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Tilak Rishi, born in India, has been working as a career corporate executive, after doing his MBA. Passionately pursuing his hobby for writing, he also remained a regular contributor to newspapers in India and the U.S. Many true happenings and characters he came across in life, including interaction with former president Bill Clinton, inspired Paradise Lost and Found, his first novel. A family saga, it starts from Kashmir, when this paradise on earth is lost for the tourists who thronged in thousands every year to enjoy its scenic splendor. Terrorists have turned it into one of the most dangerous places in the world. The family is not only a witness to the loss of this paradise, but also to another tragedy of much bigger magnitude. In the aftermath of the partition of India, along with millions uprooted from their homes in Pakistan, the family leaves behind all that it has in Lahore. Starting from a scratch on the difficult path to progress, it still has many joyful moments when along the way it makes a difference in many a life. The survival-to-success story climaxes in California where the family finds the paradise that was lost in Kashmir.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Exemplary Voice Of Indian-Americans

At a state dinner in India in March 2000, US President Bill Clinton said, "My country has been enriched by the contributions of more than a million Indian Americans.” This is, indeed, a long way from the days of early migration when the first trickle of Indians in search of economic opportunities came to California at the end of the nineteenth century. On April 5, 1899, four Punjabis who had worked in the British Royal Artillery in Hong Kong, landed in San Francisco and were allowed to stay in the US by the Immigration Service . The grant of permission gave the signal to others to follow those four pioneers. Indians mainly came to the US as laborers to build the country's railroad or work in farmlands, while facing prejudice, hostility and blatant discrimination against the people of Indian origin. Today, Indian-Americans are one of the fastest-growing and most successful immigrant groups in the United States. The 1.5 million Indian Americans in the US continue to top the US Census charts as the best-educated, highest-paid and top-placed community among the 38.1 million foreign-born population in the country. Indians have proliferated in this country in the fields of health care, information technology and engineering, with higher education levels and incomes than national averages. And recent years have brought Nobel Laureates, Indian heads of major U.S. companies — PepsiCo Inc.’s Indra Nooyi is among about a dozen current CEOs. They also are making their presence felt in politics – Bobby Jindal for example is a state Governor. Here are some of the best known Indians in the U.S., who have made it big in life due to sheer grit, determination and hard work:

Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, (October 19, 1910 – August 21, 1995) was an Indian American astrophysicist. He was a Nobel laureate in physics along with William Alfred Fowler for their work in the theoretical structure and evolution of stars. He was the nephew of Indian Nobel Laureate Sir C. V. Raman. The NASA's premier X-ray observatory was named the Chandra X-ray Observatory in honor of the late Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar. The observatory was launched into space in July 1999.

Amartya Kumar Sen is an Indian Nobel laureate in Economics. He is known "for his contributions to welfare economics" for his work on famine, human development theory, welfare economics, the underlying mechanisms of poverty, gender inequality, and political liberalism.

Venkatraman "Venki" Ramakrishnan is a structural biologist at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, England. He received the 2009 Nobel Prize in Chemistry "for studies of the structure and function of the ribosome".

Kalpana Chawla was an Indian-American scientist and a NASA astronaut. She was one of seven crewmembers killed in the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster. Kalpana was assigned to technical positions in the astronaut office, her performance in which was recognized with a special award from her peers. She has been posthumously awarded: Congressional Space Medal of Honor, NASA Space Flight Medal, NASA Distinguished Service Medal and Defense Distinguished Service Medal.

Sunita Williams is a United States Naval officer and a NASA astronaut. She was assigned to the International Space Station as a member of Expedition 14 and then joined Expedition 15. She holds the record of the longest spaceflight (195 days) for female space travelers.

Dalip Singh Saund (1899–1973) was a member of the United States House of Representatives. He served the 29th district of the state of California from January 3, 1957–January 3, 1963. He was the first Asian American, Indian American and Sikh member of the United States Congress.

Piyush "Bobby" Jindal is the Governor of Louisiana. Before Jindal's election as governor, he was a member of Congress for Louisiana's 1st congressional district, elected in 2004. Jindal was re-elected to the House in the 2006 election with 88 percent of the vote. He is the second Indian American elected to Congress.

Harbhajan Singh Khalsa Yogiji (1929– 2004), also known as Yogi Bhajan and Siri Singh Sahib, was a charismatic spiritual leader and successful entrepreneur who introduced Kundalini Yoga and Sikhism to the USA. He was the spiritual director of the 3HO (Healthy, Happy, Holy Organization) Foundation, which today is one of the world's largest yoga-teaching bodies, and an outspoken defender of the holistic doctrine of Sikh Religion. The New York Times had a sardonic title to its obituary for Yogi Bhajan, "Boss of Worlds Capitalistic and Spiritual, Dies":

Deepak Chopra is an endocrinologist, lecturer, celebrity and author of books on spirituality and mind-body medicine. Chopra began his career as a medical doctor and later worked in mind-body medicine and Ayurveda. The June 1999 issue of Time magazine identified Chopra as one of the top 100 heroes and icons of the century and credited him as "the poet-prophet of alternative medicine."

