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Vaibhav Gangan

Bollywood

Bollywood: Is beauty in the eyes of the beholder?

The recent demise (on 24 February 2018) of Bollywood superstar Sridevi has encouraged a frenzied discussion in Indian media about the dangers of varied fads related to Bollywood and overall glamour industry – ranging from unnatural crash diets to excessive cosmetic surgeries, use of steroids, and so on. These are driven by the obsession to look good at cost, at any age, at any time of the day. The common question being asked is – how far do we want to go with this, and is it worth it?

We live in an age where we are bombarded with images of women (and men) who are an epitome of Cleopatra – perfect looks and right clothes – if any.  And this beatification of women is not limited to traditional media – it is on social media too – which is mostly self-created content. The race to the most beautiful face on earth seems to be ongoing – 24 hours a day, across all continents, races, and media.

This race starts pretty much early in life – with parents putting up beautiful pictures of their babies – and those who are not able to or refuse to keep up with the norms or trends get trolled on social media. The pressure continues into college days which is full of official competitions based on looks and appearance. This leads into beauty pageants first at the college level, and then at regional, national and finally international level.

Women are stereotyped and certain social norms imposed on them – which are based on our collective preferences and prejudices. Such prejudices are epitomized in beauty pageants in India. In fact, the socio-cultural beliefs manifest well in such beauty pageants, which drove one researcher to study Indian beauty pageants in detail.

“When I started my research on campus beauty contests in South Bangalore in the 90s, many of my colleagues raised their brows with ‘Why? Aren’t beauty contests mere fun and entertainment? What is there to research in it?”, recalls Dr Sukanya Kanarally, a researcher and former associate professor at Bangalore University. “I had to argue that such contests, whether local, regional, national or international, need to be analyzed because they not only reflect social constructs of gender but also of nationalism and globalization.”

Dr Kanarally recently spoke at the Victoria University of Wellington at a seminar organized by New Zealand India Research Institute. Dr Kanarally completed her doctoral studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University, India and has worked as Associate Professor at Bangalore University for more than 15 years. She conducted her research on the beauty contests held in a women’s college in Bangalore that she worked for along with some of the neighbouring colleges in south Bangalore for over ten years.

“I try to trace the changes in the very way such contests were organized, thus reflecting the larger socio-political scenario in India.”

Dr Kanarally believes that beauty pageants are not just for entertainment, but serve a wider purpose – creating consumers, and building a multi-billion dollar global beauty industry. “As we know, a strong correlation exists between pageants and free-market policy.”

For example, a Russian contestant won Miss World in 1992, soon after the Soviet Union collapsed and Russia agreed to open its markets to the West, says Dr Kanarally.  “Interestingly none of the countries in communist rule had won a beauty title (till then).”

Aishwarya Rai won the Miss Wold title in 1994

A similar trend could be seen in India as well, as we saw the likes of Aishwarya Rai and Sushmita Sen winning the international beauty pageants in the 1990s – the decade following India’s liberalization of its economy. The open economy, with growing consumerism, needed Indian models. After all, a Cindy Crawford would find less acceptance in the mind of Indian consumers. So Indian brands needed Indian models.

Ironically, the Indian beauty pageant winners became endorsing international brands than Indian brands in India.  Aishwarya Rai, for example, has never been a major endorser of Indian products, says Dr Kanarally. “Products like Coca Cola, LʼOreal, Lux International beauty soap, Longines (Swiss watches) are some of the brands endorsed by Aishwarya Rai who famously declared that if she won the contest, she would prefer to be the ‘cultural ambassador’ from India. Contrary to her statements she has even endorsed skin whitening products like White Perfect from LʼOreal.”

Commercial interests, it seems, dictate the norms of these beauty pageants. To that end, these contests need to feed to specific social expectations. After all, beauty is “not” in the eyes of the beholder, she says. “Beauty is a discourse that is politically shaped.”

Women expected to live as per societal expectations, and beauty pageants are no exception. In 1960, Argentinian Miss World Norma Gladys was threatened with disqualification for drinking alcohol, cites Dr Kanarally.  “Similarly, the 1965 Miss World (from UK) and the 1969 Miss World (from Sweden) faced prospects of being dethroned for posing nude.” And in 1973 and 1974, the Miss World winners from the US and the UK were dethroned for not ‘fulfilling their responsibilities’. “Their crime? One had multiple boyfriends and the other had dared to become a single mother!”, says Dr Kanarally.

Ms America Nina Davuluri (image courtesy: Instagram @ninadavuluri)

And our definition of beauty is also specific – tall, fair, thin, and of course, belong to a certain ethnicity and race. When Nina Davuluri won the Miss America title in 2013, most of the news headlines referred to her ethnicity: “Miss America Crowns Its First Indian-American Winner”, wrote Pop Sugar. Twitter went into a frenzy with racist remarks against the Indian origin winner. Some even went to the extent of calling her an “Arab” and a “terrorist”.

To the popular mind, the epitome of beauty has to meet the standards propogated over decades of media stereotypes.  There has never been a fat Miss World, even though thinness is not a cultural universal norm even in the West, says Dr Kanarally. “There has never been a short Miss World either. Even the Black Miss Worlds are light complexioned too. In other words, Miss World is useful shorthand for the representational relation between deeply unequal nations and seemingly equal contestants. Take the instance of Miss Nigeria of the 2001 pageant who was described as ‘a white girl in black skin’.”

Books

JLF 2018: living with multi-ethnic identities

Having multiple ethnic identities is never easy. It was never easy anyway – whether living in India or outside India. In a sense, India is complicated – a Muslim can be Gujarati-speaking in Gujarat or Malayali-speaking in a southern Indian state.

