Friday, March 28, 2008

Outsourcing Childcare to India...

For those of you out there, who like me are fans of the Onion!

Shekhar Kapur in the limelight again...

Filmmaker Shekhar Kapur, who has been one of the most successful
Indians in Hollywood, is all set to direct a $200-million Hollywood
fantasy-epic for Warner Brothers titled 'Larklight'. " "'Larklight' is
the current craze on the bookshelves and its author, Philip Reeve, is
being touted as another J.K. Rowling. It was an instant bestseller
across the world when released in 2006," reports India eNews.

An excited Kapur reportedly told the IANS that, 'I was in LA last week
to collaborate with writer Steve Knight for 'Larklight'. It's
something I had signed on three months ago. It's a franchise book and
being hailed as the new 'Harry Potter'. Warner Brothers has bought the
rights. Steve and I are currently working on the screenplay. Steve and
I are good friends. We've been working on the script extensively. It's
a $200-million project, probably the most expensive film I've made and
will ever make."

Meanwhile, the Hindustan Times reports that, Shekhar Kapur is in New
York for an unexpected project. He is to direct a movie that the
acclaimed British director, Anthony Minghella of The English Patient
fame, was making before his death last week. "It's a part of a series
of short films entitled, New York, I Love You, from the same producers
who produced Paris Je T'Aime (which had Gurinder Chaddha in its
bouquet of directors). I wasn't supposed to do it at all. But Anthony,
who was doing one, called me one day and said, 'I'm not doing it. I'm
ill. You do it'," Shekhar Kapur said. Kapur said he had thought that
Minghella would recover and complete the movie. "Anthony went to the
operating table, but did not return. He was 51 and it was not an age
to die. 'The English Patient' was truly a marvellous piece of cinema.
Now, it is my duty to do Minghella's film," the director said."

Kapur also did a CNN show LIVE show recently where he answered several
questions from the audience as well. Watch that video, or read the
transcript at the link below--

Read the full India eNews article at--

Read the full Hindustan Times article at--'s+last+film

Another IIT'an turned writer

When my mom presented Chetan Bhagats book, "Five Point Someone" and
told me about how popular it was becoming in India, I had to read it.
I must admit it was fascinating. I thought to myself, this story vibes
so well with the current trends, but the prose is not really
fantastic. It was interesting to see this article about it in the New
York Times this week --

"Until about four years ago, Chetan Bhagat was an investment banker
distinguished from the suited phalanx in this city's crowded financial
district only by his secret hobby.

While others planned weekend excursions to the golf course, Mr.
Bhagat, then employed by Goldman Sachs, indulged a passion for
writing, laboring in his private time on a racy, comedic little novel
about life on the campus of an elite college in his native India. In
the early morning, before going to the office, he would work on draft
after draft of the book, trying to get it right. He did 15 drafts in

Today Mr. Bhagat is still an investment banker, now with Deutsche
Bank. But he has also become the biggest-selling English-language
novelist in India's history, according to his publisher, Rupa &
Company, one of India's oldest and best established publishers. His
story of campus life, "Five Point Someone," published in 2004, and a
later novel, "One Night @ the Call Center," sold a combined one
million copies.

Less than three days after the release in 2005 of "One Night," another
slim comedy, about love and life in India's ubiquitous call centers,
the entire initial print run of 50,000 copies was snapped up, setting
a record for the country's fastest-selling book. And Ballantine has
published a paperback edition of the novel in the United States."

Read the full article at --

Dishoom 2008

This is for those of us who like a good laugh!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Gates on Religion...

Just in terms of allocation of time resources, religion is not very
efficient. There's a lot more I could be doing on a Sunday morning.
- Bill Gates

Tata Motors Buys Ford Businesses

AP reports that "Ford Motor Co. is selling its storied Jaguar and Land
Rover businesses to India's Tata Motors Ltd. in a deal that will net
the struggling U.S. automaker about $1.7 billion — roughly a third of
the price it paid for the two luxury brands. The deal announced
Wednesday will expand the Indian carmaker's reach around the globe...
Tata will pay $2.3 billion for the British brands, but at closing,
Ford will pay about $600 million into the Jaguar-Land Rover pension
fund, Tata's statement said."

Tata is one Indian company that has been growing slowly and steadily.
In the recent past, Tata has acquired several overseas companies
worldwide. The Tata group established in 1859 is a multinational
conglomerate based in Mumbai, India. Tata Group is the largest private
company in India with interests in steel, automobiles, information
technology, communication, power, tea and hotels.

J.R. D. Tata who took over sharimanship of the company in 1938 was
instrumental in taking this company from Rs 62 crore (Rs 620 million)
in 1939 to over Rs 10,000 crore (Rs 100 billion) in 1990. The current
Chairman Rattan Tata, is an architect by profession, and has continued
to steer the Tata Group to greater heights.

Read the full article about the Ford buyout at --

For a list of other overseas acquisitions by Tata go to--

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

New York Asks for Relaxed Visa Policies

The city of New York is feeling the effects of American immigration
policies, says an article in the New York TImes.

An excerpt --
"Until now, visa restrictions have been seen as a problem that
primarily affected technology companies in Silicon Valley and
elsewhere in the West. Bill Gates, the chairman of Microsoft, has been
railing against them for years.