Vivek Kundra is the Federal Chief Information Officer (CIO) of the United States of America. He served in Washington, D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty's cabinet as the Chief Technology Officer for the District and, before that, as Virginia's Assistant Secretary of Commerce and Technology in Governor Tim Kaine's cabinet.

Aneesh Chopra is the first Federal Chief Technology Officer of the United States (CTO). He previously served as Virginia’s fourth Secretary of Technology. Prior to his government service, Chopra was Managing Director for the Advisory Board Company, a health care think tank for hospitals and heath systems.

Arun Majumdar has been nominated to be the first director of the U.S. Department of Energy's Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E). This position has been dubbed Green Czar.

Amar Gopal Bose is the chairman and founder of Bose Corporation. An American electrical engineer of Indian and Anglo-American descent, he was listed on the 2007 Forbes 400 with a net worth of $1.8 billion.

Bharat Desai is a billionaire Indian American entrepreneur and founder of Syntel. He currently serves as Chairman of Syntel (NASDAQ: SYNT), a global provider of Information Technology and Knowledge Process Outsourcing services, headquartered in Troy, Michigan.

Kavitark Ram Shriram is the founding board member of Google and one of the first investors in Google. Kavitark Shriram ranked 583 at Forbes worlds list of billionaires 2007 and ranked 677 on 2008. He currently owns 3.4 million shares of Google.[4]

Vinod Khosla is a Indian-American venture capitalist. He is an influential personality in Silicon Valley. He was one of the co-founders of Sun Microsystems and became first CEO & Chairman of Sun Microsystems and then became a general partner of the venture capital firm Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield & Byers in 1986. In 2004 Khosla formed his own firm, Khosla Ventures.

Sabeer Bhatia is the co-founder of Hotmail and an entrepreneur. In less than six months, the website attracted over 1 million subscribers. As the interest in the web-based email provider increased, Microsoft eventually took notice and Hotmail was sold to Microsoft for a reported sum of $400 million.

Didar Singh Bains, a Sikh farmer from Punjab, came to America fifty years ago, with $8 in his pocket. Driving tractors and irrigating orchards for 75 cents an hour, he did the work of four men, and soon bought his first peach orchard. He bought another, then another, and by 1978, had become the largest peach grower and came to be known as the Peach King of California. By 1980, Bains owned 12,000 acres in California and Canada.

Indra Krishnamurthy Nooyi is the Chairperson and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of PepsiCo, one of the world's leading food and beverage companies. Indra Nooyi has been named 2009 CEO of the Year by Global Supply Chain Leaders Group.

Vikram Pandit is the current CEO of Citigroup.

Norah Jones is an American singer-songwriter, pianist, keyboardist, guitarist, and actress of Anglo-American and Bengali-Indian descent. She is the daughter of sitarist Ravi Shankar. Her career began with her 2002 debut album Come Away with Me, an adult contemporary vocal jazz album with a soul/folk/country tinge, that received five Grammy Awards. She has sold more than 16 million albums in the US and over 36 million records worldwide; altogether, she has sold more albums than any other female jazz artist during the 2000s.

Zubin Mehta was born in Bombay (now Mumbai), India, the son of Mehli and Tehmina Mehta. His father Mehli Mehta was a violinist and founding conductor of the Bombay Symphony Orchestra. In 1978 Mehta became the Music Director and Principal Conductor of the New York Philharmonic. His conducting is also renowned as being flamboyant and forceful in performance.

Kalpen Suresh Modi, best-known by his stage name Kal Penn, is an Indian American film actor and politician who is serving as the Associate Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement in the Barack Obama administration.

Manoj Nelliyattu Shyamalan , known professionally as M. Night Shyamalan, is a two-time Academy Award-nominated Indian-American filmmaker and screenwriter. Shyamalan gained international recognition when he wrote and directed 1999's The Sixth Sense, which was nominated for six Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Original Screenplay.

Ashok Amritraj, a Hollywood producer, is Chairman and CEO of Hyde Park Entertainment. He is also a former tennis player and has represented India on an international level. Amritraj has produced over 100 films, including, Jeans and hit hollywood films such as Antitrust, Walking Tall, and Bringing Down the House.

Mira Nair is an Indian film director and producer based in New York. She has won a number of awards, including a National Film Award and various international film festival awards, and was a nominee at the Academy Awards, Golden Globes, BAFTA Awards and Filmfare Awards.

Padma Parvati Lakshmi, is an Indian American cookbook author, actress, and model. She has been the host of the US reality television program Top Chef since season two. In 2009 she was nominated for an Emmy Award for hosting Top Chef along with Tom Colicchio.

Fareed Rafiq Zakaria is an Indian-American journalist and author. He is the host of CNN's Fareed Zakaria GPS. Zakaria is a frequent commentator and author about issues related to international relations, trade and U.S. foreign policy.

Sanjay Gupta is an American neurosurgeon and media personality on health-related issues.He is best known as CNN's chief medical correspondent, hosting the network's weekend health program House Call with Dr. Sanjay Gupta and making frequent appearances on their American Morning, Larry King Live, and Anderson Cooper 360° programs. It was reported that Gupta was offered the position of Surgeon General in the Obama administration. In March 2009, Gupta withdrew his name from consideration for the post.

