President’s Mail from USA.
June ~ August, 2010
Otla Parishad at FREMONT HUB.
I am writing this from Fremont, California in USA where we have come to live with our older son’s family who is a hardware engineer with AMD and his wife is a bio-technologist. They commute to work in Sunnyvale in the legendry Silicon Valley at a distance of about 20 miles to make a decent living for themselves and a secure future for their two children.
Theirs is a prototype of an Indian family living in the network society not much affected by the present economic gloom through which most of USA is passing these days because of their professions. They have a strong social network of Indian families with two incomes and comfortable living though
with some stress. These families visit Hindu temple, celebrate Hindu festivals, and wish to retain Indian culture and therefore want their grand parents to live with them so that the children learn the language of their ancestors, use it on day to day basis, and eat Indian food that the grand parents are so much used to do. Their children, when young, are brought to Hindi classes, Indian dancing schools to learn Kathak, Bharatnatyam or Bollywood dancing by their parents or grand parents. As most of these professionals were brought up in secular India, they do not belong to any particular religious sect. Hence, the Fremont Hindu Temple suits them as it has enough room for every Hindu from North, South, East or West with no
linguistic barriers because English is the common language used during daily announcements and activities, though rituals are performed in different languages.
Typically, a Hindu temple has all the gods and goddesses on one pedestal without any hierarchy. Sai Baba, Jhule Lal or Jalaram Bapa may also adorn the raised platform on which all these statues or picture images are placed.
They may be worshipped along with Lord Ram, Krishna, Vishnu, Hanuman, or Shankar. A temple becomes a community centre during celebrations. It may be a meeting place for seniors staying at home.
Not all seniors visit the Temple, though. There are about 120 seniors who visit Fremont Hub regularly during forenoons, though not more than 50 are there on any one day.
For some it is a religion. They reach there by about 10.30 AM, chit chat with their peers and pals, share all kinds of information about government rules regarding immigration, health care, and social security, guide each other on such procedures and celebrate birth days of each other and depart around 12.30 p.m. This is a purely male bonding group, as females are kept busy at homes playing nanny roles, cooking meals, making beds or cleaning the apartment or house.
As Fremont Hub is a very convenient location, these seniors have found a concrete circular structure designed for sitting at the centre of the Hub. Like a village or Sheri Otla, it serves exactly the same function that these seniors would otherwise miss in the well structured life in America. Though I saw some Indian seniors sitting on this circular structure sometimes during my visits to the Hub for groceries or other goods that are available in many stores there, I never thought that this was a well defined senior location for an Otla parishad. As most of its visitors are Gujarati with a few from Andhra, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and Punjab, Gujarati is heard over other languages here. I generally ignored this group as you ignore the contractors, carpenters, labourers and masons who assemble near the railway bridge while going to Alkapuri when you do not need their services. Self reliance that I learnt from Ralf Emerson’s famous essay during my student days always came in my way and I could not associate with this group, though some visitors from Baroda had talked to me about this group earlier, particularly for help regarding filing my papers for the Green Card.
Last week I walked to this group and found that they were very hospitable and warm and welcomed me as if we knew each other for many years. This kind of familiarity is rare to find. As they have travelled the same path and have experienced the same pleasures and pains of living in or leaving a family, I could easily connect with them. Within a few minutes, I found that we were comparing notes on all kinds of matters that concern us at this juncture of life. I therefore thought that I should share these thoughts with all of you who meet at least once a month under the banner of NRIPA VADODARA.
Let me introduce to you some members of this Fremont Otla Parishad without mentioning their names for obvious reasons. The first person I met with was an officer working in a pharmaceutical company in Baroda who came here a few years ago. Finding no work because of American English, he sits at home with his son’s family. While his wife looks after the children and daily chores, he reads the old copy of Gujarat Samachar that he borrows from a friend of this Otla Parishad. As these are bad days in America, his daughter-in-law too has been trying to find a job for the last one and half years. With just one income in the family of seven, it is difficult to live, tells me this qualified pharmacist from Baroda. But he is not worried as his health problems are covered by the medical care provided by the government, though he has yet to claim for Social Security monthly allowance that he would get after he attains the citizenship of America. And for the emotional food, this company on the Hub is sufficient, he tells me. When I told him that I was planning to return to Baroda next month, his eyes shone, as he has not visited the city of his birth and work for many years though he has his old house there.