But according to the Partnership for New York City, a business
advocacy group, there is more demand for visas for specialized jobs in
New York, New Jersey and Connecticut than in California, and most of
the demand comes from small and midsize companies, not the largest
corporations. The partnership, whose members include many of the
city's biggest employers, has lobbied legislative leaders, including
Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senator Charles E. Schumer, for a relaxation
of visa policies.

"New York's ability to compete with London, which has much more open
immigration, or with the emerging financial capitals in Asia and the
Middle East, depends on mobility of talent, both in terms of new and
current employees," said Kathryn S. Wylde, president of the
partnership. "What people miss is, New York's standing as an
international capital of business and finance depends on the
professionals within these companies being able to come to New York to
be trained and groomed for leadership positions around the world."

Indeed, companies are capitalizing on more open visa policies
elsewhere to recruit some of the leaders educated and trained in New
York. Gaurav Gaur, for example, an Indian who earned his M.B.A. from
Cornell in 2004, said he seized the chance to leave New York last year
for London to work for Barclays, though it meant turning his back on
opportunities at Bloomberg L.P. and other American companies."

Read the full article at--

Monday, March 24, 2008

For those of you who do not like long films...

The length of a film should be directly related to the endurance of
the human bladder.

- Alfred Hitchcock

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Now it's easier to give back to India...

A while ago when I was interviewing Desh Deshpande, he was discussing
the challenges of giving back to India. Why is it so hard to donate
large sums to India, why is the whole concept of giving back so alien?
is a question many were asking. These questions have not fallen on
deaf ears.

Pavni Guharoy, who is with the Confederation of Indian Industry writes
that "The Indian American Council is a DC based program started by the
Confederation of Indian Industry to help US based Indians give back to
India. The Indian American Council offers its members opportunities to
link with India in five key areas; Health and HIV, Education, SME
Development, Infrastructure/SCM and Water Management. By leveraging
CII's 52 offices all over India, you can link to opportunities any
part of the country."

Guharoy says, "The program is unique because it does not just connect
you to an organization or NGO in India but creates the entire linkage
based on your time and location preference. For example, you could be
a doctor that wants to do a two day seminar at a local hospital in
Coimbatore or primary school teacher that wants to teach at a
government school in Ahmadabad for a few hours or a financial analyst
that wanted to mentor a growing company in Chandigarh on an ongoing
basis. We do all the homework to match you to the right opportunity
and then introduce you via phone or email."

The program is somewhat fee-based but Guharoy says that is because the
program offers you the unique service of finding you the right
organization to work with, in a city that convenient to you. For more
information please contact:

Pavni Guharoy, Confederation of Indian Industry, 1700 North Moore
Street, Suite 1928, Arlington, VA 22209, Ph: 703 807 0310. Email: Website:

I am Indian-American - writes Vidushi Shrimali

"I would like to define for you the diverse, colorful middle-class
group of Americans known as Indian Americans. Just like any other
ethnic group in America, we come with no lack of stereotypes: a love
of spicy food, large families and complex customs.

Let's get beyond all that.

While we do have many interesting and colorful dishes with all sorts
of different flavors, spices are not my favorite. In fact, most of my
Indian-American friends can't stand spicy food.

Also, not all Indians are dark brown. India is a country of many mixed
groups and skin colors, and not everyone has dark skin.

As for the language, it is Hindi. The religion is Hindu. Understand
our frustration: When was the last time someone asked you if you spoke
Christian?" writes a Dallas high schooler, Vidushi Shrimali, in a
candid essay reflecting her feelings about being Indian American.

During my writing career, I have spoken to several young adults about
being Indian in a western setting, and many of them, rightly enough,
talk about their struggles with the dual identity crisis. This is the
voice of one such Indian American teenager who seems to have figured
it out!

Read the full essay at --

The South Asian Travel Fad Continues...

This Sundays New York Times features two travel articles featuring
South Asian destinations, New Delhi and Nepal.

While Somini Sengupta talks about 36 hours and New Delhi and lists an
itinerary with the things one must do within the short time that they
have, a slideshow with about 16 beautiful images of New Delhi is a
treat for the eyes. Seth Sherwood muses about teh sudden increase in
Nepal tourism. "According to the Nepal Tourism Board, December capped
a banner year, with air arrivals up 27 percent over the 2006 total.
Overall, 2007 welcomed some 360,000 foreign air travelers to the
country, making it the most successful year for tourism since 2000.
For a poor but picturesque country that was nearly pulled apart by a
decade of bloodshed and political turmoil — which witnessed some
13,000 deaths from a Maoist insurrection, the bizarre murder of most
of the royal family by the crown prince, the seizure of absolute power
by a subsequent king and the resulting pro-democracy riots — the
numbers are heartening indeed," says Sherwood. As one who has visited
this incredibly beautiful country when I was a teenager, I must say I
am not surprised that Tourism to Nepal is rapidly climbing now that
the political situation has calmed down.

Read the article about New Delhi at--

Read the article about Nepal at --

Indian Food in London is the Best...