Jhumpa Lahiri is an Indian American author. Lahiri's debut short story collection, Interpreter of Maladies (1999), won the 2000 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, and her first novel, The Namesake (2003), was adapted into the popular film of the same name.

Vikram Seth is an Indian poet, novelist, travel writer, librettist, children's writer, biographer and memoirist. Seth has published five volumes of poetry.

Mohini Bhardwaj is a retired American gymnast who competed at the 1997 and 2001 World Championships and earned a team silver medal at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens. She is the first Indian-American gymnast, and the second Indian-American athlete overall, ever to medal at the Olympics.

Raj Bhavsar is an American artistic gymnast of Indian descent. He was a member of the 2001 and 2003 World Champion U.S. team. He earned a bronze medal as a member of the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team, becoming the third Indian-American ever to medal at the Olympics, after Mohini Bhardwaj and Alexi Grewal.

Dalip Singh Rana, better known by his ring name The Great Khali, is an Indian professional wrestler, actor, and former powerlifter who won Mr. India in 1995 and 1996. He is currently signed to World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) on its SmackDown brand. In WWE, Singh is a one-time World Heavyweight Champion, and has appeared in the films The Longest Yard (2005) and Get Smart (2008).

And we could keep counting the Indian achievers in USA, if only there were no compulsion on word count for this post.

Here are excerpts from Prime Minister's interview with Fareed Zakaria on CNN/GPS (Nov. 22, 2009) which need no further elaboration on the role of Indians in America:

ZAKARIA: When one travels around India these days and reads the newspapers, talks to people, you get a sense of a great deal of connection and interaction with the United States at every level -- at the level of business, at the level of universities. Is the relationship between Indian society and American society actually now stronger than that between the Indian government and the American government?

SINGH: Well, our relations at the people-to-people level are of great significance. The fact that there is a large community in the United States, people of Indian origin, the way they have flourished, the way they have contributed to the growth of the American economy, I think has changed the image of India. And I often say to our guests from abroad that these days, there is hardly a middle class family in India who doesn't have a son, a son-in-law, a brother or a sister, or a sister-in-law in the United States. I think that's a great incentive for our two countries to look to further development of our relationships.

To conclude, here are some facts that forcefully support the above observations on Indian Americans. More than a quarter of all immigrant-funded companies in the last 10 years in the United States were founded by Indian immigrants, a Duke University survey revealed. Indians have founded more engineering and technology companies in the United States in the past decade than immigrants from the United Kingdom, China, Taiwan and Japan combined. Together, this pool of immigrant-founded companies was responsible for generating more than $52 billion in 2005 sales and creating just under 450,000 jobs as of 2005. What is clear is that immigrants have become a significant driving force in the creation of new businesses and intellectual property in the United States – and that their contributions have increased over the past decade. This is what we can confidently call the Exemplary Voice of Indian-Americans.


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Roaring Voice Of Bollywood

On March 14, 1931, the silent Indian cinema got its voice with the release of Alam Ara, the first 'talkie'. Spanning a wide range of decades, genres and style, Bollywood, as the Mumbai based Hindi cinema is now popularly called, in all its glory is a wonderful thing. Of the hundreds of great hits it has given, some have attained an aura of unparalleled respectability because, overtime, they continue to draw viewers in multitudes for weeks, months and even years. A major point of reference for Indian culture, Bollywood has shaped and expressed the changing scenarios of modern India. Of the numerous Bollywood moviemakers, some are eternally identifiable. Their image and hallmark style render them unforgettable. The early icons and a galaxy of great makers of the masterpiece movies and Bollywood blockbusters down the decades include:

V. Shantaram: He was one of the early film producers to realize the efficacy of the film medium as an instrument of social change and used it successfully to advocate humanism on one hand and expose bigotry and injustice on the other. Most of his movies are considered classics of Indian cinema: Amar Jyoti (1936), Dunia Na Mane (1937), Admi (1939), Padosi (1941), Shakuntala (1943), Dr. Kotnis Ki Amar Kahani (1946), Jhanak Jhanak Payal Baje (1955) and Do Aankhen Barah Haath (1957).

Mehboob Khan: Mehboob Khan, like many other filmmakers of his time, learnt his craft in the Theatre to become one of India's greatest filmmakers. The common motif in his movies usually was the oppressed poor pitted against the oppressive rich. Mehboob was a great lover of music and in all his movies he paid greatest attention to music: Manmohan (1936), Deccan Queen (1936), Jagirdar (1937), Alibaba (1940), Aurat (1940), Roti (1942), Anmol Ghadi (1946), Elan (1947) and Anokhi Ada (1949), Andaaz (1949), Aan (1952) and Mother India (1957).

Sohrab Modi: A stage actor of Parsee Stage, what attracted Modi was the historic genre. Minerva Movietone was famous for the triology- Pukar (1939), Sikander (1941) and Prithvi Vallabh (1943). Modi's other notable movies were Bharosa (1940), Parakh (1944), Jhansi Ki Rani (1953) and Mirza Ghalib (1954).

