional mother called me and thanked me profusely for writing this book,” Pannu told NBC News. “She wanted to help me in any way in order to get the book into the hands of the school authorities. Another non-Sikh reader after reading the book is gifting a book to the local school library,” added the student of the Eastern Regional High School in Voorhees,

“The young author has done an extraordinary job through detailed survey to find the current status of bullying among children in the Sikh American community. He then interviewed several mental health professionals to get practical solutions in order to mitigate bullying,” chairperson of American Sikh Council (ASC) Gulbarg Singh was quoted as saying by The Times of India.

Photo courtesy: NBC News

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This octogenarian NRI from UK talks the talk, walks the walk

Balwant Singh Grewal’s latest – completion of a 3,000-km walk from Kanyakumari to Delhi to spread awareness about blindness and raise funds

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An 80-year-old NRI based in London and native of a village near Ludhiana in Punjab just concluded a 3,000-km walk from Kanyakumari to Delhi to spread awareness about blindness and raise funds.

Grewal, who heads the UK-based charity India Association, started the walk on October 26 last year. The fund he collected during the course of his walk will be donated to ‘Saksham’, an organisation working for the cause of the blind, and the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund.

During his six-month-long walk called ‘Bobby Walk Full Circle 2015,’ Grewal covered 4,160 km to raise up to 1.5 million pounds.

Grewal, fondly called ‘Bobby’ by his friends, covered places such as Madurai, Puducherry, Chennai, Nellore, Guntur, Visakhapatnam, Bhubaneswar, Kolkata, Asansol, Ranchi, Gaya, Patna, Varanasi, Allahabad, Kanpur, Lucknow and Noida, before reaching New Delhi.

Grewal was accompanied by a team of four – his ‘walk project’ director and joint secretary of India Association Dr Rajan Bhanot, a driver, a chef and a cleaner.

Upon completion of his journey, he was received by Indian minister of urban development M Venkaiah Naidu at the India Gate in New Delhi. Grewal said his walk has generated substantial awareness about blindness. At a gurudwara in Nagpur, about 200 women came forward to donate their eyes, he claimed.

This is not the first time Grewal has gone on a long walk. A few years ago, he undertook a 500-mile walk from the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh to the English Houses of Parliament in Westminster to raise a million for bowel cancer research at St Mark’s Hospital in Scotland.

In fact, he is no stranger to personal challenges. A keen sportsman all his life, in 2001 he ran the London Marathon in just over 5 hours, and in 2004/5 (aged 68) he completed an extraordinary walk covering 2,500 miles across India from the North-West frontier to the deep South. This walk raised £100,000 for research into Cancer and AIDS.

Bobby is a remarkable man in many ways. Born in Punjab, India, he has lived in Britain since 1958 and is very proud to be British, not having forgotten the values of life he inherited from his birthplace. He has worked as a successful property developer and now passionately believes in giving something back to the society which has given him a very good life during his time in Britain.

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He was forced to make the ‘untenable choice’ between religion and career, eventually faith prevailed

In landmark decision, US military permits 28-year-old Sikh soldier to wear beard, turban

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In 2006, Captain Simratpal Singh, an observant Sikh who never had to cut his hair or beard, was in his first day at the West Point Military Academy. He still remembers how he felt when a military barber took a buzzer to his bearded face and the head of hair that he kept covered in a turban.

“It was excruciating,” Singh, 28, told the Daily News. “For 18 years of your life, you’ve had a certain image of yourself. All of a sudden, it’s shattered within 10 minutes.”

Ten years later, Singh, now an Army Ranger and Bronze Star Medal recipient, can finally reclaim that image.

In a landmark decision, the US military has granted a decorated Sikh-American officer a long-term religious accommodation allowing him to continue serving while maintaining his articles of faith of keeping a beard and wearing a turban.

The move makes Captain Simratpal Singh, a 28-year-old decorated combat veteran, the first active duty Sikh soldier to receive approval to maintain his articles of faith while actively serving in the US Army.

He had sued the Defence Department last month in a first of its kind lawsuit, saying he was being subjected to “discriminatory” testing because of his turban and beard. He said he was being asked to undergo additional testing for his helmet and gas mask.

In a decision on March 31, the US military granted him the long-term religious accommodation allowing him to continue serving his country while maintaining his articles of faith of keeping a beard and wearing the turban.

The Army granted the permanent accommodation, saying in a court document that it would only be revoked if the beard and turban affected “unit cohesion and morale, good order and discipline, health and safety”.

“My military service continues to fulfill a lifelong dream,” said Captain Singh after receiving the decision in this regard from the US military.

“My faith, like many of the soldiers I work with, is an integral part of who I am. I am thankful that I no longer have to make the choice between faith and service to our nation,” said Singh, who will now continue in his battalion operations staff position at Ft. Belvoir, Virginia.

According to the The New York Times, Debra S Wada, the assistant secretary of the Army for manpower and reserve affairs, wrote in a memo to the captain that “Because of the Army’s strong interest in maintaining good order and discipline, the Army intends to develop clear, uniform standards applicable to soldiers who have received religious accommodation”.

Until those standards are in place, Singh will be expected to appear in a “neat and conservative manner with a black or camouflage turban”, she said.

The Sikh Coalition said Singh, who had graduated from West Point with honours in 2006, was forced to make the “untenable choice” between his religion and his career and had to cut his hair and shave his beard following failed attempts to obtain an accommodation.

Singh, who successfully completed a Bronze Star tour in Afghanistan and received numerous other military accolades in various military positions, then filed a religious accommodation request in October, 2015.

Pic courtesy: Jovelle Tamayo, The Sikh Coalition

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So cute! This Indian-origin couple have just been declared the longest-married pair in New Zealand

Jeram Ravji and Ganga Ravji, who will turn 100 in May and June respectively, have been married for 81 years; four generations of the family now live in Auckland

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Jeram Ravji and Ganga Ravji, both born in 1916 in India, will turn 100 on May 4 and June 6, respectively. As was the tradition when they were growing up, children were often married at a very young age. In this amazing couple’s case, they were betrothed at six years of age in 1922 – almost 94 years ago.

However, as was also the tradition, they didn’t live together as man and wife until of age and in this case that commenced in April 1935 when they were 19 years old – almost 81 years ago.

The Ravjis have now been awarded the title of New Zealand’s longest-married couple by lobby group Family First. Their prize includes a professional photo with their extended family, which includes six children, 15 grandchildren and 25 great-grandchildren, all living in Auckland (see below). Four generations of the family now live in Auckland.

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At one stage while living in India, Jeram became a part of the freedom fighters’ movement under Mahatma Gandhi against the British rule in the country. He apparently had to serve 10 months in prison for his involvement, and his wife was often beaten by the police attempting to get information out of her as to the location of her husband.

So what keeps the couple going? As per Ganga, the key to a good marriage was to learn to make sacrifices and to take the good with the bad. Speaking to NZ Herald through her daughter Bhanu Daji, Ganga said she put her long-lasting and happy marriage down to not dwelling on bad times and moving forward.

“[The advice] we would give to our children if they had difficulties with their marriage would be you have to work hard, you have to have tolerance – that’s the most important part, tolerance,” she said.

Not given to sentimentality, the Ravjis nevertheless told the NZ Herald they love each other just as much now as they always have. Jeram said he could not immediately list the reasons he loved his wife, but “if we didn’t still love each other we would not still be together”.

Jeram moved to New Zealand in 1928 when he was 11, five years after the pair became betrothed at age 6. They married at 19 and lived as a family in New Zealand from 1953, first in Whanganui before moving to Auckland in 1981.

Pics courtesy: Screenshot, NZ Herald

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