Many agree that London is one of the best places outside India for Indian food of all kinds. Reuters says, "Better ingredients give London the edge over Indian cities for fine Indian cuisine. Better quality meat, fish and vegetables could very well put London ahead of any Indian city when it comes to high end Indian food."

See this video from Reuters--

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Can India Save the World?

"Humanity is embarking on a bizarre journey into the future.
Subconsciously, we all believe (or would like to believe) that we live
in a rational, well-ordered universe. The reality is closer to the
opposite. If this sounds unbelievable, consider the following analogy.
Imagine 660 passengers boarding a ship that is sailing into
unchartered waters. After boarding, all 660 retreat into their cabins.
No captain or crew is taking care of the ship as a whole.

Sadly, this is a literal, not metaphorical description of how
spaceship Earth is sailing into the future. Globalisation has shrunk
the world. All 6.6 billion inhabitants now live in a single
interdependent universe. From financial crises to health epidemics,
from borderless terrorism to global warming, we are moving into a
world where more global governance (not global government) is needed
to manage the growing interdependence. Instead, precisely when more is
needed, humanity is either shrinking or weakening global governance.
This essay will explain why. It will also argue that perhaps only one
country can solve this crisis — India," writes Kishore Madhubani in an
interesting essay in the Hindustan Times.

Read the full essay at --

Sanjay Leela Bhansali's Latest Gig

A departure from making top-grossing Bollywood flicks like Hum Dil De
Chuke Sanam and Devdas, Sanjay Leela Bhansali the popular Bollywood
filmmaker has a new gig, he is now the director of "Padmavati" a Paris

An excerpt from the International Herald Tribune --
As the rousing overture reaches its operatic climax, the curtains part
and Ganesh, the elephant-headed Hindu god, descends from the rafters.

"Padmavati," currently playing at Paris' gilded Theatre du Chatelet,
is not your typical operatic fare. It's equal parts straight-laced
European opera and Bollywood blowout, with a cast that includes a top
French mezzo-soprano, scores of classical Indian dancers and a live

The director is hit Indian filmmaker Sanjay Leela Bhansali, whose
pathos-filled 2002 musical "Devdas" became a crossover international
blockbuster and made him hot Bollywood property.

"Padmavati," the revival of a long-neglected French ballet-cum-opera
from 1923, is Bhansali's first foray into the rarified world of opera
— which he had rarely listened to before beginning work on the

"There was an e-mail that came (proposing the project) and I thought
somebody was joking," said Bhansali, speaking in his dressing room at
the theater. "I though 'Opera? An Indian director? What are they
talking about? Somebody's playing a prank.'"

But then he started listening to the score — written by sailor and
composer Albert Roussel after a 1909 trip to South Asia and based on
the legend of a 13th century queen who chooses death over surrender.

Soon, Bhansali warmed to the idea. "It was the chance to come to
stage, an unknown discipline, and unfold Indian history."

Read the full article at--

A Gastronomic Visit to South India?

Have immigrants to the US affected what Americans eat? Sure it has but
it has also spawned new kids of tourism and travel packages. Forbes
reports that culinary trips are becoming very popular. "Though
traditional tasting trips to Napa Valley wine country or the heart of
Provence are still popular, more and more travelers are exploring
cuisine in countries like India, Turkey and New Zealand," says the

Forbes says that, "An ambitious tour of four South Indian states, for
example, takes travelers from Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu
and Kerala in pursuit of the finest cuisine. No meal is spurned:
participants sample the best street food, join community feasts,
peruse spice markets and dine at high-end restaurants. The day ends at
a local four- or five-star Taj Hotels property, which customizes the
tour. Michael Whiteman, of the international restaurant consultant
company Baum & Whiteman, says this newfound culinary bravery,
particularly among American travelers, comes partly from immigration
to the U.S. over the past 30 years."

Read the full article and see pictures of the worlds top tasting trips at --

The Eccentric Artist

Yes artists are considered an eccentric sort, but painter, M.F.
Hussain is in a league all of his own. One of his faux pas's is his
derogatory portrayal of Hindu gods and goddesses. More protests by
Hindu groups in New York have been a precursor to the Christies

"Hindu activist groups in the US have threatened to hold a
demonstration at Christie's here unless the art gallery stops an
auction this week of paintings by celebrated Indian painter M F
Husain, who they say has hurt Hindus the world over for portraying
their gods in "derogatory" forms." says SIFY news, "In a letter to
Christie's, the Indian American Intellectual Forum, which has joined
hands with Hindu Janjagruti Samiti on the campaign against Husain,
said the artist has gained ignominy and notoriety in India by painting
several Hindu gods and goddesses in derogatory forms. As part of
Christie's New York auction March 20 of modern and contemporary art
from South Asia, Husain's paintings are expected to fetch hundreds of
thousands of dollars. One of them, "The Battle of Ganga and Yamuna" is
estimated to rake in $600,000-$800,000."

Hussain is currently in hiding and BBC reports that he may be living
in the Middle East.

Read the full SIFY article at --

Read the full BBC article at --

TCS's new Cincinnati Headquarters

One of the Indian companies that is making waves, expanding rapidly in
North America is Tata. TCS recently opened a delivery center in Ohio
and plans to staff it with about a 1000 employees.

