Monthly Archives: July 2016

This Indian-American teen was the centre of attraction at Democratic National Convention

18-year-old Harvard University student Sruthi Palaniappan is a big supporter of Hillary Clinton

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An 18-year-old Indian-American girl became the youngest delegate at the recently concluded Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, which nominated Hillary Clinton as the party’s presidential candidate, reports PTI.

Sruthi Palaniappan from Cedar Rapids and a student of the Harvard University is a big supporter of Clinton, the first woman to be nominated as a presidential candidate by a major political party. Her father Palaniappan Andiappan also attended the convention as a member of the credentials committee.

Palaniappan was the centre of attraction among the media and the delegates along with Jerry Emmett, a 102-year-old delegate from Arizona who was the oldest delegate at the convention. In addition to being the youngest delegate, Palaniappan made history when she was given an opportunity to represent Iowa during roll call votes.

“I am extremely thankful for the surreal opportunity to have represented the Iowa delegation as a roll call speaker and to have been a part of the historic nomination process of our next president,” she told PTI. “Together, we have made history by electing the first woman presidential nominee of a major political party- Hillary Rodham Clinton,” Palaniappan wrote on her Facebook post.

Palaniappan said being elected as the party’s delegate was a long process. “But I’m extremely glad that I have been able to immerse myself at every step along the way and witness the political process first-hand,” she said.

Highly impressed by the electrifying speech given by President Barack Obama, Palaniappan said the American Dream is something no wall will ever contain. “President Barack Obama, thank you for gracing us with your beautifully moving words. It was simply an honour to be in your presence and witness the pure emotion that emanated from your voice.

“Obama’s legacy and efforts will live on when Clinton and her vice presidential running mate Tim Kaine become the new President and Vice President of the United States,” she said.

“We really do need to unite together in order to defeat the Republican nominee (Donald Trump). If we let Donald Trump take over the presidency, really terrible things will take our county several steps back,” Palaniappan was quoted as saying by the local KCRG TV.

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Neera Tanden makes a strong case for Hillary as POTUS

45-year-old Indian-American makes political debut on national stage at recently-concluded Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia

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For presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, politics is all about fighting for people, not when the cameras are on but when they are off, Indian- American Neera Tanden said in her political debut on the national stage at the Democratic party convention in Philadelphia recently.

Tanden, 45, was invited by the Democratic leadership and the Clinton Campaign to address the recently concluded Democratic National Convention.

Tanden, who is currently president of the Center for American Progress, a progressive public policy research and advocacy organisation based in Washington DC, narrated her personal story to make a strong case for Hillary Clinton as the next president of the United States.

“It’s truly an honour for me to address this convention.  Because frankly, I would not be here without the policies of the democratic party,” said Tanden, a close confidant of Clinton. “My parents got divorced when I was five years old. My father left for a time, and my mother had to be on welfare,” she added.

She worked hard to support me and my brother…We used lunch of vouchers at school and food stamps at the supermarket. “After we moved out of our house, a federal subsidy let us to get an apartment and stay in a town with good public schools,” she said recollecting her childhood days.

“It wasn’t easy, but we eventually got back on our feet because of the investment democrats have made in struggling families like mine,” she said amidst applause from the audience that had several thousand Democratic party delegates and party leaders in attendance.

Born in Bedford, Massachusetts to immigrant parents from India, Tanden graduated from UCLA in 1992 and received her degree from Yale Law School in 1996. She is married to Ben Edwards, an artist she met while working on the Michael Dukakis campaign.

Tanden, who is speculated as a potential cabinet appointee in Hillary’s administration, said she knows first-hand that the decisions leaders make, makes all the difference in people’s lives.

“That is why I direct public policy, and that is why I am so very proud to support Hillary Clinton. For decades, Hillary has campaigned on issues that matter to working families. Childcare, paid leave, equal pay,” the Indian-American leader said.

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She waived her anonymity as rape survivor to set up maternity clinic for victims of sexual violence

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Indian-origin Pavan Amara’s My Body Back Project establishes facility in association with Barts Health NHS Trust

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An Indian-origin rape survivor in the UK recently opened the country’s first maternity clinic for rape and sexual assault victims, providing them with specially-trained midwives and psychologists, reports PTI.

The Indian-origin woman has founded the My Body Back Project, which has jointly established the new maternity clinic with the Barts Health NHS Trust in London. The clinic will provide extra antenatal support with specially-trained midwives, psychologists and paediatricians.

If it proves successful, it could be rolled out across other UK hospitals as well. “They don’t have to say what happened, although they can if they want to. Whatever they feel is right for them. We will then book them an appointment and take it from there,” Pavan Amara, the founder of the My Body Back Project, said.