However, second-generation Indian migrants face similar dilemma while living outside the country. Multiple ethnic as well as national identities get mixed over generations, giving rise to sometime funny acronyms like ABCD (American Born Confused Desi), which sums up the cultural and linguistic confusion often characteristic of children of migrating families.

And this is not unique to Indians – many migrants from other ethnic groups face similar issues – which is not surprising in the global, virtual world we live today.

And at a panel discussion at the recent Jaipur Literature Festival, not one but three panelists had mixed ethnic backgrounds, and who have chosen to become writers in their own right.  Syrian-American journalist and former civil rights laywer Alia Malek was one of the panelists, who spoke about her book “The Home That Was Our Country: A Memoir of Syria and A Country Called Amreeka: US History Re-Told Through Arab American Lives.” She shared her experience of how Syrians are written about with an outside view, as if Syrian citizens, the insiders, cannot provide an objective view of their life.

JLF

Mixed-ethnic experience provides an undertone to cultural memoirs: (From left) Abeer Hoque, Juliet Nicolson, Keggie Carew, Alia Malek and Amy Tan

Similar experience of stereotypes was shared by another panelist, Nigerian-born Bangladeshi-American writer Abeer Y Hoque. Talking about her book publishing experience, she mentioned how publishing agents of different countries reacted differently to her manuscript.

After reading her memoir, her American agent wanted her to change the American section of the book, with some exotic elements to fit American perceptions of Syrian migrants. And wait, her Indian agent had problems with the Bangladeshi elements in the book. She wondered if she showed the manuscript to a Nigerian agent, they may want the Nigerian section changed as well.

Abeer pretty much summed up the experience of many migrants with mixed ethnic backgrounds: “I’ve felt a little bit out of place in all of the places I belong.”

Popular Chinese-origin American author Amy Tan expressed a slightly different opinion: “Belonging was to do with values inculcated by parents during childhood, rather than one’s country of origin. She, like many migrants, doesn’t feel so sure about her privileges as an American in the Trump era, as non-white citizen, even though she was born in the US.

The discussion became candid when Juliet Nicolson (grand-daughter of Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicolson) shared an intimate truth about her life – how alcoholism had devastated her mother’s life, eventually killing her. Juliet pretty much saw history repeating when she herself took to drinking heavily. Writing a memoir was, in a way, Juliet’s way to give voice to her mother.

In fact, alcohol, as the Telegraph writes, was the dark thread linking mothers to daughters throughout “this gilded tale of life in magnificent houses,” as described in Juliet’s candid book “A House Full of Daughters by Juliet Nicolson”.

News

Aucklander dies in Afghanistan

Dr Hashem Slaimankhel, a well-respected community leader from Auckland, lost his life in a suicide bomb blast in Afghanistan, which killed at least 95 people.

Dr Slaimankhel, who was a co-founder of Afghan Association of New Zealand, was on visiting his family in Afghanistan when a Taliban suicide bomber struck in Kabul.

Omar Slaimankhel, Dr Slaimankhel’s nephew and a professional rugby player told media that his uncle’s wife, son, and siblings have flown to Afghanistan to join other family members for the burial.

Dr Slaimankhel was one of the former board members of Auckland Regional Migrant Trust, and was “very active within various migrant communities,” said the Trust in a Facebook post. “Condolences to his family. It’s a great loss.”

 

 

Business Lifestyle

India slips further on Global Hunger Index

As President Ram Nath Kovind addressed the nation on Republic Day, like most of his predecessors at the Rashtrapati Bhavan, he took note of persistence of hunger and malnutrition in the country, even more so among the children. He did note that though the republic has made progress in tackling hunger, yet several challenges remain.

“We have made strides in tackling hunger, but the challenge of malnutrition and of bringing the right micronutrients to the plate of every child is still there,” said the president.  “This is important for both physical and cognitive development of our children – and for the future of our country. We simply have to invest in our human capital.”

Then he moved on to far more pressing and immediate problems plaguing the country off late. It is not that the hunger situation has improved in any significant way. Truth is far from that. India’s Global Hunger Index score in 1992 was 46.2 (lesser than that of Bangladesh), which came down marginally to 38.2 in 2000, and was still at an alarmingly high 31.4 in 2017. In fact, at 100 India is ranked lower than all its neighbours- Nepal (72), Myanmar (77), Bangladesh (88), Sri Lanka (84) and China (29). At 106, only Pakistan is doing worse than India in containing hunger.

The situation is mostly the same as it was when hunger was called the biggest humiliation of the republic. Yes, amidst all the pomp and show of the Republic Day parades, the leaders of the country were aware of its biggest failure, its biggest humiliation- hunger. Former President of India and immediate predecessor of Shri Ramnath Kovind, recognized the enormity of the problem and called it the biggest humiliation of the republic in his acceptance speech. He repeated the same many times after, like when he made a strong pitch for sustainable land use argument. Ironically, he had found India’s 80th rank out of 104 countries in the Global Hunger Index 2015 ‘unacceptable’, now it is 100th. Of course, despite his valid concern, his attribution of it to land use was a bit misplaced.

Millions of Indians do not go hungry to beds because of any lack of foodgrains in the country. Quite on the contrary, the Food Corporation of India keeps on reporting loss of thousands of tonnes of foodgrain to rotting and pests.

The real reason behind hunger persisting in India is the forced denial of the same to the needy- to even those who are entitled to them through various social welfare schemes, Asian Human Rights Commission said in a statement. “Most of these schemes in fact never delivered to the real beneficiaries in any case, with introduction of even more exclusionary clauses like mandatory linking of Aadhar card have deprived them even more of whatever little eventually reached them. Yet, this is a debate for another day,” added the Commission.

“What must really startle all those who want to ensure the survival of the republic is how its biggest humiliation changed from hungry children to fanatics from majority community attacking the children in broad daylight.