Raj Kapoor: Producer, director, actor, editor, Raj Kapoor was the greatest entertainer known to Indian films. At the age of 23, Raj Kapoor made his directorial debut with Aag (1948) and followed up with several super hit films: Barsaat (1949), Awara (1950), Boot Polish (1954), Shri 420 (1955), Jagte Raho (1956), Jis Desh Mein Ganga Behti Hai (1960), Sangam (1964), Mera Naam Joker (1970), Bobby (1973), Prem Rog (1982) and Ram Teri Ganga Maili Hai (1985).

B. R. Chopra: One of the most celebrated movie mavericks of the Indian celluloid scene in the golden era, B.R.Chopra created immortal classics like Afsana, Ek Hi Raasta, Naya Daur, Sadhna, Kanoon, Gumrah, Humraaz, Pati Patni Aur Woh, Insaaf Ka Tarazoo and Nikah.

Bimal Roy: One of the most successful directors of Hindi cinema, Bimal Roy was famous for his romantic-realist melodramas that took on important social issues while still being entertaining. The most awarded director of the golden era, Bimal Roy was awarded the first three Filmfare awards for Best Director over three consecutive years for Do Bigha Zamin (1953), Parineeta (1954) and Biraj Bahu (1955). He continued to win awards and acclaims for most of his films that followed: Devdas (1955), Madhumati (1958), Sujata (1959), Parakh (1960) and Bandini (1963).

Guru Dutt: Sensitive, poetic, magical, Guru Dutt’s directorial debut Baazi (1951) was not only a super hit but also a trend setter of the urban crime films that followed in the fifties. Aar Paar, released in 1954, established Guru Dutt as a director to reckon with. Followed some of his best work: Mr. And Mrs. 55 (1955), Pyaasa (1957), Kagaz Ke Phool (1959), Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam (1962) and Chowdhvi Ka Chand.

Hrishikesh Mukherjee: Known for a number of classic hit films, Hrishida’s films were realistic and did not have crime, violence and vulgarity. Besides Anand, a masterpiece, Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s other famous films include Abhimaan, Guddi, Golmaal, Ashirwad, Bawarchi, Satyakam, Namak Haraam, Anari, Asli Naqli, Anupama, Mili, Chupke Chupke, Khubsoorat and Bemisal.

Yash Chopra: Writer, director and producer, Yash Chopra is regarded as one of the hippest and trendiest directors of Indian cinema. Highly acclaimed and awarded director-producer, Yash Chopra has the distinction of winning nine Filmfare awards for Best Director or Best Producer: Waqt (1965), Ittefaq (1969), Daag (1973), Deewar (1975), Lamhe (1991), Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (1995), Dil To Pagal Hai (1997) and Veer Zaara (2004). His other famous films include Trishul, Kabhi Kabhie, Joshila and Silsila.

Nasir Hussain: Famous for making hit formula movies, Nasir Hussain was one of the most successful filmmakers of the golden era of Hindi cinema. His hit movies include: Tumsa Nahin Dekha (1957), Dil Deke Dekho (1959), Jab Pyar Kisi Se Hota Hai (1961), Phir Wahi Dil Laya Hoon (1963), Pyar Ka Mausam (1969), Caravan (1971), Yaadon Ki Baraat (1973) and Hum Kisi Se Kam Nahin (1977).

Manmohan Desai: Renowned producer and director of Hindi films, Manmohan Desai’s string of hits with Amitabh Bachchan made him one of the most successful directors of the golden era. His innings with Amitabh included Amar Akbar Anthony, Suhaag, Naseeb, Desh Premi, Coolie, Mard and Ganga Jamuna Sarswati. 1977 was an exceptional year for him when four films were big blockbusters – Parvarish, Amar Akbar Anthony, Chacha Bhatija and Dharam Veer.

Prakash Mehra: He started in the late 1950s as a production controller. In 1973 he produced and directed Zanjeer. The movie was a super hit and established Amitabh Bachchan as a solo actor and started an association that spawned six more movies – Hera Pheri, Muqaddar Ka Sikandar, Lawaris, Namak Halal, Sharabi and Jadugar. The hero in Zanjeer typified the raw seething anger of the youth of time – the angry young man.

Manoj Kumar: The patriotic face of Indian cinema, Manoj Kumar established his identity as “Mr. Bharat” with his unforgettable flick Upkaar (1965). All the films he produced and directed always carried his trademark stamp of nationalism and patriotic ferver: Purab Aur Paschim (1970), Roti Kapda Aur Makan (1974) and Kranti (1981).

Mani Ratnam: The director who revolutionized Tamilnadu Cinema, Mani Ratnam became one of the most respected filmmakers of Bollywood after he went into making Hindi films. His films have substance as well as style: Roja (1992), Dil Se (1996) , Bombay (1995), Yuva (2004) and Guru (2007).

Ashutosh Gowariker: One of Bollywood's elite directors, in 2001 Ashutosh directed the period epic Lagaan. The film received critical acclaim and nomination for an Oscar Academy Award in U.S.A. for Best Foreign Language Film. In 2004, Ashutosh directed Swades starring Shah Rukh Khan. Swades received high critical acclaim. Jodha Akbar, a period epic starring Hrithik Roshan and Aishwarya Rai, released in 2008, has received much popular as well as critical acclaim and won many awards.