Amara, who was raped as a teenager, waived her anonymity as a victim when she helped set up a sexual health clinic at the Royal London Hospital for victims of sexual violence last August. With more than 800 women using the service since it was set up, talks are under way to open a similar unit in Glasgow, reports BBC.

Though the service will be integrated into a regular maternity ward at the Royal London Hospital, women will follow a different antenatal route from the moment they are referred. As well as being offered extra, longer meetings with specially-trained staff, women will be able to have more of a say as to how their birthing rooms are laid out and legal advice over their medical checks.

The clinic will also provide antenatal classes and breastfeeding advice, which has been altered for women who have experienced sexual attacks, and offer specialist gynaecological examinations and mental health support after labour.

“There might be some characteristics that come across during the birth and it’s a shame because if we had known before we could have worked with them during the birth to help them have a positive pregnancy,” Inderjeet Kaur, consultant midwife at the clinic, told BBC.

Women can also self-refer to the maternity clinic by emailing the team to make an appointment.

The Indian-origin woman’s team has already received many international emails from women who cannot use the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) but she also plans to offer women in other countries one-off appointments in the form of video calls.

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The India-born Muslim cop who keeps US Hindu temple safe

An eight-degree black-belt in Taekwondo and a kick-boxing champion, Lt Javed Khan is director of security at the Hindu temple in Indianapolis

A Mumbai-born Muslim police officer is the security in-charge of the largest Hindu temple in the Indianapolis city of US, setting an example of inter-faith cooperation and social harmony at a time when religious intolerance rhetoric is on the rise due to the election cycle, reports PTI.

An eight-degree black-belt in Taekwondo and a kick boxing champion, Lt Javed Khan from the local police department is director of security at the Hindu temple in Indianapolis.

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For hundreds of visitors thronging the temple daily, in particularly over the weekend, Mr Khan, who was born in Mumbai and raised in Lonavla, Pune, is now considered a part and parcel of the Hindu temple. “My message is this; we are all one. We are all the children of God. There is only one God and then there are different forms and names, we choose to worship,” Khan told PTI in a phone interview from Indianapolis. “We are Indians. Half my family is Hindu. I do not believe in Hindu-Muslim thing,” he said.

“I am just doing my duty. I am not doing anything special or extraordinary,” Khan said when asked for an interview.

Khan settled in Indiana in 2001, a year after he migrated to the United States. He had been coming to the US since 1986 for participating in various martial arts championship.

Khan said it all started a few years ago, when he married his daughter to a Telugu boy at this Hindu temple, after which he started knowing people at the temple.

Soon, he said, “I felt there is need over there for protection. Then I offered my services. I am director of security for the temple now. While the temple has been in existence for the past several years, its formal opening ceremony — Kumbhabhishekam — was held last year, which was attended by top state leaders.”

“Your place of worship adds another significant landmark to the city of Indianapolis and I am certain that it will play a key role in enriching the cultural heritage of our state, as well as, the learning and spiritual growth of its devotees and visitors,” Indiana Governor Mike Pence had said in a message in June last year at the time of the formal opening of the temple built at an estimated cost of $10 million. Pence is now the vice presidential candidate of the Republican party.

Pics courtesy: http://www.javed-khan.com

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Look who’s just bagged a junior minister’s post in the new UK govt

Indian-origin MP Alok Sharma named Parliamentary under secretary of state at the foreign and commonwealth office

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British lawmaker Alok Sharma has been named Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), becoming the second Indian- origin minister in Prime Minister Theresa May’s Cabinet.

The 48-year-old MP for Reading West, who had previously served in a special role of infrastructure envoy for India in the David Cameron-led government, was named in the latest set of junior ministerial posts announced by Downing Street recently.

He was first elected to the British parliament in May 2010 and was re-elected in May 2015 from Reading West. In his new role in the FCO, Sharma will work closely with newly-appointed foreign secretary Boris Johnson and is likely to be handed the charge of Indian affairs.

The minister who previously held the position, Hugo Swire, has resigned from the government along with Indian-origin peer Baroness Sandip Verma, who had served as Parliamentary Under Secretary of State in the Department for International Development (DfID) in the Cameron government.

The new Secretary of State in charge of DfID had been announced as Priti Patel last week.

While Patel had been a vocal supporter of Britain’s exit from the European Union (EU), fellow Indian-origin MP Sharma had campaigned for Remain and even set up a cross-party group called British-Indians for IN.

Their presence in the Cabinet reflects May’s broader attempt at balancing her Cabinet with pro- and anti-Brexit campaigners as her government begins the process of the UK leaving the economic bloc.