Here is an excerpt--
"More than a century after the company's great forbear Jamshedji Tata
scoured Ohio looking for steel expertise, India's tech major Tata
Consultancy Services (TCS) opened a 1000-seat delivery centre outside
Cincinnati on Monday, marking a small but significant counter to
overwrought reports about job flight from the United States.

Eminences ranging from the state governor to the local school
superintendent turned up for the inauguration of the new facility, to
hear and exult about 1000 jobs being created in the area. It was a
rare moment of relief, pride, and vindication too for India - and an
Indian company - which has been under attack from protectionist forces
in the US for taking away American jobs.

The delivery centre, located in the Cincinnati suburb of Milford, will
take in mostly local hires over the next three years after TCS cranks
it up with associates from India. It will handle design, development
and delivery needs of TCS' key North American customers such as
Boeing, Nielsen and General Electric."

Read the full article at--

Leela comes to Sesame Street

A new caharacter n Sesame street is an Indian American, Leela. Indian
Americans are appearing in ever facet of life it seems.

An excerpt from an article in India West magazine --
"The newest neighbor on Sesame Street just happens to be Indian
American, because the role was originally dreamed up with no
particular ethnicity in mind.

"It was incidental," actress Nitya Vidyasagar told India-West by phone
last week from New York City, where she is currently taping the 39th
season of the award-winning PBS children's show. "The casting notices
said nothing of ethnicity."

But the New York-based stage actress made such a strong impression on
the show's producers that they found themselves willing to create her
role from scratch.

Vidyasagar plays Leela, a young Indian American woman who runs the
local laundromat. Unlike many of the other actors on the show, who use
their own first names as their character's names, she felt more
comfortable with the name Leela. "My name is hard for some people to
say," she explained."

Read the full article at --

Thursday, March 20, 2008

My favorite animal paints as well !!!

See this Reuters video --

Big is not better!!!

Definitely, big is not always better... A great piece from the New
York Times on how you can be happy with what you have...

An excerpt--
"WHEN Suchitra Van and Nette Gaastra sent out invitations for their
October, 2005, wedding, they wrote on them "No gifts." What they meant
was: no toasters, no blenders, no coffeepots.

What they wanted instead was money to transform the 435-square-foot
apartment in Greenwich Village they had just bought for $296,000. They
planned to turn it into a one-bedroom from a studio.

They received $26,000 in gifts, including $22,000 from Ms. Gaastra's
father, Piet Gaastra, an architect in Hoorn, the Netherlands. "He saw
our struggle," said Ms. Gaastra, who is 30, and works for the Abelson
Company, a Manhattan graphic design company.

Mr. Van's mother, Champa Van, a cook and baby sitter who lives in
Queens, and his father, Sumatimohan, an artist who goes by one name
and lives in Manhattan, are divorced. "So my father gave us $300, and
my mother gave us another $300," said Mr. Van, who is 42, and has his
own design firm, Van Studio, on the Lower East Side.

Between the gifts and their own savings of $15,000, they were able to
renovate the apartment and finish it early last year, just in time for
the arrival of their son, Sebbe, who is now 1. Although the apartment
has only one window, which is in the living room, it is a surprisingly
airy, serene place."

Read the full article and see the pictures at --

India owes New York City $42.3 Million!!!

It is quite common for politicians to misuse governmental funds and
property. I remember cases when ex Presidents would not vacate the Raj
Bhavan on time or during their reign at the Raj Bhavan made sure that
their post poilitical home was a fairly equivalent mansion. But to
come to a foreign country and abuse diplomatic relations with a host
is another thing.

An excerpt from the New York TImes --
"The governments of India, Mongolia and the Philippines owe New York
City roughly $57 million in property taxes, a federal judge has ruled,
closing a long chapter in the Bloomberg administration's efforts to
force foreign governments to shoulder some of the costs of their
presence at the United Nations.

The ruling, released on Monday by Judge Jed S. Rakoff of the United
States District Court in Manhattan, awards the city $42.3 million from
India, $10.9 million from the Philippines and $4.4 million from
Mongolia. The bulk of the amount is interest that had accrued on
outstanding taxes over decades.

Whether that money will ultimately land in New York's coffers remains
to be seen, since the city cannot enforce the liens in the usual way
by foreclosing on the buildings. But Michael A. Cardozo, the city's
corporation counsel, said he hoped the ruling would persuade the three
countries and other nations to pay taxes they owed. A provision of the
Foreign Operations Appropriations Act penalizes countries with unpaid
taxes by withholding 110 percent of the debt from their foreign aid."

Read the full article at --

Chandigarh's Treasures

Chandigarh, a city conceived and designed by reknowned architect Le
Corbusier is supposed to be one of the most organized cities ever
built. It is usually not in the news, until I came across this article
in the New York Times which made me sit up and want to go back and
check out all those chairs and antique furniture at my grandparents

An excerpt

"Every working day for the past 20 years, Suresh Kanwar, a civil
engineer in Chandigarh's Forestry Department, has been sitting on the
same battered wooden chair, an object he said had "no beauty" even if
it was, "for office use, very comfortable."

A man sat working on, and next to, an original Pierre Jeanneret teak
armchair at the Forestry Department in Chandigarh, India. Mr.
Jeanneret was a cousin of the architect Le Corbusier, who conceived
the modernist city in the 1950s.