Sanjay Leela Bhansali: A highly acclaimed director, his debut film Khamoshi won several awards. and he emerged as a director to watch. His next movie, Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, was a great success and won many awards. Devdas, his next film, was well received at Cannes, where it was premiered. Then came Black, his most praised film to date. Time Magazine (Europe) named the film as one of the Ten Best Movies of the year 2005.

Karan Johar: Karan Johar made his directorial debut in 1998 with Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. The film was a major box office success and won eight Filmfare awards. His second directorial effort, the multi-starer family drama Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham (2001) was also a huge success. In 2005, his third film as director, Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna was released, which again was a huge success, especially in the U.S. and U.K. His next production, Dostana (2008) was also a smash hit.

Ram Gopal Verma: RGV began his film career in Telgu Cinema. His first huge success in Bollywood started with the commercial blockbuster Rangeela, a stylish romantic drama with Amir Khan and Urmila Mantondkar. Verma followed up with the ground breaking gangster saga Satya, a violent crime epic set in Mumbai underworld, which won him award for the Best Film. Verma again showed his skill with the corporate crime masterpiece Company. The film was lauded by critics and audiences alike. His next big hits were Bhoot, Sarkar and Sarkar Raj.

Madhur Bhandarkar: Bhandarkar is always known for his socially relevant and hard hitting films. Chandni Bar (2001) was a critically acclaimed success and he won his first National Award for the film. It took Bhandarkar into the top league of filmmakers in Bollywood. This was followed by another critically acclaimed film Satta (2003). His next film Page 3 (2005) did very good business at the box office, was highly acclaimed by critics and won him another National Award. His films Corporate (2006) and Traffic Signal (2007) were also appreciated by the critics and audiences. His next film Fashion was also well applauded and won several awards.

For the most part, Bollywood blockbusters are pure entertainment, famous for their 'masala' – formulaic plot lines, exuberent musical and dance numbers and colorful costumes. However, apart from mere entertainers, Bollywood moviemasters have made many classic masterpieces that have the distinction of achieving awards and receiving recognition at international film festivals:

Amar Jyoti (1936): V. Shantaram's adventure classic has the distinction of being the first Indian film to be screened at the Venice Film Festival.

Sant Tukaram (1936): Directed by Vishnupant Govind Damle, the classic film on the life of Tukaram, Maharashtra's famous 17th century poet-saint, won the Special Remmendation Award at the Venice Film Festival.

Ram Rajya (1943): Vijay Bhatt's alltime greatest mythological is the first Indian film to have been premiered in USA at the prestigious Museum of Modern Art in New York. Cecil B Demelle, one of the greatest makers of historical and mythological movies (Ten Commandments, Sampson and Delilah) wrote a personal note to Bhatt after attending the premier, “Greetings from one director who is still trying to make good pictures to another director who will make great ones long after I am gone.”

Neecha Nagar (1946): The film directed by Chetan Anand and written by Khwaja Ahmed Abbas was the first Indian film to win the coveted Grand Prix Prize at the Cannes Film Festival (1946).

Do Bigha Zamin (1953): Bimal Roy's brilliantly directed film was the recipient of a Special Mention at Cannes (1954) and winner of the Special Progress Award at Karlovy.

Boot Polish (1954): This R. K. Films production won Special Mention at Cannes and its director, Prakash Arora, nominated for Golden Palm.

Jagte Raho (1956): A chillingly honest and stark Raj Kapoor film, Jagte Raho won Karlovy Vary International Film Festival (1957) Crystal Globe Award for its director, Sambu Mitra.

Do Aankhen Bareh Haath (1957): One of the finest movies ever made, V. Shantaram's DABH won Silver Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival (1958) and Samuel Godwyn Award at the Golden Globe, USA (1959).

Mother India (1957): A gem from Mehboob Khan, Mother India was the first Indian film to be nominated for an Oscar for Best Foreign Film in 1958, missing the Oscar by a single vote.

Teesri Kasam (1966): A sensitive and poetic film produced by renowned lyricist Shailender, Teesri Kasam won nomination for Grand Prix at the Moscow Film Festival (1967).

Ankur (1974): Shyam Benegal's unforgettable debut in Hindi, Ankr was nominated for Golden Bear Award at the Berlin International Film Festival (1974).

Nishant (1975): Yet another brilliant film from Shyam Benegal, Nishant was nominated for Golden Palm at the Cannes Film Festival (1976).

Mrigaya (1976): Mrinal Sen's most artistically made movie, Mrigaya won nomination for the Golden Prize at the Moscow International Film Festival (1977).

Lagaan (2001): Ashutosh Gowarker's classic. set in India in 1893, Lagaan won Academy Award (USA) nomination for Oscar -Best Foreign Language Film.