Born in India, Sharma grew up in Earley and Whitley Wood and went to Reading Blue Coat School in Sonning and Salford University where he received a BSc in Applied Physics with electronics in 1988.

Sharma subsequently qualified as a chartered accountant, training with Deloitte Haskins & Sells in Manchester before moving into corporate finance advisory with Nikko Securities and then Skandinaviska Enskilda Banken, where he held senior roles based out of London, Stockholm and Frankfurt. Alok advised corporates and private equity firms on cross border mergers and acquisitions, listings and restructurings.

Sharma is currently a governor of a local primary school in Reading. He is also a Fellow of the Royal Society for the advancement of the Arts, Manufacturing and Commerce. Previously, he served as a chairman of the political think tank Bow Group’s economic affairs committee. In 2013, he was appointed as the Conservative vice-chairman for BME Communities.

Sharma is married and lives in Reading Borough with his wife, two daughters and his dog Olly.

Pic courtesy: www.aloksharma.co.uk

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This website aims to chronicle the Sikh contribution to WWI

UK Punjab Heritage Association launches empirefaithwar.com as part of a wider three-year project to coincide with the centenary of the Battle of Somme on July 1, 1916 — described as the bloodiest battle of the Great War

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A new website which aims to build the biggest database on the Sikh experience in World War I has gone live as part of a worldwide crowd-sourcing initiative, reports PTI.

The UK Punjab Heritage Association (UKPHA) launched empirefaithwar.com as part of a wider three-year ‘Empire, Faith & War: The Sikhs and World War One’ project to coincide with the centenary of the Battle of Somme on July 1, 1916 – described as the bloodiest battle of the Great War.

“We have created an exciting interactive ‘Soldier Map’ that displays the records of approximately 8,000 Sikh soldiers. We want to enrich the records that already exist and add as many more as possible to preserve vital information that is at risk of being lost forever,” UKPHA said in a statement.

“By combining family memories and memorabilia with archival records, we have the opportunity to collectively create the definitive database of the Sikh experience of the Great War so that their sacrifices and suffering will never be forgotten again,” the association said.

The project has received a grant of 448,500 pounds from the UK’s Heritage Lottery Fund to chronicle the sacrifices made by Sikhs in the Battle of Somme and other battles between 1916 and 1918.

Although accounting for less than 2 per cent of the population of British India at the time, Sikhs made up more than 20 per cent of the British Indian Army at the outbreak of hostilities.

They and their comrades in arms proved to be critical in the early months of the fighting on the Western Front, helping save the allies from an early and ignominious defeat.

According to estimates, every sixth British soldier serving during World War I would have been from the Indian subcontinent, making the British Indian Army as large as all the forces from the rest of the British Empire combined – including the forces of Australia, Canada, New Zealand and South Africa.

The story of Sikhs in World War I has been captured through original artefacts, unpublished photographs and drawings, newspapers and comics, postcards, works of art, uniforms, gallantry medals, and folk songs sung by the wives left at home in an exhibition in London two years ago.

Many of these elements will filter through into the website, which has already attracted 200 families to engage with the project.

The ‘Soldier Map’ uses Google Maps technology to place a soldier in his place of birth in pre-Partition Punjab. It has a ‘Citizen Historians in Action’ section which invites Sikhs and non-Sikhs from around the world help create a virtual memorial and legacy.

The website also includes audio interviews with veterans, recorded over 30 years ago by historian and author Charles Allen. Close to 1.5 million Indians served the British Indian Army, fighting in all the major theatres of war from Flanders fields to the Mesopotamian oil fields of what is now Iraq.

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‘Master of None’ Aziz Ansari makes history

33-year-old becomes first Indian-American actor to land a lead comedy-acting Emmy nomination

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Aziz Ansari has made history as he has become the first Indian-American actor to land a lead comedy-acting Emmy nomination for his seriesMaster of None. Ansari is also just the fifth person of South Asian descent to be nominated in an acting category.

“I am very happy but it is a very specific accomplishment,” Ansari told USA Today after the nominations were announced on Thursday. Ansari, who is also nominated for writing and directing Master of None, co-created the Netflix comedy with Alan Yang.

The 33-year-old actor plays Dev, an actor trying to make it in New York. Master of None, which is up for best comedy, crystallised diversity challenges in Hollywood in the show’s fourth episode, titled Indians on TV.