Hazarding a guess as to its value, he suggested 400 rupees, or about
$10, "perhaps, at a junkyard."

A pair of chairs identical to Mr. Kanwar's, instantly recognizable to
collectors as Pierre Jeanneret teak "V-chairs," will go on sale at the
auction house Christie's in New York this month with a reserve of
$8,000 to $12,000."

Read the full article at --

Monday, March 17, 2008

Giving Home

From the New York Times --

"An important man from the World Bank recently arrived in this
isolated village, where monkeys prowl rutted roads, rain pours through
the school roof and the native son who achieved the most did so by
going away.

On a visit to his home last month, Dilip Ratha walked through fields
toward his father's farmland near Sindhekela.
Lessons about global poverty were waiting, but so were his sisters'
chapattis. Migrant and migration scholar, Dilip Ratha was home.

No one has done more than Mr. Ratha to make migration and its
potential rewards a top-of-the-agenda concern in the world's
development ministries. And no place has done more to shape his views
than this forgotten hamlet, where he studied under the lone
streetlight and began a poor boy's improbable journey to the front
ranks of an elite field.

"When I think about the effects of migration, I think about
Sindhekela," he said.

Working from his office in Washington five years ago, Mr. Ratha
produced the first global tally of remittances, the money that
migrants send home, and stunned experts from himself on down with the
discovery of their size. Gathered from a trickle of hard-earned cash,
the sums now exceed $300 billion a year.

In subsequent work, Mr. Ratha, 45, has pushed to reduce money-transfer
fees and increase the productivity of the money that is sent. Allies
say his work has prompted projects in governments and beyond that
could benefit millions of people. Skeptics argue that if migration
brought development, Mexico would be Switzerland."

Read the full article at --

GM's Second Small Car for India

"General Motors Corp. plans to build its second minicar for the Indian
market, a company executive said Monday....

Detroit-based GM introduced the Chevrolet Spark minicar in India in
April 2007 in its first major attempt to enter the segment. Small cars
- hatchbacks with engine capacities ranging from 0.8-liters to
1.6-liters and measuring up to 4 meters - comprise about three
quarters of the more than 1 million cars sold in India each year.

Suzuki Motor Corp. leads the local market with as many as five
hatchback models," says CNN Money on their website.

While critics argue that there are more and more cars being introduced
and continue to pollute the environment, the infrastructure remains
very questionable. Traffic congestion in India's larger cities is
completely out of control and the solution seems to be nowhere in

Read the full CNN article at --

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Depression and Anxiety Affects All

A very revealing article from the New York Times about Depression in India.

An excerpt--
"Depression and anxiety have long been seen as Western afflictions,
diseases of the affluent. But new studies find that they are just as
common in poor countries, with rates up to 20 percent in a given year.

Researchers say that even in places with very poor people, the
ailments require urgent attention. Severe depression can be as
disabling as physical diseases like malaria, the researchers say, and
can have serious economic effects. If a subsistence farmer is so
depressed that he cannot get out of bed, neither he nor his children
are likely to eat.

In India, as in much of the developing world, depression and anxiety
are rarely diagnosed or treated. With a population of more than one
billion, India has fewer than 4,000 psychiatrists, one-tenth the
United States total. Because most psychiatrists are clustered in a few
urban areas, the problem is much worse elsewhere.

As a result, most Indians with mental illness go untreated, especially
in poor and rural areas. "There is a huge treatment gap for people
with depression," said Dr. Vikram Patel of the London School of
Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, the psychiatrist who began the Siolim
project. "In most places in the developing world, 80 percent to 90
percent of people with severe depression don't receive adequate

Read the full article at --

Monday, March 10, 2008

Slum Tourism - Can we stoop so low?

An excerpt from an article in the Travel section of the Sunday New York Times --
"Slum tourism, or "poorism," as some call it, is catching on. From the
favelas of Rio de Janeiro to the townships of Johannesburg to the
garbage dumps of Mexico, tourists are forsaking, at least for a while,
beaches and museums for crowded, dirty — and in many ways surprising —
slums. When a British man named Chris Way founded Reality Tours and
Travel in Mumbai two years ago, he could barely muster enough
customers for one tour a day. Now, he's running two or three a day and
recently expanded to rural areas.

Slum tourism isn't for everyone. Critics charge that ogling the
poorest of the poor isn't tourism at all. It's voyeurism. The tours
are exploitative, these critics say, and have no place on an ethical
traveler's itinerary.

"Would you want people stopping outside of your front door every day,
or maybe twice a day, snapping a few pictures of you and making some
observations about your lifestyle?" asked David Fennell, a professor
of tourism and environment at Brock University in Ontario. Slum
tourism, he says, is just another example of tourism's finding a new
niche to exploit. The real purpose, he believes, is to make Westerners
feel better about their station in life. "It affirms in my mind how
lucky I am — or how unlucky they are," he said.

Not so fast, proponents of slum tourism say. Ignoring poverty won't
make it go away. "Tourism is one of the few ways that you or I are
ever going to understand what poverty means," said Harold Goodwin,
director of the International Center for Responsible Tourism in Leeds,
England. "To just kind of turn a blind eye and pretend the poverty
doesn't exist seems to me a very denial of our humanity."