Life in India would not be the same without the exuberance of cinema. Song and dance, comedy and melodrama, added to it the relevent messages – Indian films have them all and usually all together in one film. The recent trend in Bollywood, however, is that it works with one eye on the foreign markets. The sets have become more lavish, the costumes more extravagant, the chorus line more glamorous and locations far beyond one can dream of – from the white glaciers of Alaska to the blue waters of Bahamas. This has resulted in remarkable rise in revenues from roaring business abroad, especially in U.S.A., U.K., Australia and the United Arab Emirates. The box-office figures in the foreign market establish the fact that Bollywood films have finally carved a niche for themselves internationally, especially in the U.S. where they do more business than films from any other country. Besides, many big Hollywood studios want a share of the action in Bollywood's busting film industry. It sure adds to India's pride when, along with watcing progress in economic and several other spheres in India, the world is paying rapt attention to the widespread roaring voice of Bollywood.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Chacha Nehru's Inspiring Anecdotes

Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of independent India, was born on November 14, 1889. As a tribute to this great man and his genuine love for children, his birthday is celebrated all over India as ' CHILDREN'S DAY' since 1954. A celebration of ‘childhood’, ‘innocence’, and ‘future’ is what Children’s Day is all about. His passion for the youngsters and his love for the little kids is the reason why his birthday was chosen as a day of celebration for the young ones. Chacha Nehru (Uncle Nehru), the children called him and his face glowed as he watched them, the future hope of India. Their continued faith in him was also a source of happiness to him and he responded with spontaneous affection. Time has not dimmed his appeal. Age has not made him distant. None of today's children have seen him in flesh and blood. Yet they know him. They know him as a friend of children. They know his love for children; and they reciprocate with an abiding love for their dear Chacha Nehru. He remains a friendly spirit, hovering around, befriending children, laughing with them, tossing roses and jasmines at them, dancing with them, whirling around, singing songs. This image is sustained by anecdotes, drawn from his life, anecdotes that bring out the fact that Nehru's love for children is immortal.

Strolling In The Garden!
He was taking a stroll along the path that ran around the trees and the shrubs of the open grounds in Teen Murti, the official residence of the Prime Minister. Then he heard the cry of a baby. Where did it come from? Nehru stopped, looked all around. His eyes focused on a baby of two months, howling at its top. Nehru went closer. Where was the mother? She was nowhere around. Nehru guessed that the baby's mother must be working on the grounds. She must be a member of the team of gardeners who worked at Teen Murti. She must have put the baby to sleep and gone to the work spot. More he went on with the guessing game, louder and louder became the cry of the baby. Nehru decided to play mother to the child. He walked close to where the child lay, bent, picked the baby in his arms and rocked it gently. The child's wails ebbed and petered off. A toothless smile lit up its lips. That was a smile that cheered Pandit Nehru. He played with the baby, tickled it, had fun time till the baby's mother, covered with dust and sweat ran in. She could not believe her eyes. Her beloved child was in Pandit Nehru's arms. And he was having fun time in its company. For the mother, it was her proudest moment ever. Her baby had been rocked and soothed by none else but the Prime Minister of India.

The Baloon Seller!
Pandit Nehru was on a tour of Tamil Nadu (then known as Madras). Large crowds lined the roads to have his darshan. Many children had climbed up the trees that lined the roads to get a glimpse of their beloved Chacha Nehru. Set behind the crowd was a balloon seller. The strings of the balloons were gathered in his hand, but the balloons, of all shapes and sizes provided a colorful panorama, a sort of drifting halo behind the crowd. On an impulse, Pandit Nehru instructed the motorcade to stop. He jumped out of the open jeep, signaled to the balloon seller to his side. The man came, hesitantly. Had he earned the wrath of the Prime Minister? What would happen to him now? He bowed, held his head bent. "Buy up all his balloons. Give them to the children," Nehru told his aide. The news was conveyed to the balloon seller. He could not believe his ears. He bowed again, ran back, distributing the balloons among the children. Nehru walked to a plump girl, happily watching the balloon in her hand soar far above her head, pinched her cheek gently and returned to the jeep. The children screamed happily, "Chacha Nehru, Chacha Nehru!”

Not The Occasion For Speech!
One hundred and thirty children of Balkanji-Bari, who had come to Delhi in response to an invitation by the Prime Minister, heartily enjoyed a reception given by him at the lawns of his residence, Teen Murti. Mr. Nehru who came to meet them in the evening after a strenuous four-hour meeting to select Congress candidates, was instantly refreshed seeing the little ones who sat in neat rows enjoying fruit drink and sweets. As soon as he appeared, they rose with joyous shouts of ``Chacha Nehru Zindabad.'' A representative of Balkanji-Bari requested Mr. Nehru to address the boys and girls, but the Prime Minister said, “you do not make speeches on occasions like these.'' Instead, he went round, and made each of his little visitors feel completely at home, patting, caressing, saying kind words, making pleasant simple conversation and cracking jokes. Some children asked Chacha Nehru if he remembered having met them at Santa Cruz airport three years earlier on his way to the U.S.A., and Nehru readily responded indeed he did. Nehru asked the children what they had seen in Delhi. The children mentioned the names of Red Fort, Juma Masjid, Rashtrapathi Bhavan, Qutub Minar and Jantar Mantar. When their host wanted to know what was the most wonderful thing they had seen in Delhi, back came their answer in a piped chorus, ``Chacha Nehru.''

