Happy Winter Season! Hibernate and Celebrate!!

“The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.”
~ From “Stopping by Woods On A Snowy Evening” by Robert Frost

The Mother Nature always has a way to show its artistic touch. The colorful autumn is followed by a white blanket of snow and the cold freeze of winter season that covers better part of the northern globe.

December 21 marks the official first day of winter season in America, when the day is the shortest and the night the longest. But the actual winter arrives much sooner. Look at the snow covered streets and the trees, ask the school crossing-guards in the early mornings, or watch the Canadian geese and European robins migrating to warmer territories,… Yes, the winter comes long before the calendar declares it so.

Snow Storms and Bone-chilling Cold
The better part of North America and Europe is painted white with fresh snow of December. The leafless trees, the rooftops, the roads, the frozen ponds..…everything is beatified with an accent of white touch. A calm, serene and frozen outdoor paying a respect to the supreme power of mother nature.

In the cold days of winter, the old and wise may prefer to take shelter from the fierce weather and hibernate indoors. However, the freezing temperatures and frost bites of the wintry chill are not enough to discourage the young ones who are busy with their own games. Making snowmen, sledding in the backyards, or starting a snowball fight with the next-door neighbors…… all part of the daily rituals of winter days.

As the temperatures dip, the wrath of cold is felt everywhere. A few minutes of direct exposure to the freezing outdoor can get you in some serious danger and health risk. A better part of America and Canada is often engulfed by snow-storms. Heavy snowfalls are a part of the norm, inches of accumulation every time. The treacherous weather creates havoc all over – the blizzards, the white-outs, the slippery roods, the snow covered walkways…..A taste of winter.

Well, you got the idea! Winter is not a friendly season when it comes to the outdoor life!!

Christmas and New Year Parties
Thanks god, all is not lost! The Christmas holidays and the celebrations are the heart-warming attraction of the winter. The music, the feasts, the gifts, the display of Christmas decorations including Christmas trees, lights, garlands, mistletoe……. The Christmas festival is a welcome break from the freezing outdoors. The kids patiently wait for the Santa Claus to deliver their gifts and toys. Most of the schools and businesses close for Christmas holidays. Those who love shopping and gift giving, the winter is the best season. Starting with the Thanksgiving, the stores and shopping malls offer some of the best discounts and the best deals of the year. The Christmas is followed by the new-year’s festivities, where the nightlong parties are the norms. After all, winter is not all that bad if you look closer!

Winter Blues
Many poets and writers have symbolized the winter season as a ‘downer’ – when hope is scarce to find, when depression becomes contagious. In fact, many of you may recall, in ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’, it is always winter and never Christmas; C.S. Lewis used winter to suggest the absence of hope in that classic. So, it is not so uncommon to face the symptoms of ‘winter blues’ – the gloomy and depressed mood blamed on the harsh cold weather. Continue reading “Happy Winter Season! Hibernate and Celebrate!!”

Change in US Labor Force by Race and Ethnicity

Source: US Bureau of Labor Stats
Source: US Bureau of Labor Stats

“Making informed career decisions requires reliable information about opportunities in the future. Opportunities result from the relationships between the population, labor force, and the demand for goods and services.”  ~ U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics

The U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics has a very comprehensive report on jobs and occupations in USA. The report outlines various aspects of job situations and provides projections on the jobs outlook.

The term labor force or work force includes all the people either working or looking for work. Over the next 10 years,  based on the population growth and job outlook, the report also includes the change in the labor force for different races. This chart here has a graphical view of change in labor force by race and ethnic origin comparing 2008  employment to the projection for 2018. Note that there is no separate category for ‘Indian Americans’; in this study, Indians are a part the ‘Asian’ group.

Some of the Highlights of the report are:

  •  The U.S. workforce is expected to become more diverse by 2018.
  • Among racial groups, Whites are expected to make up a decreasing share of the labor force, while Blacks, Asians, and all other groups will increase their share.
  • The Asian work force is expected to rise from 4.7 percent to 5.6 percent, a relative growth of 25 percent over 10 years.

Continue reading “Change in US Labor Force by Race and Ethnicity”

Brain Drain to Brain Gain – Indians Abroad

The NRIs and Indians Abroad are a valuable asset for building India!

The ‘Brain drain’ is common among developing countries, India is no exception. Young, ambitious and educated class of society leaving homeland and heading abroad, searching for a better future, a better tomorrow.