“I think every minority actor runs into that. You hear people say things like, ‘Oh, they already got the black guy.’ Or, ‘Oh, they already got their Asian lady.’ It kind of feels like, to minority actors that I’ve spoken with, once they have one (minority actor cast) they’re like, OK, we’ve placated the ‘diversity issue.’ That was coming from a real place,” Ansari said.

Casual racism has also been also addressed in the show.

“If you’re a minority, you’re experiencing all sorts of casual racism all the time. And at a certain point, you just get numb to a lot of it, and you’re like, whatever.” Ansari said he he and Yang are currently busy writing season 2 of Master of None, which will debut on Netflix next.

Ansari was born in Columbia, South Carolina, to a Tamil Muslim family from Tamil Nadu. His mother, Fatima, works in a medical office, and his father, Shoukath, is a gastroenterologist. Ansari grew up in Bennettsville, South Carolina, where he attended Marlboro Academy as well as the South Carolina Governor’s School for Science and Mathematics. He graduated from the New York University Stern School of Business with a major in marketing.

Besides Dev Shah in Master of None, Ansari is known for his roles as Tom Haverford on the NBC series Parks and Recreation (2009–2015).

Ansari began his career performing stand-up comedy in New York City during the summer of 2000 while attending New York University. In 2007, he created and starred in the MTV sketch comedy show Human Giant, which ran for two seasons. This led to acting roles in feature films, including Funny People; I Love You, Man; Observe and Report; and 30 Minutes or Less.

In addition to his acting work, Ansari has continued to work as a stand-up comedian. He released his debut CD/DVD, entitled Intimate Moments for a Sensual Evening, in January 2010 on Comedy Central Records, and still tours nationally between acting commitments. In 2010 and 2011, he performed his Dangerously Delicious tour. This tour was self-released for download on his website in March 2012 and debuted on Comedy Central in May 2012. He completed his third major tour of new material, Buried Alive, in the summer of 2013. His fourth major comedy special, Live at Madison Square Garden, was released on Netflix in 2015.

His first book, Modern Romance: An Investigation, was released in June last year.

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Australian cricket’s next big thing

Meet Arjun Nair, the Canberra-born son of Indian immigrants who has taken the junior cricket ranks of New South Wales by storm

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He made his first grade debut at the age of just 15 and two years later he’s already played for Australia at Under-19 level and made his Sheffield Shield debut for New South Wales (NSW). Sheffield Shield is the domestic first-class cricket competition of Australia. The tournament is contested between teams from the six states of Australia.

Having started out as a batsman who bowls occasional leg-spinners, Nair harbours hopes of becoming the next big spinner from the land of the Kangaroos. Ask him how this change came about, and the 18-year-old blows the mind away with his response.

“I made the grade back home mostly through my batting, but I also bowled leg-spin once in a while. However, I started watching YouTube videos of Sunil Narine and R Ashwin, and their bowling really caught my imagination. That’s when I started practising off-spin in my backyard. I used to bowl a lot to my father and beat him quite often with my deliveries. That’s when the thought of concentrating on off-spin came to mind,” Nair, who has modelled himself on Narine, told The New Indian Express.

His father Jayanand, a former hockey player in India, has been a big influence on him taking up cricket. “I started playing when I was four. I and my dad used to play in our backyard at our Sydney home. He has been vital in my development and in me taking up the sport. He always said that sports was as important as studies, and didn’t let me miss matches even if that meant skipping studies,” Nair said.

For most of the next decade since he tossed his first ball at four, batting was the path Nair followed, and handy scores in his first two Shield matches for the Blues showed there is talent in both disciplines – numerous good judges in NSW think his batting may yet overtake his bowling.

But the breakthrough from junior and club cricket for Hawkesbury in the Sydney grade competition arrived after Nair began slowing down those aforementioned YouTube clips. He practised his variations in a compact backyard net constructed at the family home in the western Sydney suburb of Girraween, over time adding more pace, power and revolutions.

“I was mainly a batsman who bowled part-time leggies,” Nair told ESPNCricInfo. “Then I started watching a bit of YouTube, clips of guys bowling carrom balls and stuff. I’d watch clips of past matches, slow it down, watch replays and pick things up here and there. I started trying that for fun at the backyard with my dad and he couldn’t pick it. At first I couldn’t get many revs on the carrom ball, but over time and getting used to it, I’ve started to get more on it and my accuracy has improved,” he added.

Pic courtesy: Helen Nezdropa/Hawkesbury Gazette

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This Indian American teen is the rising star of American table tennis

At 16, California native Kanak Jha is the youngest male to represent the sport in the forthcoming Rio Olympics

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He can easily pass off as just another American teen going to school and playing sports. But 16-year-old Kanak Jha is also the first US athlete born in 2000 to qualify for the Olympics, and in Rio de Janeiro this summer, he will be the youngest male player in the world ever to compete in table tennis at the Games.