Language Of Your Liking!
At the above Balkanji-Bari get together, a boy, extending autograph book, asked Chacha Nehru,
“Chachaji, can I have your autograph?”
Nehru obliged him. The boy looked at the autograph and pointed out to him,
“Chachaji, you have omitted to put the 'Tarik' (date).”
Nehru put the date also. The boy again said,
“Chachaji, you have not written any 'Sandesh' (message).”
Nehru smiled and wrote a small message. When the boy looked at the autograph book, he was surprised. Nehru had written his signatures in English, the date in Urdu and the message in Hindi. When the boy looked at Nehru questioningly, he, with a broad smile, said,
“My dear kid, you asked for my signatures in English, the date in Urdu and the message in Hindi, and you have them thus.”

In No Hurry!
As official of the International Cultural Forum, India, I had the pleasure of taking a group of children to Prime Minister Nehru's residence for his blessings before the children were to leave for a Summer Camp in the then Soviet Union. Mrs. Indra Gandhi, the PM's daughter, received and rushed us to Mr. Nehru's study for a hurried audience with him as per appointment. However, Mr. Nehru was in no hurry and asked Mrs. Gandhi to arrange for some snacks and soft drinks for us. In the meanwhile he made us feel at home by shifting from the sofa to the carpet to show us on the atlas the summer camp site along the beautiful Black Sea where the children would be spending the summer months. When the 15-minutes allotted time for our appointment was over, Mr. Nehru was still absorbed in giving the children orientation lessons for their participation in the international camp. Mrs. Gandhi had a hard time engaging Ministers and other important persons who were waiting for their turn to meet the Prime Minister as per their respective appointments. Indeed, it is beyond imagination how extraordinary we all felt when we came out after spending the most wonderful time of our life with one of the greatest world leaders, for full one hour.

This Beautiful World!
When the famous cartoonist Shankar started the international competitions for children, Nehru addressed a letter through Shankar's publication to children of the world. It brings out Nehru's abiding love for children:

Dear Children,

I like being with children and talking to them and, even more, playing with them. If you were with me, I would love to talk to you about this beautiful world of ours, about flowers, trees, birds, animals, stars, mountains, glaciers and all the other beautiful things that surround us in the world. We have all this beauty all around us and yet we, who are grown-ups, often forget about it and lose ourselves in our arguments or in our quarrels. We sit in our offices and imagine that we are doing very important work.

I hope you will be more sensible and open your eyes and ears to this beauty and life that surrounds you. Can you recognize the flowers by their names and the birds by their singing? How easy it is to make friends with them and with everything in nature, if you go to them affectionately and with friendship.

Grown-ups have a strange way of putting themselves in compartments and groups. They build barriers... of religion, caste, color, party, nation, province, language, customs and of rich and poor. Thus they live in prisons of their own making. Fortunately, children do not know much about these barriers, which separate. They play and work with each other and it is only when they grow up that they begin to learn about these barriers from their elders. I hope you will take a long time in growing up...

Jawaharlal Nehru
December 3, 1949

Chacha Nehru loved flowers as much as he loved children. In his most familiar photograph he is always wearing a red rose close to his heart. The story goes that he started to and eventually got accustomed to tucking the flower to his jacket when a little girl courageously came too close and tucked it on his jacket at a function. In fact, he often compared the two saying that children were like the buds in a garden who needed to be cared, nurtured and loved, as they were the future and foundation of a nation. Since the foundation of a strong future of the country lies in the hands of the children of today, they need to be shown a direction. What better way to show them the way than through Chacha Nehru's inspiring anecdotes.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Reunited After Ages!

A TALE OF TWO GARDENS is a slim collection of poems Octavio Paz wrote, while Mexico’s ambassador to India. These poems provide a spirited view of Mexico and India as complements, and the two gardens of the title are his childhood garden in Mexico and the garden of his home in India. “A Tale of Two Gardens” is a fluid, transcendent poem, defining what makes for a sense of place while describing these two particular gardens which, conflated, transcend time and geography. The poems of Octavio Paz draw our attention to the fact that no two people are so passionately and naturally attracted to each other, and no two countries are ever so close to each other culturally, as India and Mexico.

Historians and researchers have been working hard to get to the bottom of the affectionate bondage between Indians and Mexicans, and come out with startling conclusions that the Mexicans are our own kith and kin who wandered out ages ago to the other side of glob. There is definitely an important connection between the old Vedic people and Mexico's Maya-ancestors. The Mayans are actually referred to in the Mahabharata, as a tribe having left the Indian subcontinent for Ceylon where they inhabited the province of Maya. Later, they went to the Americas. The Mayans were excellent international shippers and traders, builders and astronomers. Recent studies suggest a link between Indus Valley civilization and Mayans of Central America. The studies focused on the calendars of the two advanced civilizations. The Indus Valley inhabitants followed a calendar based on the movements of Jupiter, and the Mayans followed one based on the Venus. In the Puranas, a secondary Hindu scripture, the texts further state that they lived on opposite sides of the Earth. Mexico and India are at opposite sides in longitude. The Hindu story of the churning of the ocean has been found in carvings in Mexico, as well Mayan representations of a tortoise carrying twelve pillars similar to Indian illustrations. Mayan structures in Central America had many similarities between the design and construction methods of the Mayans and that of the ancient Hindus.