For decades, the woes of brain drain from India to the developed countries have been blamed on many problems at home, including education system and the job opportunities. Patriotism and loyalty to the mother-land is often quoted as the lacking character among the youths settled abroad, who turn their back on the country that raised them, provided for them and educated them.

In spite of all this so called ‘brain drain’ for so long, however, there is no shortage of brain in India. The country is emerging as a fast developing nation, with GDP growth rate that western countries can only imagine….and admire from a distance. Actually there has to be some extra ‘brain power’ in India that is leading a populous country with more than a billion heads on a path of inventions, modernization and prosperity.

Every good thing must comes to and end, or slow down.  With recession and high unemployment in America – and rest of the developed world – many Indians living overseas are considering going back home. Some of the key incentives to stay abroad – job security and financial opportunities – have faded over the years. Thousands of NRIs – frustrated with the grim job outlook, – have packed up their American luggage and headed home for good. Many more are expected to follow the suit.

The NRIs all over the world are very aware of the prosperity and bright prospects of India. Some daydream of returning home in the near future; others are finding a way to collaborate with homeland on new opportunities. Continue reading “Brain Drain to Brain Gain – Indians Abroad”

‘Color-blind’ kool kids of today!

Fading racial bias and prejudice among the younger generations abroad!

“Rupa, you are here!,” a pretty little girl in red exclaimed the obvious; her curly blond hair bounce as she jumps with joy.
“Happy Birthday, Courtney!” said Rupa, handing over the gift bag. The mothers exchanged a smile, and a hello; and then moved inside to make room for the next young guest arriving with another gift bag…

The kids’ party venue – The Jumping jack, is chaotic, with kids  on a mission of fun and frolic. They run from one game-stand to another; trying every machine and trampoline. All kinds of gizmos and play-stations span the open halls, colorful bright lights adding to the joyous ambiance.

Every few minutes, a new kid arrives with a new gift. And, the ‘birthday girl’ – Courtney – runs to the welcome area to greet the newly arrived friend. Smiles, giggles, chuckles and innocent greeting fill the air:
“Hi, how did you get here?”
“I didn’t know you were coming!”
“Did you see the big pile of my gifts?”
“You are here too???”…….a lively chatter fills the air.

In the play area, a clear pattern starts to emerge. The kids are getting on with what they are good at – playing. Boys are crowding the ‘boyish games’ – target shooting, hoops, gun battle, Sponge Bob… They are running around – one play are to another, bragging and showing off….And, making sure that there is someone to witness their great performance.

The little girls have their own things going, mostly with the girly stuff. The ‘mechanical pony rides’, ‘matching games’, ‘the make-up show’ and pink swirly slides…… And, the adventurous ones are taking up on the boys, playing hoops and shoots. There are no barriers, no rules, no bars. Everybody is a busy in their fun world – no worries, no care!

Every kid seem to have a purpose – to have as much fun as possible. It does not take a whole lot to please them, to cheer them. Life at it best! Continue reading “‘Color-blind’ kool kids of today!”

Wal-Mart shops for IT in India

Three Indian IT firms get $600 million Wal-Mart deal

The outsourcing trend – ‘Buffalo to Bangalore’ – is spreading across large enterprises in America and Europe. The foreign companies continue to explore the Indian IT industry. Everyday there are new IT outsourcing into India. However, this one is BIG!

The Business Standard reports that American Wal-Mart (Walmart) has selected three IT vendors in India to outsource its IT needs. The company has selected three prominent vendors from India — Infosys Technologies, Cognizant Technology Solutions and UST Global. This is a multi-year contracts worth over $600 million (around Rs 2,750 crore).

In the start, each firm is expected to earn Rs 250 crore to Rs 300 crore annually. The figure will likely grow as Wal-Mart increases outsourcing of work from its main merchandising division. Infosys and Cognizant are expected to get a larger share of the contract.

According to this new mega contract, Infosys and Cognizant will be responsible for application development and support, while UST Global will owe the testing of these applications. Continue reading “Wal-Mart shops for IT in India”

2011 USA Green Card Lottery Program – Last call

Note:The contents of this article are outdated. For information on latest schedule and deadlines for current year, please visit U.S. Department of State ELECTRONIC DIVERSITY VISA LOTTERY

According to the US Department of State,
“The annual DV program makes visas available to persons meeting simple, but strict, eligibility requirements. A computer-generated, random lottery drawing chooses selectees for DVs. The visas are distributed among six geographic regions, with a greater number of visas going to regions with lower rates of immigration, and with no visas going to nationals of countries sending more than 50,000 immigrants to the United States over the period of the past five years. Within each region, no single country may receive more than seven percent of the available DVs in any one year.”