Read the full article at --

And the most H1B goes to...

The controversy over visas for high-skilled workers from abroad looks
like it's about to get even hotter, says Business Week.

An excerpt --

"The program for what are known as H-1B visas was originally set up to
allow companies in the U.S. to import the best and brightest in
technology, engineering, and other fields when such workers are in
short supply in America. But data just released by the federal
government show that offshore outsourcing firms, particularly from
India, dominate the list of companies awarded H-1B visas in 2007.
Indian outsourcers accounted for nearly 80% of the visa petitions
approved last year for the top 10 participants in the program. The new
data are sure to fuel criticism of the visa program from detractors
such as Senators Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Richard J. Durbin
(D-Ill.). "These numbers should send a red flag to every lawmaker that
the H-1B visa program is not working as it was intended," said
Grassley in an e-mail."

Read the full article at --

A thirty six year search...

A very touching story from BBC about those that were lost during the
Indo-Pak war.

An excerpt--
"She pulls the newspaper carefully out of a folder.

It is slightly crumpled, fraying at the edges and the paper is turning
a little yellow.

It is a copy of the Sunday Pakistan Observer, dated 5 December 1971.

Under the headline "Pakistan Air Force Bags 46 Indian planes", it
states the name of one of the pilots captured alive: Flight Lieutenant

"That's my husband," she says.

Next out of the folder comes a copy of a page from an old edition of
Time magazine.

A photograph captures an Indian prisoner of war staring out through
the bars of his cell and, in the background, the partly obscured face
of another man.

"That's him," she says. "I'm convinced of it. So where is he now? And
if he's dead, where's his body? Has anyone seen one?"

Read the full article at --

Bollywood Goes Global???

An interesting article in the Washington Post which debates why
Bollywood is going global.

An excerpt --
"More than ever before, Bollywood is being flooded with cash from
Indian investors who see the country's film industry as a money
machine. The rise of the multiplex theater has led to a wider variety
of films, with more socially relevant scripts that discard the
overused Bollywood formula: a rambling, four-hour hodgepodge of twins
separated at birth, rare blood diseases, wet sari scenes and lots and
lots of singing and dancing in alpine meadows. More linear and
socially conscious storylines are becoming popular, as are shorter

"The new trend in Bollywood is the death of the cliche," said Anupam
Kher, an award-winning Bollywood actor who has been in more than 300
films. Three years ago, Kher opened Actor Prepares, one of many acting
schools trying to improve the skills of young Indian actors. He also
has announced plans to open a school in London that will teach
foreigners, as well as those of Indian descent, thick Hindi dialects,
yoga and the infamous Bollywood style of dancing (think petting a dog
with one hand and screwing in a little bulb with the other, as
described in the film "Bride and Prejudice").

"We used to have very few trained actors. We were a young country.
Entertainment was the last thing on our agenda," Kher said between
takes on a film set. But now, "the Indian economy is booming, and
Bollywood is booming right along with it. There is a huge middle class
who have traveled and watched foreign movies on cable or at an upscale
multiplex. The consumer has awakened, and the quality is soaring."

Read the full article at--

Now They Call It Reproductive Outsourcing!!!!

Talk about taking advantage of the poor, the surrogate mom saga
continues, and is in full swing it sounds like.

Read this excerpt from a New York Times feature article --
" An enterprise known as reproductive outsourcing is a new but rapidly
expanding business in India. Clinics that provide surrogate mothers
for foreigners say they have recently been inundated with requests
from the United States and Europe, as word spreads of India's mix of
skilled medical professionals, relatively liberal laws and low prices.
Commercial surrogacy, which is banned in some states and some European
countries, was legalized in India in 2002. The cost comes to about
$25,000, roughly a third of the typical price in the United States.
That includes the medical procedures; payment to the surrogate mother,
which is often, but not always, done through the clinic; plus air
tickets and hotels for two trips to India (one for the fertilization
and a second to collect the baby)."

Read the full article at --

Friday, March 07, 2008

A World of Colors...

Is India Flushed With Venture Capital Money?

"Never in its history has India been so flushed with venture capital money. In 2007, 50 new VC firms sprouted in India. There are about 500 in total now, a far cry from the mid-1990s, when I started my career as an entrepreneur doing business in India. In 2007, close to $1 billion in venture capital funds washed through India.

That's led to a problem oddly familiar to Silicon Valley investors: too much money, not enough worthy entrepreneurs. In VC parlance, fundable deals are few and far between. Why?" asks Sramana Mitra in a commentary in Forbes.

"India's meteoric rise in the tech world has been driven by providing back-office services. That work puts a premium on skills such as engineering management and coding. Someone else--somewhere else--writes the specifications for the projects. Again, someone else, somewhere else does the market studies analyzing the potential of a new product.

Indian managers have had scarce opportunities to learn the nuances of how global technology markets work. That means that local entrepreneurs can try to position products, but they do so without detailed and disciplined marketing knowhow," she says.

Read the full commentary at --

India's Billionaires

A video on India's billionaires from Forbes

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Reverse Brain Drain With a Difference

A very interesting feature by Scott Carney, on NPR talks about second
generation Indians who are moving back to India.