Language is one of the major keys to determining the movement and migration of races. Two-thirds of all the aboriginal regional names of Mexico are either variations of the name of Lanka or Tamil names of West Indian regions. This is a major key to the understanding of their ancient Sri Lankan and Tamil India origins. A Mayan culture hero was Ishbalanka (Xbalanca) meaning in Tamil, "Shiva of Lanka" who was supposed to have made the footprint on top of Adam's Peak in Sri Lanka; modernly, in line with the prevailing Buddhist culture, it is known as (Gautama) ‘Buddha’s footprint.’ Palenque, the ancient capital of Guatamala, derives from the Tamil Pal-Lanka, meaning "Protectorate of Lanka." Guatemala (the main habitat of the Mayans) may derive from Gautemala, meaning "A Subsidiary Land of Gautama Buddha." Ceren was a name of Ceylon, some Mayan ruins in El Salvador are called Ceren. Mayon was one of the names of Ceylon's cult religions, still existing among a few aboriginals living on the island.

The Mayans are well known for their astronomical accuracy through their studies of the cycles of Venus, yet their whole system of astronomy and cycles derives from their ancient Hindu past. Astronomy played a significant role in Mayan culture. Venus in particular had a pre-eminent status. Testimony to this rich tradition is borne out by Mayan temple art and the few available Codices, or sacred books, of the Mayans. The sidereal Mayan astronomy is akin to the Hindu system . There are also the similarities between the Maya rain-god Chac and the Vedic Indian Indra, and the Maya monkey-god and the Vedic Hanuman. The Vedic origin is further enhanced by the frequency that the elephant motif is found in Maya art, especially the earlier works of the Maya, such as at Copan, although the elephant never existed in the region. Like the Vedic culture, the Maya had a pantheon of demigods, many of which have similarities to the Vedic deities. Mayan gods like Xiuhtechutli and Xipe Totec have their Vedic counterparts in Indra and Agni. Indra, like Xiuhtechutli, was the rain god and guardian of the Eastern Quadrant, and Agni, similar to Xipe Totec, was the god of sacrificial fire, born in wood and the life force of trees and plants. You can keep counting the similarities and there seems to be no end.

Punjabi-Mexican Families

Jayasri Majumdar Hart's ROOTS IN THE SAND is a multi-generational portrait of pioneering Punjabi-Mexican families who settled, a century ago, in Southern California's Imperial Valley. Through the use of sound footage, archival and family photographs, personal and public documents, Hart tells the touching and inspirational story of a community that grew out of a struggle for economic survival in the face of prejudice.

By 1910, close to 5,000 men from Punjab found jobs in the American West. These men had journeyed across the ocean, not to settle in this country, but to earn money enough to return to their home country of India. However, poor wages and working conditions convinced them to pool their resources, lease land and grow their own crops. A number of the men settled in the Imperial Valley, just north of the Mexico border, where they used water from the Colorado River to irrigate the desert, a way of farming familiar to them from their homeland. As the men prospered, they wanted to marry and settle down, but immigration laws forbade importing brides from India. So the men turned to the Mexican women working in the fields who, much like the women back home, covered their heads and bodies from the blazing sun. Valentina Alvarez married Rullia Singh, Rosario Perez married Purn Singh and Silveria Jill married Phoman Singh. They were among the earliest couples in a cross-cultural wedding boom born out of necessity in the Imperial Valley. It is these resilient and innovative people and their stories that ROOTS IN THE SAND explores. The film goes on to document the Punjabi-Mexican families' resourcefulness in overcoming political and economic obstacles placed before them time and time again. The stories are told with affection and pride by children and grandchildren.

There were perceptions of similarities that the men expressed about their new lives and that their descendants continue to voice. These perceived similarities, the senses in which the descendants in California today feel about Punjabi and Mexican culture, language, and religion. There were similarities of physical appearance and even of language (“Spanish is just like Punjabi, really”), as Moola Singh of Selma, California, who has thirteen children from three marriages with Mexican women says:

“ I never have to explain anything India to my Mexican family. Cooking the same, customs and the way of living in India same as in Mexico. Everything same, only language different. . I went to Mexico two, three times, just like India. They sit on floor there, make tortillas (roti you know). All kinds of food the same, eat from plates sometimes, some place tables and benches. India the same, used to eat on the floor, or cutting two boards, made benches.”

Isabel Singh Garcia said that the Mexican-Hindu children had their own little community during her childhood. The marriage of her parents, Memel Singh and Genobeba Loya, was a good one, she said. Her father and her mother have been dead for more than 30 years, but she clearly remembers them and her Sikh uncles. Growing up on a peach orchard with her parents and sisters provided a mixing of cultures. They attended Catholic services and had regular visits to the Sikh temple in Stockton.

"The Mexicans and the Hindu were compatible," she said. "They had a lot in common. The Mexicans had tortillas. The Hindus had rotis, a bread that is like a tortilla. We took the best of two worlds and made one world. We became one big, close family. Actually, we felt we were always a one family, somehow separated and now reunited after ages."