“This was the concern that forced President Kovind to move away from his fleeting mention of hungry, malnourished children to the urgency of having ‘civic-minded neighbourhoods’ and respecting ‘next-door person’s space, privacy and rights’. “Where one can disagree with another viewpoint – or even with a historical event- without mocking a fellow citizen’s dignity and personal space. This is fraternity in action,” he added.

“He had to, as the government of India led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi have kept quiet on the continuing vandalism and violence by the fringe. Hunger used to be the biggest humiliation of the republic not long ago; it was mostly an invisible one unlike the goons assaulting children on camera.

“Sadly, the message coming out of this is horrifying. The executive has abandoned Indian children altogether and has left them to the mercy of be it whoever- hunger or hoodlums. Ceremonial heads then can only do as much as did the President- make a fleeting mention and move on.”

Books

Zee Jaipur Literature Festival opens

One of the key events in India’s literary calendar, the ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival 2018  (#ZEEJLF) will open tomorrow and continue its legacy as a diverse and equitable platform for literary and artistic expression across languages, religions, countries, politics and genres.

The ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival programme boasts of a range of speakers from far corners of India and the world, and will continue to be a platform for social, moral, and economic debate that changed the cultural landscape of our country.

This year the Festival presents marquee names including, celebrated American novelist Amy Tan, award-winning playwright & screenwriter Sir Tom Stoppard, Booker-winner Michael Ondaatje, Paramita Satpathy Tripathyan influential voice in Odia fiction-writing recipient of Sahitya Akademi Award, acclaimed travel writer Pico Iyer, Padma Bhushan awardee writer and art historian B. N. Goswamy, former President of Afghanistan Hamid Karzai, Nobel Laureate Professor Muhammad Yunus, internet sensation and performance poet Rupi Kaur, cult young adult writer Anthony Horowitz, Sahitya Akademi awardee Hindi writer Mridula Garg, Gruffalo creator and the enticing children’s author Julia Donaldson, Manoranjan Byapari the acclaimed Dalit writer from Bengal, Suki Kim, the first undercover journalist in North Korea, Pulitzer-awardee of Spotlight fame Michael Rezendes,  acclaimed Kannada novelist and playwright Vivek Shanbhag, Bollywood personalities Anurag Kashyap, Sharmila Tagore and Soha Ali Khan, Padma Vibhushan awardee danseuse Sonal Mansingh,  Bridget Jones creator Helen Fielding, tabla wizard Zakir Hussain, Sahitya Akademi awardee Kiran Nagarkar, popular writers Ashwin Sanghi, Amish, Chetan Bhagat, and businessperson & anthropologist Sudha Murthy and several others.

There is much to look forward to at Jaipur BookMark (JBM), the business segment of the Festival, providing the much-needed B2B support and infrastructure to the global publishing industry converged at the Festival. JBM will be held at JBM Haveli in Diggi Palace and has a host of sessions, roundtables and masterclasses.

Starting tomorrow the city will be overtaken by a deluge of cultural and heritage events spilling beyond the four walls of Diggi Palace with over 400 events in 10 venues,including the Music Stage at Clarks Amer, and two special heritage sessions at Amer Fort and Hawa Mahal respectively, supported by Rajasthan Tourism.

The Festival’s carefully curated sessions offer a wide array of themes encompassing poetry including sessions like Hasso, Hasso, Phir Hasso, milk and honey, Nude: The Poet Within and more, gender studies with The Feminine Gaze: Women Writing Memoir, Inferior: How Science Got Women Wrong and likewise, children’s writing, crime writing, environment, the vast canvas of Indian languages, journalism and media including Sansad: Inside Parliament, Rajasthan: Badalte Mahaul Mein Media, Across Barbed Wires, and Undercover in North Korea: Facts and Fictions, Bollywood, several Rajasthan focus sessions, business and economy, Asia/China/Southeast Asia, history, sociology, Shakespeare, religion and identity, sport and many more.

This year the Festival is working with 51 different corporate partners, education institutions, government departments, trusts and foundations who support the event and celebrate the core values of democracy and equality it stands for.

This year the Festival has booked 4,000+ hotel nights to host over 500+ speakers and over 178 musicians, who will participate in 205 sessions, 19 concerts of infectious music played morning and night. The Festival, produced by Teamwork Arts, has an essential team of 375 volunteers and crew of 300 who make the event run smoothly.

Namita Gokhale, author and co-Director of the ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival, said, ‘It’s lovely to be backstage at Jaipur watching the Festival come alive before my eyes. Seeing the faces of eager young volunteers reminds me of the tremendous youth energy that is harnessed and also unleashed at the ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival. Literature is an infectious form of magic, and shared stories and narratives reinforce our human bonds and understanding, and we welcome one and all at the Festival to join in this magical Celebration of the word”

William Dalrymple, author and co-Director of the ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival, said, “We have gathered talent from across the globe—from Afghanistan to Patagonia and Tasmania to Turkey—to present writers of genius as diverse as the great literary critic Homi K. Bhabha, travel writer Redmond O’Hanlon, terror expert Peter Bergen and the theoretical particle physicist Lisa Randall. We import some of the world’s most admired playwrights and novelists, including Tom Stoppard, Michael Ondaatje and Amy Tan. We delve deeply into areas of world literature we have so far failed to explore, notably the novelists and poets of Scandinavia, Syria and West Africa while returning to examine eternal classics such as the works of Conrad, Shakespeare and Virginia Woolf.”

Sanjoy Roy, Managing Director of Teamwork Arts, producer of the Festival, said, “The city of Jaipur comes alive in January with the sounds of music, of words and ideas, discussions and debates. Where else can you listen to the best minds from across the world, take in the beauty and heritage of the magnificent Amber fort, dine out amongst the stars and meet up with old friends!!”