Having spent nine months playing professional table tennis in Europe, California native Jha threw out the first pitch at a New York Mets game on his birthday and qualified for the Rio de Janeiro Olympics. “I’m happy that I’m the youngest, but I don’t think about it so much,” Jha was quoted as saying by AP, who in April, when he was still 15, became the youngest male to qualify for table tennis in Olympic history. “In the end, it’s just men.”

Originally from suburban San Jose, Jha was a toddler when he started watching his older sister, US national team member Prachi Jha, now 19, play table tennis at a local recreational centre. Although his hands could barely reach above the table — he began playing at 5. He said he always felt natural with the paddle in his hand, instinctively hitting the ball.

By the time he was 12, Jha was playing in international tournaments and quickly realised he had the potential to compete among the best. After several national championships, he became the youngest World Cup participant in 2014.

However, as his game improved, he needed to find a more advanced environment. So in August, he moved to Sweden to train at Halmstad Bordtennisklubb, working with some of the world’s top coaches and players, along with his sister Prachi.

“Our club has a very strong level of players, and the environment is much more competitive when you’re playing in a group where everyone is trying to win,” Jha told USA Today. “There are a lot more styles in Sweden, and you see a lot of these people and what their strengths are and how they play the game, and you can improve just from being there in that environment.”

The teenager, whose mother Karuna is from Mumbai and father Arun grew up in Allahabad and Kolkata, is the flag-bearer of the table tennis team. His father came to America to study business and works at Oracle. His mother worked at Sun Microsystems before starting her own hypnotherapy and reiki business.

The Indian connect does not end there. The India Community Centre (ICC) in California, which began as a modest four-table club in 2005, is now home to USA’s Olympic team, which is coached by Italian Massimo Costantini. Costantini, who was India’s national coach till 2012, is also the head coach at the ICC. It is here that Jha got his big break.

Pics courtesy: AP

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How a Texan teen is taking LED bulbs to the poor

Meera Vashisht, a 13-year-old Indian-origin girl living in the US, raises Rs 1.4 lakh through crowdfunding

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When Meera Vashisht learnt about India’s ‘Unnat Jyoti by Affordable LEDs for all’ (UJALA) programme while working on her 7th-class science project in her hometown Texas in the US, she began to think whether it would be really possible for the country’s underprivileged to replace their incandescent bulbs with LED lamps that are over seven times as expensive?

The 13-year-old Indian-origin girl, who was born and brought up in the US and is a seventh grader in Sartartia Middle School in Sugar Land, Texas, then got down to drafting a letter which she sent out to “random people that I could find in our family phone book”, explaining the government’s objective of reducing greenhouse gases as well as taking electricity to the poorest villages in India.

So far, Vashisht has reportedly collected $2,079.51 with the help of her parents and reached out to 500 people in her vicinity in Houston, Texas, as per reports.

She purchased LED bulbs from the Energy Efficiency Services Ltd (EESL), the implementing agency for UJALA, and distributed them to residents of JJ clusters in Keshavpuram in New Delhi recently.

Six hundred families will benefit from 1,800 LED bulbs to be provided under the UJALA scheme from the funds collected by Vashisht. “LED bulbs use less than half the energy of an incandescent bulb and runs for over seven to eight years. I am very happy to have been able to carry out the distribution of LED bulbs and hope to inspire young minds across the globe for working towards energy efficiency,” she told PTI.

Vashisht also believes that her effort will result in lighting up 46 houses for one year, reducing electricity bills by Rs 2,500 and most importantly there will be significant reduction in CO2 emissions every year.

Under UJALA, over 12.60 crore LED bulbs have already been distributed across India, which is leading to a daily energy savings of about 4.48 crore kWh and resulting in avoidance of about 3,278 MW of peak demand, as per government reports. Through the scheme, the estimated cumulative cost reduction of bills of consumers, per day, is Rs. 17.94 crore and is part of the governments efforts to spread the message of energy efficiency in the country.

Born to a Punjabi father and Kashmiri mother, Vashisht says she often has India on her mind — its people, the hustle and bustle in the bazaars, festivals, her ancestral home in Punjab and, above all, the “feeling of belonging and the smiles from everyone”, she told ET Magazine.

“The joy of participating in Diwali, Holi and other colourful festivals rejuvenates me,” she said, adding that she is connected to India every moment because of her ongoing training in Bharatnatyam and Hindustani classical music. Vashisht also plays the flute in her school band.

Pics courtesy: Facebook/EESL

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