An excerpt --
"For second-generation Indian Americans, returning to their parents'
home country can be a cultural odyssey. As the Indian economy booms,
however, there are other reasons for American-born Indians to return
to their roots. The country that many of their parents fled for lack
of opportunity now needs their skills.

In 2006, the Indian government created a new immigration card for what
it calls OCI or "Overseas Citizens of India." With it,
second-generation Indians can have visa-free entry for life. Since
2006, the government has issued more than 200,000 OCI cards."

Read and listen to the full feature at --

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Another attempt at Reducing Female Foeticide

As young college girls, my friends and I were doing what we could to
help disseminate information about Female Foeticide in India. In fact
one of the most terrible moments of my teenaged years was when I was
researching this subject and I found out about the how infant girls
are killed in some of the interior regions of the state of Tamilnadu.
Piping hot chicken broth being oured down their throats till they die,
poisonous sap given to female infants and what not.

From the CS Monitor --
"Salem district, a mostly rural part of Tamil Nadu, has a longstanding
reputation as a deathtrap for baby girls. The Vellala Gounder
community, the dominant caste there, owns most of the land and is
intent on retaining property rights within the family. Sons represent
lineage; daughters marry and relocate to their husbands' homes. As a
result, local women, like Lakshmi, who gave birth to a girl early last
year, may refuse to nurse their newborns. They leave it to midwives or
mothers-in-law to administer the oleander sap, say anti-infanticide
activists.Nearly 60 percent of girls born in Salem District are killed
within three days of birth, according to the local social welfare
department. That doesn't count the growing number of abortions there
to ensure a girl baby won't be carried to term. Amid such stubborn
statistics, activists are at work to counter the forces of tradition.
A focus of their work: improving the standing and self-image of women

Then a cradle scheme was introduced by the Tamilnadu government to
allow parents to anonymously drop off their girl babies, in an open
cradle outside orphanages. No one would question the parents dropping
off these babies, and they would be taken care of by the government as

From the Hindu -
"In 1992, the Tamil Nadu government started the Cradle Baby Scheme
primarily in response to reports of female infanticide in certain
pockets of the State. Studies showed that there were about 3,000 cases
of female infanticide every year in Tamil Nadu, adding up to a fifth
of all female infant deaths in the State. The government launched the
cradle scheme under which parents who did not wish to keep their girl
babies could leave them in cradles kept at government reception
centres. It was started with one reception centre each in Salem,
Madurai, Theni, and Dindigul, areas most notorious for female
infanticide. In April 2001, it was extended to the whole of Tamil Nadu
- reception centres, totalling 188, were set up at all PHCs and major
government hospitals."

Now Reuters reports that --
"India is offering to pay poor families nearly $3,000 to bring up
their girl children, and discourage the widespread practice of
aborting the female foetus which has led to a skewed gender balance in
parts of the country."

Scary isn't it, that with India fast becoming an economic superpower,
problems such as these continue to plague the country!

Read the full article from Reuters at --

Link to the article in the Christian Science Monitor --

Link to the Hindu article -

The Living Goddess

I was 11 years old, during a 2 week school excursion to Northern India
and Nepal, that I was awed by my first visit to see the "Living
Goddess." My friends and I were so jealous of this young girl who was
just a couple of years younger than us, and we wished we were
princesses too... Litlle did we know then the difficult lives that
these young girls lead, after giving up their childhood.

An excerpt from Reuters --
"A controversial young Nepali girl worshipped by many Buddhists and
Hindus as a Kumari, or "living goddess", has given up her divine
position following a request from her family, an official said on
Sunday. The 11-year-old Sajani Shakya was revered for nine years as
the Kumari of the ancient temple-town of Bhaktapur, near Kathmandu, in
a centuries-old tradition."

Read the full story at --

Monday, March 03, 2008

The Car Expert

I know a lot about cars. I can look at a car's headlights and tell you
exactly which way it's coming.

-- Mitch Hedberg -- American comedian (1968 - 2005)

Will world hunger turn to mass starvation?

Everyone is talking about Economic Growth and how India and China are
becoming world economic leaders and how the middle and rich classes
are benefitting tremendously from this. The challenges faced by these
countries and those poor and downtrodden, who are getting poorer are
often ignored. This editorial in the New York Times talk about the
challenges faced by India and China, because of the Food Shortage
caused by population growth and the so called "economic progress". The
rich get richer the poor get poorer... This mantra is becoming common
in these countries as well..

An excerpt from this editorial in the New York Times --
"The world has faced periodic bouts when it looked as if population
growth would outstrip the food supply. Each time, food production has
grown to meet demand. This time it might not be so easy.

Population growth and economic progress are part of the problem.
Consumption of meat and other high-quality foods —mainly in China and
India— has boosted demand for grain for animal feed. Poor harvests due
to bad weather in this country and elsewhere have contributed. High
energy prices are adding to the pressures."

Read the full editorial at --

Sunday, March 02, 2008

A Diabetes Education Campaign in Queens, NY

South Asians are at high risk for heart disease and diabetes, though
culturally, it is preferred not to make a big deal of this. It is
certainly good to see someone doing something about this and bringing
the issues out into the open...