Business

NZ traders welcome India’s new GST regime

India is a tremendous area of potential growth for New Zealand trade, believes Glenn Coldham, Head of Customs in NZ for DHL Global Forwarding. “We are very encouraged by moves to bring forward an FTA between our two countries to reduce barriers to trade including duty.”

Glenn was speaking in Auckland at a workshop conducted by India New Zealand Business Council (INZBC), focusing on dealing with various logistical issues, while doing trade with India.

“At times we do experience inconsistencies with moving sea and air shipments out of India due to the complexities of documentation and associated approvals to allow cargo to move without delay.

“However, it is very pleasing to know India has started to reduce that complexity with the new GST introduction as part of those improvements.” Glenn expressed his positivity on the changes being introduced in the Indian market.

India is a very large and attractive destination for companies intending to expand their markets internationally and businesses have the option to enter the Indian market either with or without direct investment, says TMF Group’s Company Secretary, Siddhartha Sharma.

“There are a number of very flexible structures that can be used, such as, branch office or representative office right through to incorporating a private or public company and this will depend on the business’s operations and vision.

“Recent Government moves to put more of the compliance processes online and provide a fast track route to incorporation have lessened historical complexities but it is crucial to have the right service provider to assist you with your Indian set up and operations.”

However he reiterated that the documentation requirements are still substantial, rigid and complex.

With the implementation of the new GST regime in India, the country can now boast of One Country, One Tax, says the newly appointed Honorary Consul of India in Auckland, Bhav Dhillon.

“There is still differentiation in product categories. With the onset of the digital economy and progress in e-registration of companies, now it’s becoming even easier for companies to do business with India. This was reflected in the fact that India has leaped 30 spots to the number 100 spot, in the World Bank’s latest global ranking on Ease of Doing Business,” said Bhav.

INZBC board member, Sameer Handa informed that India Unplugged as a series is aimed to help and educate the market on doing trade with India.

 

Bollywood Entertainment

Film: Exploring the Indian Diaspora

What does it mean to be a diasporic Indian?
Shuchi Kothari, Associate Professor in Media and Communication at the University of Auckland, explores this in three short films which will be shown at the Auckland Art Gallery on 12 November.
Dr Kothari is an Indian New Zealander from Ahmedabad, Gujarat, who has lived in Auckland for over 20 years. She teaches screen production at the University of Auckland and has written award-winning films such as Firaaq, Apron Strings, and Coffee & Allah.
Among Dr Kothari’s three films screening at the Art Gallery is her directorial debut Shit One Carries. “My labour of love,” she says.
The 17-minute film, directed and written by Dr Kothari, deals with Avi, a middle-aged Silicon Valley engineer, who returns briefly to his childhood home in India to care for his bedridden father. Their prickly relationship is in contrast to the warmth Amrutdada shares with all his professional caregivers especially Natthu – a young attendant responsible for wiping bottoms and bedpans.
One afternoon, everything goes out of kilter when Amrutdada has diarrhoea and Natthu is not on call. Avi panics. He tries desperately to get someone – anyone – to clean up after his father.
“When forced to perform the unpleasant task himself, Avi realises that to clean his father’s shit, he must let go of his own crap,” says Dr Kothari.
Her other films screening are: Fleeting beauty – about an Indian woman giving her Pakeha lover an unusual history lesson with more than a hint of spice, and Clean Linen set in the summer of ’84 when a nine-year-old Kiwi-Indian boy discovers a family secret only to realise that some things don’t come out in the wash.
Immigration

NZ launches Welcoming Communities programme

 

Talk to any visitor to New Zealand and the first things they are likely to comment on are the beautiful scenery and the friendly locals. Kiwis are seen as friendly, hospitable and inclusive – qualities highlighted in a new programme launched in New Zealaland: ‘Welcoming Communities’ or Te Waharoa ki ngā Hapori.

“We want newcomers to know that their cultures and identities are valued and that opportunities exist for them to get to know us well,” says Steve McGill, General Manager, Settlement, Protection & Attraction for Immigration New Zealand.

“We want them to fulfill their potential to contribute and be part of New Zealand’s prosperity.”

Councils in five regions are working with their communities to pilot Welcoming Communities, which puts out the welcome mat to newcomers: migrants, former refugees, international students and family members.

The pilot communities taking part are: Tauranga/Western Bay of Plenty, Southland, Whanganui, Palmerston North, and Canterbury.

Communities that make newcomers feel welcome are likely to enjoy better social outcomes, greater social cohesion and stronger economic growth. In this environment, everyone is able to fully participate in the economic, civic and social life of the community.

Building connections between locals and newcomers mean everyone feels included and knows they belong.

It’s not just New Zealand that sees value in being welcoming. Welcoming Communities is part of an international movement. Countries running similar initiatives include Australia, Canada, Europe and the United States of America.

Education

How technology can help girl education in India

Can hackathons make education more accessible for girls in India? While India takes pride in its IITs and IIMs, a large number of girls quietly drop out from education school-level onwards. Want to change that? Here’s your chance with ‘Hack4Her’ – a unique hackathon organised by Women’s Education Project India, in association with TechGig and Random Hacks of Kindness India.

You swell with pride when your child bids you ‘bye’ happily at her school gate. Her education is her passport to an independent life and a confident future. But are all girls in India this fortunate?

Female literacy in India stands at just 65.46% (2011 census), when the world average is 79.7%! Further, the school dropout rate amongst adolescent Indian girls is 63.5%. Which means that most girls going to school right now will gradually fallout from the education fold and may get into employment or family life even when their education stands at bay.

This may sound like a common practice at many households and the outcomes stand out as child brides, young mothers and women with little or no access to basic necessities in life.

As we read this quietly wearing a thoughtful look, a big question stands tall – are we doing enough to bridge the gap between Indian women and their education?

Of course the government and other agencies are doing their bit but what about the rest of us? Each of us is an agent of change and there is no dearth of opportunities to bring about any change.