The State Department Web site for the 2011 Diversity Visa Program (DV-2011) has been open sinces early October. The entry submission period for DV-2011 is from 12:00PM EDT (GMT -4) on October 2, 2009 to 12:00PM EST (GMT -5) on November 30, 2009. The entry form is available for submission during this period and this period only. Entries will not be accepted through the U.S. Postal Service.

So three more days before the submission period ends.

Please note that natives of many countries including India, Canada, China mainland, England…, are not eligible for this visa program: Continue reading “2011 USA Green Card Lottery Program – Last call”

Indian Students in USA surpass 100,000 count

The Institute of International Education, the leading educational and cultural exchange organization in the United States publishes the annual Open Doors report.  According to the Open Door 2009, the number of Indian students studying in USA has exceeded 100,000 (one lakh) mark. In spite of the slow down in the US economy, America continues to attract international students at a record pace. India, China and South Korea are the top three nations with highest students studying in America.

According to the Open Doors related statistics on this topic:

  • The total number of Indian students studying in the United States increased by 9% in 2008/2009,  from 94,563 to 103,260. This is the highest number ever for total students from a foreign country studying in USA
  • This is the eighth year in a row that India leads as the country sending the most students to the United States. However, China is catching up quickly, with more than 20% jump in the Chinese students in USA for 2009.
  • The Indian student numbers in the U.S. for 2008/209 in detail are:
    • 15,600 undergraduates,
    • 71,019 graduates (including masters and PhD programs),
    • 1,755 non-degree, and
    • 14,886 internship participants.
  • In a sign of mutual attraction, according to the 2009 report, the number of U.S. students studying in India has increased 20% to 3,150.
  • The universities in California host the largest number of foreign students with 93,124, followed by New York in second place with 74,934, and Texas with 58,188 students.
  • The New York City metropolitan area is leading city for international students, with 59,322 enrolled in area schools.  The Los Angeles metropolitan area is in second place with 42,897 international students.

Continue reading “Indian Students in USA surpass 100,000 count”

Desis frequent the White House

White House welcomes India with open arms

Almost every full moon, every month year around, every excuse… brings something to celebrate in India.
“India is a land of festivals” – someone in the White House must have told this to President Obama; may be he overheard it somewhere!

Somewhere somehow, there is a wind blowing from Indian ocean to Washington DC; or someone in the White House is looking at the Indian calendars much closely.

The Indian community in USA is one of the most affluent and successful immigrant groups and someone is paying attention – someone all the way up to the President of United States.

President Obama joins Diwali celebration
Last month, the White House celebrated the Indian festival of lights. Even though George W. Bush began the Diwali celebrating in the White House, President Obama is the first President to personally attend the ceremony. He lit the traditional diya (oil lamp) to mark the special occasion. This followed by a cultural performance by Indian artists and a message from Obama himself.

“While this is a time of rejoicing, it’s also a time for reflection, when we remember those who are less fortunate and renew our commitment to reach out to those in need,” president said in a balanced message target to Indian and global communities.

White House celebrates the Sikh festival ‘Gurpurab’
For the first time ever, White House celebrated the Sikh festival Gurpurab (Gurparab) last week, marking the birth anniversary of Sikh Guru Nanak Dev. Continue reading “Desis frequent the White House”

Halloween: Monsters, vampires, witches, ghosts…

Happy Halloween!
Happy Halloween!

Yes, it is that time of the year again. Turn on the haunted music, put out the spooky displays and cook up some ‘scary’ recipes. October 31st is approaching – The Halloween is here!

Orange and black colors are the main theme this time. The houses are decorated with scary stuff. The fake gigantic spider-webs are covering the bushes and trees in the front yards. The scare-crows are marking their territories. Carved pumpkins with orange lights complete the scene.

The shopping malls are staged with Halloween accessories. Halloween costumes of monsters, ghosts, skeletons, witches, devils….are all on display. The ‘creepy scene’ is enhanced with the gloom-and-doom music playing in the background. The haunted attractions combine entertainment and the thrill, in a scary way!