An excerpt from the New York Times --

"But Type 2 diabetes strikes a sixth of the more than 200,000 New
Yorkers whose families are from the Indian subcontinent. That gives
them the highest rate of the disease among the city's major ethnic

In this population, "people expect that everybody has it," said Dr.
Jyotsna Changrani, the director of the South Asian Health Initiative
at New York University. "All of your friends have it, all of your
family has it," she said.

Researchers have concluded that less body fat is needed to trigger the
disease for South Asians. "The people of South Asian descent that we
see are often not obese," said Dr. Daniel Lorber, chief of
endocrinology at the New York Hospital Center of Queens. "You'll
frequently see men with just a little bit of a potbelly, right at
ideal weight based on Caucasian standards."

Mindful of this vulnerability, the New York State Health Foundation, a
private group, has donated $255,000 to Beth Israel Medical Center to
help bring to the South Asian communities of Queens a diabetes
education campaign like those found in Harlem and the Bronx.

The campaign will not lack an audience in Jackson Heights, where it is
rare to enter a store without meeting someone who suffers from the
ailment generally referred to, even in Hindi or Urdu conversations, as
"sugar" or "sugar-hogi."

Read the full article at --

The not-so-latent Energy Crisis in India

A question that most Indians are asking is about Energy. With planned
regular power cuts in large cities like Chennai, Bangalore and
Hyderabad, how if the country going to deal with the burgeoning
populations demand for energy?

An excerpt from an interesting article about energy in the New York Times --

"A beacon of India's red-hot economy, this new suburb on the edge of
the capital, New Delhi, is also a symbol of India's fast-growing
hunger for energy. By the government's own estimates, energy
consumption in this country of 1.1 billion is expected to quadruple
over the next 25 years, inevitably expanding India's emissions of
greenhouse gases.

At the moment, it is a mixed blessing that Gurgaon remains an island
of air-conditioned malls and roaring, round-the-clock office towers,
and that behind this brightly lighted boomtown lies a vast nation of
darkness and cow-dung-fueled stoves.

Almost half of India's population has no access to the electricity
grid, and many more people suffer hours without power. Nearly 700,000
Indians rely on animal waste and firewood as fuel for cooking. As a
result, India's per capita carbon footprint remains a small fraction
of that of the industrialized world — the average American produces 16
times the emissions of the average Indian — and in turn empowers the
central Indian argument for its right to consume more, not less,
energy in the future."

Read the full article at --

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Walmart stores launch Indian garments across Canada

From the Economic Times --

"Wal-Mart stores across Canada will now sell Indian garments for men,
women and kids under the brand name "Bollywood signatures".

Under multi-year agreement between Ranka Group of Companies and
Wal-Mart, 20 stores of Wal-Mart launched yesterday will sell Indian
family apparel, covering a wide range of clothing including women's
and children's.

"My life dream to promote India in Canada is fulfilled. I have been
working for years to promote self esteem for Indian women and wellness
for the entire family in Canada. Now the company has the opportunity
with Wal-Mart to create Indian garments with latest North American
style that combine our design experiences with great value and
innovative ideas to fulfill this dream," said President of Ranka
Enterprise Inc Kash Sood.

This landmark deal combines the talent and experience of our company
with Wal-Mart's reach and vision. We believe this partnership will
deliver extraordinary results, Sood added."

Read this article at --

World's Densest Cities

India and China account for 9 of the world's top densest cities according to Forbes magazine. From South Asia, Mumbai is #1, Kolkata is #2, Karachi is #3, Chennai is at #8, Delhi is at #13, Jakarta, Indonesia is #17, and Bangalore is #19.

An excerpt --
"Where are cities most dense? Look no further than Asia, where concentrated economic growth has spawned 16 of the 20 densest urban areas in the world, according to 2007 statistics from Leading the way are Mumbia and Kolkata, both in India, each of which pack in over 23,000 people per square kilometer. Both cities, along with those close behind like Karachi, Pakistan, Lagos, Nigeria and Shenzhen, China, hold about as many people within a handful of square blocks as live in U.S. metros like Charleston, S.C., Green Bay, Wis., or Berkeley, Calif."

Read the full story at --

Two Indian Cities on Forbes List of Top 25 Dirtiest

Forbes lists the top 25 worlds dirtiest, and you bet South Asia has
entries in this list.
New Delhi is at #24
Mumbai is at # 7
and Dhaka, Bangladesh is at #2

An excerpt --
"To see which cities in the world were dirtiest, we turned to Mercer
Human Resource Consulting's 2007 Health and Sanitation Rankings. As
part of their 2007 Quality of Life Report, they ranked 215 cities
worldwide based on levels of air pollution, waste management, water
potability, hospital services, medical supplies and the presence of
infectious disease.

All cities are positioned against New York, the base city with an
index score of 100. For the Health and Sanitation Rankings, the index
scores range from the worst on the list--Baku, Azerbaijan, with a
score of 27.6--to the best on the list--Calgary, Canada, with a score
of 131.7."

Also on Forbes ;ist of the 10 most polluted cities in the world India, has two listings, Sukinda and Vapi.

Read the full story on the world's dirtiest cities at --

Read about the world's top 10 polluted cities at --