Women’s Education Project (WEP) India – an international organisation which supports women education – has organised a unique hackathon titled ‘Hack4Her’ to find new-age solutions to promote women education in the country. WEP India has joined hands with TechGig and Random Hacks of Kindness India for this unique contest which invites everyone to share ideas and ways to promote women education, and welfare at large.

Anybody – irrespective of age, gender, location, or education – can submit his disruptive ideas to help bridge the gap between women and education at the TechGig website. One can submit his idea either in PPT or PDF formats. Speaking of this association, Dipti Tandon, Product Head, TechGig said, “We are excited to partner with Women’s Education Project and Random Hacks of Kindness India for Hack4Her. At TechGig, we strongly believe in making women the forefront of all endeavours. We have the Geek Goddess series where we celebrate the feats of women coders exclusively. We are hopeful that Hack4Her will give light to many ideas that will boost tech solutions to enhance women education.”

Ramathreya Krishnamurthi, Business Head, TimesJobs and TechGig too expressed his aspirations from this hackathon. He said, “India is marching on to become a progressive society, however women-related issues continue to be ignored and that is a big drawback in our society’s mobilisation. With Hack4Her, we hope to have not just one or two, but more than a dozen of bright ideas that will ignite the cause of women education in India. TechGig is committed towards making technology a forefront of our daily lives and we keep hosting world-class coding contests to promote that idea. Being part of this hackathon is one such move. We invite everyone to share their ideas to promote women education”.

The team from Women’s Education Project India India is equally excited about this partnership. “Women’s Education Project -India conceptualised the idea of Hack4Her in the context of some real challenges faced by a woman to pursue her education in India. Here, we are talking about women in rural parts of the country who drop out due to various socio-economic reasons. By addressing some of the resolvable challenges, through this hackathon, we are talking baby steps to ensure our women in the coming generations don’t drop out of schools and colleges for reasons that could have been just a hack away. This hackathon in one step closer to make a woman self-reliant and independently empowered through education,” said Shruthi Dinkar, Director, Women’s Education Project India.

The participants too are excited about this contest. Since this hackathon was made live on TechGig, more than 1,916 registrations have already happened. This is just an initial number which is rising with every passing day.

The hackathon winner will take home a prize of Rs 80,000 and shortlisted candidates will get to present their ideas at Women’s Education Project India’s Forum on Nov 11, 2017. Details are mentioned at https://www.techgig.com/hackathon/Hack4Her#overview

Politics

India-US step up cooperation to combat terrorism

 

On his maiden visit to India in his current capacity, the US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the two discussed stepping up effective cooperation to combat terrorism in all its forms and promoting regional stability and security.

The India Prime Minister noted the firm upward trajectory in the bilateral strategic partnership following the positive and far-reaching talks with President Trump in June this year.

Modi shared the resolve expressed by Secretary Tillerson on taking further steps in the direction of accelerating and strengthening the content, pace and scope of the bilateral engagement. They affirmed that a strengthened India-US partnership is not just of mutual benefit to both countries, but has significant positive impact on the prospects for regional and global stability and prosperity.

In the context of President Trump’s new South Asia Policy, Prime Minister noted the commonality in the objectives of eradicating terrorism, terrorist infrastructure, safe havens, and support, while bringing peace and stability to Afghanistan.

Earlier in the day, Secretary Tillerson also had detailed discussions with External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and National Security Adviser Ajit Doval.

News

JLF’s US edition gets great reception


Typically this time of the year, Boulder (USA) witnesses an odyssey of autumn colors with the cottonwoods, aspen and maples trees decorating the side walks with golden leaves. This time, however, it is witnessing a display of culture and literature with 70 eminent authors around the world descending for the third-edition of the Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF) in Colorado.

India’s Ambassador to the United States, Navtej Sarna, joined in two sessions at the Main Boulder Public Library on 15 and 16 September. Sarna, is also the author of the novels “The Exile” and “We Weren’t Lovers Like That”, the short story collection “Winter Evenings”, and non-fiction works including “Indians at Herod’s Gate”, “Second Thoughts”, and “The Book of Nanak”. Sarna has served as High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, Ambassador to Israel, Secretary at India’s Foreign Office, and also as its longest-serving spokesperson.

Sarna spoke at the inaugural session Freedom to Dream, which was the theme of the Literature Festival. The session was underpinned by a provocative dialogue about diverse topics like migrating, poets, American dreams, globalism, nationalism, climate control, feminism and ancestral cultures.

Sarna explored the benefits of the growing interest in literature in India which is celebrating 70 years of independence. “We have come a long way. Where we once had few writers, we now have many and the journey of our literature’s outreach to the world is one of the most significant aspects of this journey as Indian writing has now been brought to the world. India is now a literary destination and a reading destination and the ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival has led this growth.”

Sarna also participated in the session The Untrod Path: Writing Travel: Christina Lamb, John
Huston, Lori Erickson, Navtej Sarna and William Dalrymple. In a suddenly shrunken planet, the
conventions of travel writing are being challenged by more experiential insider accounts. Five
panelists speak of their very different approaches to recording and sharing their journeys with Irene Vilar.

“Descriptions of the peaceful and lavender filled gardens of the 800-year-old Indian hospice in
Jerusalem moved me to a much deeper understanding of this land and the people who call it holy.”
said Sarna in his exploration of his own father’s story, adding that “the barbed wire was rolled up many years ago but the virtual barrier between east and west Jerusalem still remains.”

During his final session – Second Thoughts: A Writer and a Diplomat, Sarna discussed his books on subjects as varied as romance, religion and history, in conversation with John Elliott.

“Sikh history is a young religion, just 500 years old. But it is replete with dramatic events in this period: a lot of the martial aspect, a lot of sacrifice, a lot of battles. All that together is a huge area waiting to be written about,” said Sarna.