Now meet a doctor who practiced medicine in and around Ahmedabad for many years and has finally come here to live. Over the last many years, he has been trying to get used to the American way of life, though not successfully. In fact, he has surrendered the Green Card twice during his long love-hate relationship with USA. This is his third attempt to get used to live here.
Financially comfortable, he drives his own car and entertains this group occasionally on Samosas, khaman and tea that he brings with him from Bharat Bazar in his car. He seems to be happy that he would be able to walk well soon after his knee replacement. It will be taken care of by the free medical care that the government provides to him. As he has helped many, he is sure his friends will call him up if not visit him during his convalescence. In his third and final attempt to adjust to America, he seems to succeed.
A man from Bombay enrols readers for Gujarat Samachar published in London and New Jersey simultaneously. He brings the copies of this newspaper daily to this place to give them to the subscribers who pass on yesterday’s copies to the non subscribers to take home. This one time highly placed officer in a multinational company in Bombay is in fact most positive about his American experiences. Many years ago, when he came here after retirement, he started working almost immediately. Though the American job was not high paying or high profile, it provided him with enough income to live independently in a rented apartment near the place where his son lived. Of course now he lives with his son’s family mainly because his wife wants to be very near her grand children who adore their granny. Mr. Bombaywallah as he is popularly known in this group is the most well informed person on matters related to immigration, healthcare, social security other benefits from government. He is eulogistic about the benefits of OCI card that allows him to visit India whenever he wants and stay there as long as he wishes. He has nothing negative about American way of life and still comes here to replenish him with fresh news from India. When I told him about NRIPA in Baroda and other places, he got curious to find the rationale for such an association in India where there are too many people to help each other. All that I could tell him was that he had lived too long in America to know the changing reality of life in India. As we were short of time, so we decided to meet again to discuss this new reality of urban life in India that NRIPA addresses to. I would end this write-up here and introduce a few more people in this column next month.
In the meanwhile, I would like to congratulate and thank all the NRIPA members for crossing the first one hundred mark making it a self supporting financially sustainable group as is shown in the balance sheet presented by our treasurer.
Dr. Om P. Juneja
President, NRIPA Vadodara.
Address by the president for the month of April ~ May, 2010
Dear Members of the NRIPA family,
While writing this column enjoying the Californian summer, which in fact is colder than all the cold that you ever experienced in Baroda, is an interesting experience as you are far away from the people you socialize with and are perhaps too close to your own children and grand children who are fully occupied in their work and therefore away from you except the weekends which have been booked months ago when you were not here and therefore have not been considered as an active participant.
Then again there is the big gap between you and the outside world because you are living in the Great American Suburbia Dream: plush houses, green lawns, meticulously planned neighbourhoods, a lot of outside eating in restaurants and barbeques, well-chosen friends’ groups of your children who avoid whites and are afraid of blacks and have mixed feelings about brown-Latinos and yellow Vietnamese and Chinese. However, a person of Indian origin of any complexion and language is welcome, though not very much as customary in India. This American suburbia actually makes you a cripple as the laws of driving are so strict that you decide not to drive and then again there are your children who think that you should not do so because it may entail heavy insurance. Public transport in the kingdom of the Maharajas of the American Suburbia is a thing of the past. Cycling to the public library is what you can do at best, which I enjoy not so much for looking eco-friendly as for postponing an impending knee replacement.
So what do you do here? You return to nature and nurture to remain fit in body, mind and soul stopping all the activity that you have had in your ‘previous birth’ in India. Ultimately, it is nature that comes to your rescue for nurturing your body and soul as the real nurturing falls into the lap of your better half who has done that all her life efficiently, though differently. You take long walks or go cherry picking when you get a chance to a free ride.
In reality you have to reinvent yourself as a person with a healthy body, mind and soul and that is what Mr. Madhusudan Mehta, the past president and I have tried to do in the last month or two that both of us are here in Fremont, California. Interestingly this happened on Mothers’ Day that was celebrated at India Cultural Centre (ICC) of Silicon Valley at Cupertino.