The stores are stocked up with truck loads of candy; there are so many different kinds to choose from. Make your choice wisely; think KIDS and you will know which ones to buy; which ones will make the little monsters happy. If not ‘treated’ with the proper sugar, they may brand your place as ‘the house with bad candies’ and even have some ‘tricks’ all over your property – like raw eggs spattered on your front door or on your car parked outside…

Creepy costumes
The kids are busy planning – planning for their Halloween costume. The goal is simple – scarier the better! Fancier the cuter! Continue reading “Halloween: Monsters, vampires, witches, ghosts…”

Big screens welcome Bollywood abroad

Growing overseas trend of Bollywood movies on big screens

A flock of girls, probably in their 20s, – giggling and talking – briskly walked into the theater complex. Quickly checking the movie times, followed by a quick look at their cell phones, they laughed and giggled some more.
“Thanks God, I thought we were late”, Kavita said. Jiggling the car keys in her hand, she went on, “Friday night is our Bollywood night; many of us drive for more than half an hour to meet here for the movie date”
“The boyfriends or husbands are not allowed”, interrupted Rupa while her fingers still busy texting.

The ‘Golf Glen 5’ movie complex is conveniently located in the north-west suburbs of Chicago. For Indian movies, today’s choices include ‘Aadhavan’ Starring Nayana Tara and Surya; and ‘Blue’ starring Sanjay Dutt and Akshay Kumar in the lead roles.

The Bollywood is becoming more and more popular in America. Instead of the limited option of renting a DVD from your local Indian store or burning an illegal copy, the ever increasingly popular option of big screen is now available in your nearest cities!
Yes, more and more theatres are showing Bollywood movies on regular basis. Though not many but the choices are there. In so many theaters nationwide, you can now choose between a Hollywood movie or a Bollywood flick, depending on what the mood strikes.

Big Cinemas– a division of Reliance, India – is cashing in on Bollywood movie fans among Indian Americans in USA. Spanning across New York, Virginia, California, Georgia, New Jersey…..Big Cinemas has 18 theaters all over America, catering to the growing population of Desis. The posters, the advertisements and the leisurely strolling Indian Americans inside the theaters resemble a scene of an upscale theater in India.

The USA has a fast-growing and affluent population of Indian Americans, an estimated 2.5 million strong. For the cities with high density of Indians, Bollywood movie theaters seem obvious and profitable business choice.

“Does it have English subtitles?” inquired a white woman with short blonde hair at the ticketing booth. Continue reading “Big screens welcome Bollywood abroad”

Walking… in someone else’s shoes!

Treading the American suburbs, desi style

Like a Swiss watch, her timing is always perfect. Just before the sunset every evening, she appears from the far end of the sidewalk, turning the corner.
The sound of autumn leaves rustling under her shoes announces her arrival. The shiny white Adidas shoes seem a bit too big for a woman of her height – about 5ft. 3 inches tall. Nonetheless, the clean and bright shoes always stand out, treading the sidewalk, crushing the freshly fallen leaves off the maple trees along the path.
Always looking straight without turning her head, she walks with a constant and quick pace, the gait unruffled and strides undaunted.
There are always kids playing in the front yards of the houses she passes by, some riding their bikes along the same sidewalk. There is a lawnmower going here and there, everyone busy with trivial outdoor stuff. With all the activities going around her, she never look around to watch others, or to say hello, or just to acknowledge the surroundings. As if the rest of the world does not exist. She never strays from the side-walk, as if she owns it. She walks past everybody without a flinch, without a gesture.

She does not look aloof; she pretends not to be superior- looks like she just wants to focus on her walk. The residents -mostly white families- chat with their neighbors across the yards, casually looking at her and then at each-other.

“Hey honey, look who is coming again”, announces a young mother in her front year, cradling a baby in her arms.
“I know Tracy, shush; she can heart you!” he looked up, taking a break from raking the leaves off the driveway.
“No seriously Steve! Look, she is going to ignore us again today”
“May be she is just shy!”
“She probably doesn’t speak English,…Where you think she is from?”
“Don’t know; may be Pakistan or Turkey, or somewhere else in the Middle East.”
“You think she can belly-dance? She doe not look the type!”
“She can hear you!” Continue reading “Walking… in someone else’s shoes!”

How to overcome the Culture Shock abroad

10 tips on how to overcome the overseas culture shock

The overseas culture shock is common for anyone traveling or migrating abroad. Some of us are quick to adapt, willing to accept the change. Others hate it and don’t like customs or traditions of living a life different that what they are used to growing up.
The fact is that it is not a matter of one or two days; if you plan to live abroad, you should be willing to adapt to what comes with it – the new culture, a different society and an entirely different everyday life.

Adaptation is not a quick or overnight thing; getting used to the new place can take a long time. However, here are 10 tips on how to overcome or minimize the culture shock abroad:

1. Accept the change: Change is part of life; it is a part of the journey. Don’t resist something just because it is different. Give it a try. Millions and millions before you have gone through the same experience abroad. You may actually like the ‘new you’ if you try.