News

Spicy performances come to NZ as part of Diwali Celebrations

International performers, the Kalika Kala Kendra dance group, will bring centuries-old traditions to life on the main stage at the 2017 Auckland Diwali Festival, being held in Auckland’s central city next month. This is the 16th year of the Auckland Diwali Festival, which will take place at Aotea Square and Queen Street from midday to 9pmon Saturday, 14 and Sunday, 15 October.

The free, family friendly festival showcases and celebrates traditional and contemporary Indian culture, including dance and music, food, fashion, arts and crafts, and street-theatre, ending with the famous Barfoot & Thompson fireworks finale.

The renowned Kalika Kala Kendra dancers, who will travel to Auckland from Ahmednagar in Maharashtra State, India to perform at Auckland Diwali Festival, were founded by Marathi film star and social activist Rajashree Nagarkar to provide girls in her nomadic community with a livelihood.

They are experts at the romantic folk dance style known as ‘lavani’ – a combination of traditional song and dance performed to the quick tempo beats of dholki, a percussion instrument.

While the origins of lavani date back to the 1560s, it wasn’t until the 1700s that the musical style came into prominence as a form of entertainment and morale booster for weary soldiers.

The dancers wear 9 metre long saris and heavy jewellery including a wide belt at the waist. Their ghungroos, or ankle bells, can weigh as much as 10-15kg.

Charmaine Ngarimu, Head of Major Events for Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (ATEED), says Auckland is shaped by a rich ethnic mix of people and traditions.

“The Auckland Diwali Festival is an opportunity to celebrate and connect with local Indian communities. It’s a must do event in Auckland’s major event calendar, and the popularity of the festival continues to grow every year, attracting tens of thousands of people during the weekend.”

Asia New Zealand Foundation Executive Director Simon Draper says the Auckland Diwali Festival brings together many different Indian communities.

“This festival is an opportunity that gives these communities the chance to share their own special cultural traditions and foods with the wider Auckland community. We’re delighted to still be supporting this iconic event 15 years after it was first held.”

The Kalika Kala Kendra dance group will join more than 800 local performers,  including regular festival favourites BAD (Bhangra Auckland Da), Raunak Punjab Dee, and the Khottey Sikkey Dance Group, and the hotly contested Radio Tarana Bollywood Dance Competition and the Indian Weekender Mr and Ms. Diwali contest.

The Kalika Kala Kendra dance group is visiting New Zealand courtesy of the Indian Council for Cultural Relations, the High Commission of India and Air New Zealand.

News

Mahendra Sharma to lead Waitakere Indian Association

Mahendra Sharma has been appointed president of the Waitakere Indian Association at the association’s recent AGM meeting on 10 September in Auckland. All of the association’s new and existing Board members embody the spirit of community and bring talent, expertise and energy to the table, says says Sharma. “We are very fortunate to have them by our side as we continue to strengthen community in Waitakere.”

Speaking at the event, Minister for Community and Voluntary Sector, Alfred Ngaro, said that the Indian community has been contributing positively not only to the New Zealand economy but also culturally and events such as Holi and Diwali bring all Kiwis together to celebrate the great diversity in our country.

A new partnership was also signed between Waitakere Indian Association and Best Pacific Institute of Education. Speaking on behalf of Best Pacific Institute of Education, the Community Development Manager Li‘Ilolahia said, “Partnership with Waitakere Indian Association is a pivotal for the growth of education sector in West Auckland as the institute provides free education for various courses and the ethnic people can increase their skills by availing such opportunities provided by Best.”

The Trustees of Waitakere Indian Association also honoured five new life members who have not only contributed to the welfare of the Indian Diaspora in West Auckland but also to the community at large.

There are more than 180,000 Indians living in New Zealand and Hindi is the fourth largest spoken language.

Since its formation in 2000, Waitakere Indian Association has been working with various government agencies and local Indian associations in promoting, advocating and integrating the Indian Diaspora, culture and values with the Kiwi way of life.

News

Indian students earn NZ Excellence Awards

 

As many as 31 talented young university students from India have received a 2017 New Zealand Excellence Award, Education New Zealand (ENZ) announced today.

The students are pursuing undergraduate or postgraduate study in New Zealand in the fields of business, design or STEM related programmes (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics).

ENZ Chief Executive Grant McPherson says India is a core trade, economic, political and education partner for New Zealand, with two-way trade valued at around $2.5 billion.

“These top young scholars will further strengthen ties between our two countries, by contributing to a broader exchange of ideas in our universities, building our respective research capabilities, and enriching New Zealand culture.

“I congratulate these students on being selected by their university for these awards, and I hope they succeed in their studies and become lifelong ambassadors for New ZealandIndian students scholarship in New Zealand.”

Nineteen of the students received their awards in person at the annual India New Zealand Business Council (INZBC) Summit in Auckland today, which is focussed on education and technology opportunities. INZBC invited a delegation from India to take part in this summit.

The New Zealand Excellence Awards were established by New Zealand’s universities and Education New Zealand in 2016, to increase the number of talented Indian students studying in universities here. All eight of New Zealand’s universities are ranked in the top 450 in the QS world rankings.

This is the first round of the awards, and each scholarship has a value of NZD $5,000 towards the first year tuition fee. The scholarships will be awarded again in 2018, and applications are due to open on 1 September 2017.

Last year, more than 28,000 Indian students came to study in New Zealand, making India the second largest source of international students. Indian student enrolments at New Zealand universities are continuing to increase each year, reflecting a market trend towards higher level qualifications.

The full list of 2017 New Zealand Excellence Award winners has been published on the Study in New Zealand website here.