We were happily surprised that Mrs. Premlata Majmundar, the wife of our beloved Haridada (a Life Member of NRIPA) was honored as the “Mother” of the year by ICC and Haridada who is 91 years of age was hale and hearty to embrace his wife of many decades in the presence of this august gathering of ‘mothers’ and ‘fathers’ numbering about 90. As both of us were formally invited to address the gathering, we congratulated Premalata and Haridada on their achievements and conveyed the greetings of the NRIPA family from Baroda to them. While Mr. Mehta briefed the gathering about our activities since inception, I talked about the opportunities that NRIPA provides NRGs this year of Swarnim Gujarat celebrations. Our talks evoked response which could be seen during the lunch when a few people came to meet us with specific quarries regarding investments in real estate and other fields in Gujarat.
Government of India’s changing rules regarding visa to India kept me busy for over a week or so that I spent in researching on this issue, exchanging emails with friends and visiting relevant websites. Finally I wrote the emails to all of you to send our protest letters to the Ministry of External Affairs and the Ministry of Oversees Affairs, Government of India with copies to me and to GOPIO, our associate members. I must thank you all for your enthusiastic participation as also for signing of the mass petition to the Prime Minister of India on this issue. As you know that finally the rule that imposed a charge of $175.00 for procuring “surrender certificate” for surrendering the citizenship of India after becoming a citizen of another country has now been withdrawn. This is a great relief to some of us and to our children who wish to procure an OCI or PIO card for visiting their parents in India.
In the meanwhile I notice that we have made considerable progress in our health care drive under the able leadership of Mr. Lakhi Paryani and his dedicated team including Mr. Amritgiri Goswami, Mr. Vijay Khopkar, and Mr. Ramesh Chavda. I congratulate them for their success in establishing friendly relationship with Metro Hospital that we have been trying to cultivate for the past many years. Participation by as many as 78 members is a testimony to the success of this event. I wish this dynamic team well in exploring this minefield further.
I would also like to congratulate all those who are bringing much sought after advertisements to our website that receives about 250 to 300 hits per day, which a significant achievement in itself.
With monsoons round the corner, I wish you all a rain of happiness.
Dr. Om Juneja
Address by the president for the month of March, 2010
Address by the president for the month of February, 2010
The month of January was full of activity for NRIPA members as some of family members living abroad visited home and friends. It was also a month of conferences and seminars. Mr. Totalani, Vice President, represented NRIPA at the GOPIO conference and read a paper written by Mr. M. B. Mehta, the Past President concurrent with the Pravasi Bhartiya Divas celebrations inaugurated by the Prime Minister of India in Delhi, while I participated in two such international events on Environment, Ecology, and Indian Diaspora in Ahmedabad and Udaipur respectively. We discussed the activities of NRIPA during these presentations. Our monthly meeting was very well attended at which a few new members joined NRIPA. We welcome them and implore all the Annual Members to change to Life Membership for becoming life long family members of NRIPA.
February saw culmination of the idea of NRG in the form of establishment of NRG Center at Vadodara Chamber of Commerce and Industries (VCCI) at Makarpura Baroda. Honourable Mr. Jay Narayan Vyas, Minister of Health and Tourism and Non-Resident Gujarati Division, Governement of Gujarat, while inaugurating the Center, appreciated the role played by NRIPA in bringing back NRGs to Gujarat.
NRIPA is particularly thankful for providing due space in this venture, which was well reflected at the Inaugural Function of the NRG Center by Shri Jay Narayan Vyas, the honourable minister on 20 February 2010. The presence of the MLAs, M.P. and Mayor, the office bearers of VCCI and other prominent citizens of Baroda gave us a platform to reflect on how all of us can help each other.
As you know we are living in the knowledge society of globalized world that works through networks of communication, friendships and affiliations. NRIPA has been developing and nourishing these networks of communication since its inception. The contribution of our children in this field of knowledge, besides financial contributions in the development of this city can be significant. Focusing on this social capital, NRIPA would like to contribute its mite to this noble cause of serving the NRG community of enlightened citizens through NRG Center. Hence there is a need of close cooperation and coordination between the NRG Centre and NRIPA for performing day to day functions of the Center as was discussed in the meeting held in VCCI Conference room on February 18, 2010. We have requested Mr. Nilesh Shukla, the Chairman of NRG Center to call a joint meeting for this purpose and shall get back to the members as soon as it is finalised.
I wish all the members a very happy Holi and Eid.
February 28, 2010