2. Learn the local language: This step is very important, actually the most important. If you really want to adapt to the new place, learn the local language, the local way of communicating. This includes getting used to the new accent and losing the old accent; the local way of pronunciation and the local slang – the whole nine yards. And, don’t forget to learn the art of small talk in a new society.

3. Venture out and try first hand: Don’t isolate yourself from the local culture. Expose yourself to the local common places where social life breathes. The shopping mall, the hair salon, the barber shop, the community center, the local parks….. – go be a part of the day-to-day outdoor life. The best way to adapt is by trying it firsthand. Continue reading “How to overcome the Culture Shock abroad”

Diwali in India – a foreign concept abroad!

The new generation overseas barely relates to Diwali experiences!

Happy Diwali
Happy Diwali

Yes, we celebrate Diwali in America too, in fact all over the world. By the crowd (if a few dozens of Indians qualify as a crowd!) at the Indian stores, you can tell that the desi families are getting ready for Diwali – the festival of lights.

However, unlike in India, there are no bazaars displaying the fire-crackers, there are no fresh sweets being prepared. The sulfur smell of fireworks is missing. The bustling and hustling shopping experience is not the same, not even close by any stretch of the imagination.

And then, if you look closely, only the grown-ups are much too excited about Diwali. The Indian kids in American, who have never experienced a Diwali night in India, don’t know what the big fuss is all about. One can try to explain to them what Diwali is like, but how would you do that? The Diwali scene in India is so unique, the festival involves so much desi culture, so many Indian traditions.
You can try explaining, but how…
“Well, it is a festival of lights…ummm..lots of fireworks and sweets…,” you can go on..
“Is it like Christmas?” is a common inquiry from the curious kids.
“Well, not really…”
Words fail to do justice with the description of Diwali, and especially of the Diwali night.

How would you describe the excitement and enthusiasm of every kid in India – young or teenager – on Diwali night? The day full of treats, and a night full of fireworks and lights … The kids in India, rich or poor, wait for Diwali for months. The count-down starts even before the summer is over.

On this night, the absence of moon does not mean that the dark shall prevail. The endless rows of small earthen oil lamps and candles line up the rooftops of every mansion and every hut all over. Rich or poor, every household is full of light, full of life… Continue reading “Diwali in India – a foreign concept abroad!”

What! India invented ‘nothing’?

Discussions about discoveries & inventions on Columbus Day

“It’s a non-stop invention, this game of life, and as soon as you think you’ve got it, you lose it.” ~Tim Finn

More than 500 years ago, Christopher Columbus left Spain and headed west with 3 ships under his command; his intended destination was India. He seriously underestimated the size of the earth, and was hoping to reach India taking a western ocean route. On October 12, 1492, he ended on a new land – America. Still believing that he had landed in India, he called the native Americans on this new land ‘Indians’.

So what did your forefathers invented or discovered?

There is a long list of the inventions and discoveries that India has made. Not sure how true or accurate those lists are, we will let someone else worry about that. 🙂

However, looking at the discoveries or inventions that came from India, why is it that we always look for the small or little things? ..or it is just a skewed observation? 🙂

For example, here are some of the famous inventions/discoveries that India takes credit for:
Concept of zero: Out for all the number, we decided to invent something that has no value – zero. Come on now, we could have done something higher and larger, right? 🙂 Continue reading “What! India invented ‘nothing’?”

Barack Obama’s Nobel ‘Hope’ Prize!

President Obama is honored with 2009 Nobel Peace Prize

We’ve been warned against offering the people of this nation false hope. But in the unlikely story that is America, there has never been anything false about hope. ~Barack Obama

The Norwegian Nobel Committee has awarded Barack Obama with the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize. The committee said it is honoring Obama for his “extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.”

Everyone is caught by surprise by this announcement; no one was expecting the President to receive this honor. Mind you, the President had been in the office for a very short period of time when the Prize nomination period ended.

The prize, it seems, is not for what he has done, but what he aspires to do. The decision is based on the direction and vision that Obama promised during (and after) his election- the ‘change’ and future he advocates.

According to the committee announcement, “Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world’s attention and given its people hope for a better future. His diplomacy is founded in the concept that those who are to lead the world must do so on the basis of values and attitudes that are shared by the majority of the world’s population.” Continue reading “Barack Obama’s Nobel ‘Hope’ Prize!”