Food

Indian Night set for Alexandra Park

Continuing with its international cuisine theme on race nights, Auckland’s Alexandra Park is hosting Indian Night on 24 March. “We’re slowly getting around the globe with the different evenings proving really popular. Tickets are also selling well for our Indian Night but we’ve still got availability,” says Joel Reichardt, Sales and Marketing Manager at Alexandra Park.

He says Alexandra Park has considerable success in delivery first-class Indian experiences, helped by its function centre being a popular venue for Indian weddings and Diwali events.

“Indian Aucklanders have a long and strong association with Alexandra Park. We’ve got our own onsite Indian chef and it’s well worth checking out the menu he has designed for Indian Night on our website. It’s comprehensive, authentic and it literally makes your mouth water.

“It’s set to be a great Friday night at the trots and rest assured no one will leave hungry.”

Alexandra Park’s Tasman Room will be beautifully decorated and its all-you-can-eat buffet package is just $60 per person, with the all-inclusive house drinks package just $99 per person.

“We think Indian Night is the perfect opportunity to have a lovely evening out with your family, friends, colleagues and partner.

“Rather than just heading to an Indian restaurant or cooking at home, we’re offering a fantastic and endless menu with the spectacle of great harness racing under lights. The atmosphere will be terrific.”

General admission into Alexandra Park as well as car-parking and race books remain free on the night.

The next internationally-themed cuisine race nights at Alexandra Park will be American Night on 21 April and Mexican Night on 5 May 2017.

Entertainment

NZ Gets Pickled with 20 Years of Indian Ink

Kiwis have patronized and praised the now-legendary play Krishnan’s Dairy. And now Indian Ink Theatre Company has chosen to share the highly acclaimed The Pickle King with audiences across New Zealand, in this, their 20th anniversary year.

From 4 May – 9 September, ten centres throughout Aotearoa will experience the artistry and magic of an Indian Ink show as the relationships at the Empire Hotel are brought to life on stage. Touring to Napier, Gisborne, Whangarei, Hamilton, Tauranga, Christchurch, Dunedin, Nelson, Auckland and Wellington, this will be Indian Ink’s largest tour yet!

Once the finest hotel in town, the Empire is now as faded as the dreams of the piano player who haunts the lobby. Ammachy runs the Empire with an iron fist and has one big problem; her niece is blind and she will not be married. Sasha knows she must not marry because she is cursed – everything she loves dies. Jojo is a heart surgeon. However, as a recent arrival from India the only work she can find is as a night porter in the Empire.

Delving into love, death and what is worth preserving, The Pickle King, has been updated to reflect modern times with star of The Elephant ThiefVanessa Kumar(Boys Will Be Boys, Peter Pan), stepping into the role of Jojo, and bright new talent Kalyani Nagarajan (The Brokenwood Mysteries 3, Polo) as Sasha. Both women will play multiple characters alongside Andrew Ford (Le Sud, The Lady Killers) as George. Multi-talented pianist Ayrton Foote, supports the action on stage.

Kalyani Nagarajan (in red) and Vanessa Kumar.

Kalyani and Vanessa have come through the same course at Toi Whakaari New Zealand Drama School, following in the footsteps of Indian Ink co-founder Jacob Rajan, who himself was the first Indian to graduate from NZ Drama School in 1994.

Indian Ink was formed when these two were only young, and the plays have become part of NZ drama history  – being studied at Secondary and Tertiary levels – an now they are starring in the 20th anniversary tour to 10 centres throughout NZ over 5 months.

First performed in 2002, The Pickle King enchanted audiences and reviewers alike with this sublime and ridiculous, simple yet profound tale. The show received a record seven nominations in New Zealand’s theatre awards, and won the highly contested supreme award, ‘Production of the Year’.

In 2003, Indian Ink took The Pickle King to the Edinburgh Fringe, winning the ‘Fringe First Award’, and in 2007, it played another successful two-week season at DBS Arts Centre, Singapore. Published alongside Krishnan’s Dairy and The Candlestickmaker, this trilogy is now taught as part of the NZ Secondary Schools Drama curriculum and at Universities.

Three of the original production team, Justin Lewis, Director, John Verryt, Set and Costume Designer, and Jo Kilgour, Lighting Designer, will be collaborating alongside the Music Director, Ben Wilcock, to create a vibrant theatrical experience.

Immigration

Indian students in NZ need compassion

The ejection of 41 international students, who now have deportation orders against them after the Immigration Minister has coldly rejected their appeals, is further evidence of a Government that is heartless and out of touch, says Labour’s Immigration Spokesperson Iain Lees-Galloway. Some of these Indian students are taking refuge in a Church in Auckland with a hope that the police will not arrest them at a religious place.

“The plight of these students who are seeking refuge in a church, and the potential for immigration officials and police to be raiding this church to extract the students, could cause significant damage to New Zealand’s reputation as a welcoming and progressive country – especially for international education.

“In the current global climate this simply isn’t wise, and it’s likely the rest of the 300 students will suffer the same fate as the 41 who are now hiding from authorities.

“This is a manifestly unjust situation for these students. There is no evidence of the students themselves having done wrong but they are being punished while the rogue agents get off scotfree.

“The situation has arisen because of a cowboy industry that the National Government has taken no responsibility for controlling. It’s the students whose lives are being ruined, and New Zealand’s reputation will suffer.

“The Immigration Minister has failed these students and New Zealand for not exercising any discretion or common sense by rejecting their appeals.

“The students should simply have their applications assessed on the merits with those eligible being able to stay. It’s about time we had a Government that offers compassion and natural justice,” says Iain Lees-Galloway.

The Migrants Workers Union’s Anu Kallti, who is supporting these students, told SBS Punjabi newspaper that Immigration New Zealand needs to look at different parties involved in this whole mess. “These students are actually the victims. The Anglican Bishop of Auckland has written to Prime Minister Bill English to seek clemency for them, and we are hoping he will listen.”

Joe Carolan of the Unite Union says these students are victims of the immigration machine.

“We are saying these students are migrant workers and they are exploited by the agents, by the education providers, and if you want to punish them, punish the agents, punish the education providers, punish the immigration officials and also punish the ministers who have been complicit in setting up those schools,” he told SBS.

Education Immigration Study Abroad

Key Does ‘Big Sell’ for More Indian Students

The Prime Minister is doing the “big sell” for more foreign students to prop up under-funded public education and private education businesses, says New Zealand First.

“Unsuspecting students from overseas are being used.

“Prime Minister John Key met Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Washington and couldn’t help himself marketing the overseas student scheme to Modi,” says New Zealand First Leader Winston Peters.

“The big carrot Key dangled before the Indian prime minister was the government’s policy of allowing foreign students to work 20 hours a week in New Zealand. The government admitted in Parliament this week that it extended work hours for the students as a marketing tool and it is proving to be an attraction.

“Modi said he wanted more Indian students in New Zealand and suggested Key and the government increase marketing in Indian universities.

“The National government is shamefully refusing to fund education adequately, with the result our universities and secondary schools are desperate for cash and must look for foreign fee paying students.

“At the same time National has bowed to lobbying from the private education sector, where much money is being made out of foreign students.

“Last year there were 66,702 foreign students given work visas while we have 70,000 young New Zealanders unable to get a job.

“It’s time to start working to get young New Zealanders into jobs and stop flogging off overseas student work visas as an incentive to get them to come to New Zealand,” says Peters.

“New Zealand First supports foreign student education providing fees are paid from their country of origin, which is what export education is meant to be about. That is, another economy paying the New Zealand economy to educate that other economy’s students.

“What we have is a serious perversion of the purpose of the export education, at an enormous disadvantage to New Zealand workers trying to get jobs.

“Students and parents need to wake up to just how grossly unfair this is for young New Zealanders.”

Education Entertainment

Indian performers to visit schools

From Mumbai to Morrinsville – top Indian performers will visit New Zealand schools for public Diwali festivals and will also take to the road and visit schools in Tauranga and Waikato.

Folk-dance group Mudra Creation, from Mumbai, and a puppet troupe led by master puppeteer Mahipat Kavi, from Gujarat, are being hosted in New Zealand by the Asia New Zealand Foundation.

The performers will visit Tauranga Intermediate on Tuesday 20 October, and Greenpark School and Papamoa Primary the following day. They will then travel to Waikato on Thursday 22 October to perform at Morrinsville Intermediate that day, and Hillcrest Normal School the following day.

Asia New Zealand Foundation director of culture Jennifer King says the school visits are a long-running component of the Foundation’s Diwali programme, but this is the first time international Diwali performers have travelled outside Auckland and Wellington.

“These school visits give hundreds of New Zealand children the chance to learn about the traditions of Diwali, and to see the performers close up and ask them questions. It’s a fantastic way to learn about India.

“Often it also gives children from Indian families the confidence to talk about their own culture in their classroom. We’re excited to be able to take these visits to Tauranga and Waikato, where, like many parts of New Zealand, a growing number of people identify as Indian.”

Ms King says the Asia New Zealand Foundation is very grateful for the support of the Indian Council for Cultural Relations, which has enabled the artists to travel to New Zealand from India.

Puppeteer Mahipat Kavi, from the western state of Gujarat, has been entertaining crowds for the past 50 years and also founded a puppet academy. His Puppet and Plays theatre company has animated some of India’s favourite stories, produced puppet serials for television and films for educational purposes.

Mudra Creation specialises in the folk dances of Maharashtra state, in India’s mid-west. The 10 dancers visiting the schools will perform a range of dances, including the lively lavani dance, often seen in popular Bollywood movies.

The two groups will also perform at Auckland’s Diwali Festival on Saturday 17 and Sunday 18 October, at Hamilton Diwali Mela on Saturday 24 October, and then at Wellington’s Diwali Festival of Lights on Monday 26 October.

Diwali is an ancient Hindu festival celebrating the triumph of light over darkness and the renewal of life. Families celebrate with gatherings, clay lamps, fireworks, sharing of sweets, and worship to Lakshmi – the goddess of love, wealth and prosperity. Diwali is now also celebrated by other faiths in India and in overseas Indian communities.

Global Indians Immigration

Indian Students Exploited by Employers

New Zealand First says Kiwi employers and new immigrant employers are exploiting thousands of Indian ‘students’ flooding into New Zealand.

“They are too afraid to speak out as their purpose in migrating to New Zealand is to gain permanent residence. Study is just a pathway they can use,” says Leader Winston Peters.

National has been in denial but Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse admitted on Radio Live today that Indian students are coming to New Zealand with the intention of staying permanently.

“Numbers have soared since the National government softened restrictions allowing foreign students to work, pushing numbers to unacceptable levels.

“We have 93,000 overseas students, a rise of 12 per cent in the past year. The number of Indian students has risen 60 per cent. It’s not the quality of our education that is being exported it is our soft access to citizenship.

“The government did not do a proper analysis before allowing foreign students to work and now there is a mess to clean up,” says Peters.

“Indian students are taking over low skilled jobs in service stations, supermarkets and horticulture. They are being exploited and ripped off with low wages, willing to accept any working conditions,” says New Zealand First Ethic Affairs Spokesperson Mahesh Bindra.

“An Indian restaurant chain has just been fined for the second time in two weeks for exploiting student workers, some receiving as little as $4 an hour in 2013.

“The so-called export education industry is nothing of the sort. It was supposed to bring in much-needed overseas money, but now students can pay with New Zealand dollars earned here.

“Student visas are being used to flood the job market, drive down wages and undermine working conditions, as well as increase the already record number of permanent immigrants,” says Bindra.